Thursday, December 29, 2005



A PBS mini-series this past summer about life on the farm once again showed idyllic farms, with chickens walking freely in the barnyard and pigs preparing comfortable straw beds on which to sleep--the type of farms that have largely been replaced by gigantic factory farm operations. Why would a supposedly "educational" network convey this now mostly-fairy-tale version of a farm? Why not show the new real thing--factory farms with tens of thousands of confined animals? This is where the vast majority of farm animals today live.

Turns out the show was sponsored by Monsanto, which manufactures bovine growth hormone (BGH). BGH increases cows' milk output to far beyond normal, but takes a toll on the cows' long-term health and well-being. Understandably, Monsanto would rather have viewers believe that dairy cows still graze peacefully in green pastures, rather than show them the reality: cows in "dry-lot," "zero-grazing" dairies, standing and sleeping on mud and their own excrement, suffering from swollen udders and painful mastitis infections. Monsanto would probably prefer that the public not know that half of all dairy cows today are lame by the time they're five years old, the price of BGH forcing all that milk through their bodies and leaching calcium from their bones. The viewers are also shielded from finding out that standard practice on farms is to load those worn out five-year old cows onto a truck, packed very tightly, so they can make the long trip (up to 36 hours) to the slaughterhouse. (Normal lifespan for a dairy cow is 25 years.)

So PBS dutifully presents the sponsor's sugar-coated version of reality. They keep viewers in the dark about the effects of their purchases, so as not to anger the sponsor. Isn't that special?

And they say television is too liberal. (And PBS is supposed to be the most liberal of them all.)

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