December 6, 2007

After a while, tipping them just isn't exciting enough


This photo triggered a reader outcry when it was published with a story in the Sanbury (Penn) Daily Item about two cows that "darted" onto the grounds of a middle school. My children read this newspaper! readers shrieked.

In response, the newspaper's editors confidently and correctly defended the decision to publish the picture: "The incident happened and it was extraordinary. It was news... The newspaper's decision to print the photo should help readers decide whether they think police acted appropriately. It provides context."

The editors reach this conclusion even as they acknowledge that "Photos have power that words cannot match. Decisions about publishing disturbing photos are never taken lightly." In other words, describing the photo would not be good enough.

Score one for journalistic principles. And yet... if the cop had said, "We shot that fucking cow," I can absolutely guarantee you that there's not a single mainstream newspaper in the country that would have published that extraordinary and newsworthy quote, context be damned. They would have settled for describing the quote instead.

Some words still do have the power to make even the most courageous journalists cower in fear.

[News item via Romenesko]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


It's a tough one, because we kill cows every day for food, so really we have no right to get upset when we see a cow being killed (to prevent it from harming humans)...

I do take issue with this sentence from the link: "Some wonder whether the police used all available means before euthanizing the animals." I always associated euthanasia with a merciful killing method... a cap to the head doesn't seem to fit. Nor were the cows in pain or terminal suffering - at least it's not mentioned anywhere. What do you think, Radosh?

Agreed. "Euthanizing" is a euphemism here - though probably used reflexively rather than intentionally. It's a journalistic foul, but I'll give it a pass.

The E&P article says "Police also had received permission from the owner to kill the cows, editors said, adding that they were on their way to be auctioned for slaughter anyway."

So yes, it is a little hypocritcal for people to complain about either the cops' actions or this picture unless they're vegetarians. (Presumably they'd complain just as much about photos from inside the slaughterhouse, though they'd happily eat the meat that comes out of it).

One argument might be that if one is going to eat meat, one should ensure that the animal is killed swiftly and painlessly, and that this method does not accomplish that. Though that presumes that the slaughterhouse method does. Maybe it's one of those Temple Grandin approved ones. Of course, the cow would have to be *raised* humanely too... but now we're asking just a little too much for cattle country, aren't we?

Full disclosure: I am married to a lifelong vegetarian, and we don't have meat in our house, but I eat meat whenever we go out or get takeout.

I hypocritically choose not to research how cows are killed in this country... You Americans make the best cheeseburgers ever, and I will not give them up. I will just feel guilty about it when I see photos like these.

"one should ensure that the animal is killed swiftly and painlessly, and that this method does not accomplish that"

That depends on how good a shot the cop was.

"Euthanizing" is a commonly used euphemism for any kind of animal-killing, as long as the person who "owns" the animal consents to it. If an animal's continued existence is somehow detrimental to the happiness of that owner, "euthanizing" comes to mean "putting the animal out of our misery."

Oh, and: In before slamming of PETA as stand-in for vegetarians everywhere.

PETA is one of the worst abusers of this "euthanizing" euphemism, having done it themselves to healthy stray animals. They do not speak for me or, probably, most thoughtful vegetarians.

I thought I detected a second gunman on the Grassy Pasture.

Someone said 'look at it from a Third Grader's perspective' and 'how would it look to a five-year-old to look at it? What do you tell them?'

It seems like a perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to discuss things like the grim realities of life, death, the food chain, the not-so-black-and-white decisions made by police officers, etc. The photo is far more newsworthy and educational than another one of the President walking his dog.

On the topic of how humane it is... A shotgun is arguably more humane than what goes on in slaughterhouses every day. I'd like to see the uproar when images of cows strung up by their feet, being hacked in the neck with machetes make the front page of the local paper.

mypalmike - Didn't I just say I deliberately choose not to know the inhumanity of slaughterhouse killing???

Not fair.


for thanatoptic images

But if the cow had said, "You fucking shot me! Fuckers!" I feel pretty confident that at least a handful of mainstream publications would have run with it.

No, they would have just said he used a barnyard epithet.

You keep settin' em up, I'll keep knockin' em down.

The cow is of the bovine ilk
One end is moo,

"It provides context" Ooooh! Can I provide context, too?

"Zombie cows menace school children in desire for brains to eat; local law enforcement heroically staves off slowest stampede ever." (unless you're watching 28 Cows Later, in which case they're REALLY fast zombie cows, but law enforcement is no less heroic)

ahahaha, Anonymous just reminded me of the cow in the Restaurant at the end of the Universe.

The cow had it coming!

Look at the way it's got tits hanging out.

Had it coming, I tell ya!

I would say any third grader mature enough to read the local daily newspaper can probably handle being told where McDonald's comes from.

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