Monday, 19 March 2012

News coverage bias


Recently there has been some negatively biased news coverage of the campaigns against vivisection (vivisection is experimenting on and killing non-human animals for the benefit of humans). Although most people who object to vivisection are motivated by compassion and good science, the media has been attempting to portray them as bomb-making terrorists! Even the BBC has not been immune to sensationalism, for example in one BBC Radio news piece on Wednesday 14th March (8am, and 8:10-8:20am) on animal vivisection and airlines/ferries, the reporter gave only one view (that of the pro-vivisectionists). Some examples:
  • The feature piece made up of a panel of John Humphreys, a reporter, and the Science Minister, used emotional manipulation, was inaccurate and biased. It seemed to equate a legitimate democratic right (writing to a company expressing one's view) into an act of terrorism. Writing letters to the ferry and airline companies pointing out the truth about the experiments and the alternatives can hardly be called threatening or endangering the safety of employees. The Minister for Culture in particular needs to brought to account for his ill-informed position on this.
  • Use of the term “animal rights extremists” was inaccurate, biased and emotionally manipulative. People who write in defence of animals are not 'animal rights extremists', they are merely concerned for other sentient beings. Implying that they were inciting violence was wrong and emotional point scoring. 
  • All three panelists focused on mice, but failed to mention that of the many animals (from lots of species) which are imported into the UK for animal vivisection, the numbers include wild-caught primates. That is, endangered primates who are abducted in the wild and then exported to the UK for experimentation then disposal. Falling back on the claim that it was "usually mice" is sloppy journalism. 
  • Both journalists failed to offer any information from the opposing view. Even if they couldn't contact any of the animal charities (assuming they tried), they could have used some of the information from the charity websites. 
  • The journalists failed to mention that the UK government has, by law, a duty to develop alternative techniques to animal vivisection as part of the European Directive 86/609/EEC. There is a duty to the 3Rs - replacement, reduction and refinements of animal experiments. The Government should be investing in non-animal alternatives.
  • No reference was made to all the quality non-animal research taking place in the UK, such as that funded by the Dr Hadwen Trust. The Trust's work is demonstrating that cutting-edge research methodologies without the use of animals is leading to advancing human knowledge on key human illnesses. Their work includes cell and tissue cultures, analytical technology, molecular research, post mortem studies, computer modelling, epidemiology (population studies), ethical clinical research with volunteer patients and healthy subjects, and the use of microbes such as bacteria. 
  • His one interviewee quoted a statistic from Poland which was irrelevant to the UK and biased.
Therefore, to balance things out slightly, here are some of the arguments against vivisection. Animal experiments are unnecessary and unscientific. They tell us merely how other species  (dogs, mice, rabbits, monkeys) respond after being given Parkinsons or cancer. They do not tell us how humans respond. Drugs that are shown to be safe in animals have often later proved to be dangerous in humans, while valuable cures and treatments can be missed if they fail in animal tests. Vivisection is an outdated technique from the sixteenth century (used by people like Descartes who cut up live animals because he didn't believe they could feel pain); as the Dr Hadwen Trust shows, that which was called science 400 years ago is only holding back progress now.

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