Media Mix, May 9, 2021

Ban’ei race

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about a viral video showing a jockey kicking a horse. The point of the piece is that the media tends to be passive about anything that might be perceived as animal abuse, and that pertains to livestock as much as it does to race horses and other animals bred and raised for entertainment purposes. As mentioned in the column, after the video drew criticism, some people involved in the racing business defended the jockey and the sport by saying that it isn’t as bad as it looks, and that line of argument has continued, with the media picking it up but never getting to the other aspect of horse racing that I brought up later in the column—that as soon as a horse becomes unproductive it is killed, because they aren’t bred for anything other than racing or creating other race horses. Granted, ban’ei race horses are draft horses, so they could presumably be put to work, but I really wonder how many farmers, even in Hokkaido, still use horses to pull plows and transport crops. The same thing goes for cockfighting. In one old article I read about Kyoko Honda, the woman who rescues maimed and discarded roosters, one man was interviewed who stages “safe” cockfights in that the birds’ claws are trimmed and the fights do not end in injury or death. Needless, to say, however, this man’s example is the rare exception and it didn’t sway Honda away from her mission to get the sport banned in Okinawa.

Though the Japanese media seems to go out of its way to avoid the obvious about animals raised for sport or food, generally speaking media all over the world do the same thing, even if it’s only a matter of degree. That, in fact, is the moral of the story, so to speak, of two similar documentaries now available on Netflix, Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy, which happen to be from the same production house. Ostensibly, both films address mass food production from the standpoint of the environment and sustainability—the former about livestock farming and the latter about industrial fishing. Both are incredibly destructive to the environment. However, both also end up in the same place where the narrator-directors conclude that eating flesh, whether it be that of mammals, birds, or fish, is morally indefensible for all the suffering it causes. This is, of course, a highly personal determination, but it is a truth that anyone who lives in the world today has to confront on their own terms, and while the media does talk about inhumane conditions for livestock, it usually comes down to the idea that we leave the dirty work to people at the bottom of the economic pyramid or those lingering at the margins of society. One could make the argument that catching and killing your own meat is defensible from a primal standpoint, but like the humane cockfighting presenter mentioned above, it’s the exception that essentially proves the rule, which is that we make other species suffer needlessly for our own sustenance. In that light, making them suffer for our own entertainment seems beyond the pale. 

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