Animal Studies Bibliography

Jones, Dena M. 1997. The media and policy decisions affecting animals. Anthrozoos 10(1): 8-13.

The media influences public policy by setting the agenda, telling people what is important by emphasizing certain issues. Legislation ensuring humane treatment of cattle during transport and slaughter, stopping branding of Mexican cattle's faces when they crossed the border, and addressing various other issues regarding farm, companion, and research animals has all been affected by media coverage. Scholars do not agree on exactly what influence media coverage has on policy decisions. It appears, however, that public opinion usually changes not from media coverage but from legislative moves, and that the real effect of the media, therefore, is in changing the minds of policy-makers and political elites about specific issues. Special interest groups and social movements can both benefit from and be hurt by media coverage, since the media can either lend credence to or trivialize a groups' claims. Further, the coverage often makes the issue appear shallow by leaving out theory and history, and it also tends to present the most extreme sides of the issue and emphasize dissent. Further, issues without a quick or easy solution may be considered boring and get dropped. Public reaction to media coverage may be based on whether the issue is perceived as matching with popular/common goals (e.g. animal welfare and environmental claims) or as selfish and narrow. Federal legislation on animals affected by media coverage has included the Animal Welfare Act (1966, 1985). The first surge of support resulted from extensive coverage of a case of dognapping in which the dog was then sold to researchers. In the 1980s, exposure of Taub's monkey experiments and Gennarelli's baboon ones led to the revision of the Act to add lab animal rules. These efforts also helped to stop federal funding of some research projects, like Gennarelli's. These events probably produced such a strong reaction due to the species involved (Americans have considerable affection for and empathy with dogs and primates), the fact that the stories had clear beginnings, middles, and endings, the presence of clear heroes (the animal liberators/exposers) and villains (researchers), and the use of video and photographs to give visual proof of the abuse. State legislation has also been influenced by media coverage, as in the recent banning of horse tripping in several Western states. Extensive television broadcasting of videos from the charreada and media treatment of the issue as a “no-brainer,” along with animal welfare groups' de-emphasis of their role and building of coalitions with rodeo and Hispanic groups, made the passage of these bills fairly easy. The issue may have been helped along as well by the American affection for horses and the graphic nature of the TV coverage, which probably had a greater effect than newspaper coverage would have. State ballot initiatives may also address animal issues, and the media effects may be more direct on these since public opinion is what determines policy. It is likely that TV coverage has a greater impact in these cases than does newspaper coverage, which is increasingly only the province of well-educated and politically aware voters. Paid advertising appears to have a very significant effect, and animal advocates have won 10 of 12 initiatives in which they have used it.



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