I’m one of those seemingly snobbish types who doesn’t watch television. However, this week I made an exception. On July 5th, in a programming move that would have probably been unheard of 10 years ago, CNN Headline News ran a one hour program in prime time on animal rights.
The program was an episode of the show Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell. There was no mincing of words; the tag line for the episode was “Jane’s fight for animal rights,” not “Jane’s fight for animal welfare” or “Jane’s fight against animal cruelty.” This is a clear rebuff to those who still maintain that animal rights is some sort of fringe issue. After all, CNN is about as mainstream as you can get.
So, was it worth watching? Yes, but let me get some criticisms out of the way.
First of all, it was basically a clip show consisting of highlights from earlier episodes mixed in with a bit of new material. Thus, there’s no real overarching theme or major argument; it wasn’t Earthlings. Most of the material will be old news to anyone who keeps up with animal issues.
Stylistically, watching this program reminded me of why I no longer watch TV. I could do without the super-short, sound-byte oriented segments, the glitz and flash and fastcuts, the obsession with celebrities, and so on. And to be honest, I found Jane Velez-Mitchell’s hosting style somewhat off-putting, though that can be said of most cable news hosts. By the way, why does she sometimes wield a gavel?
On the positive side, this episode of Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell was a great introduction for the millions of viewers who don’t really know much about animal rights. Because this episode was a compilation, it was able to touch on several big issues in a short time, including whaling, factory farming, the BP oil spill, animal experimentation, circuses, and wild horse roundups. (Surprisingly, nothing about puppy mills.) For the average American who can’t be bothered to read Peter Singer, or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, this program was a good way to get informed about some important issues.
Velez-Mitchell also did an important service in drawing attention to several organizations working to help animals. These included heavy hitters like The HSUS and PETA, and ones viewers might not have heard of, such as Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Animal Defense International, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Perhaps the most commendable thing about this program was that Jane Velez-Mitchell balanced righteous anger with calls to action. She regularly called on viewers to take actions to help animals. At one point, she says to Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Baur, “We can make a difference, you and me and the people at home. We can make things better for the animals.” And one of the last things she says before signing off is, “You can fight for the animals, too.”
She’s right, of course. Hopefully her viewers will heed her call.
Photo Credit: Picapp