Following an investigation into a story by the Australian Broadcasting Association’s (ABC) Rural department which incorrectly implied that a PETA US complaint involving the Boorungie Station was merely about swearing at sheep, the ABC removed the biased story, issued an apology and is airing corrections on the programmes that reported the misleading information. People around the world who read or heard the deliberately misleading news report, and reporters laughing at how frivolous and silly animal rights supporters must be, were led to believe that the complaint simply concerned employees’ “swearing” at sheep, when in fact that was not the case at all.
After a complaint from PETA Australia, the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit, which is not associated with the company’s content-producing departments, concluded that the story breached several of the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy, corrections and clarifications, including that reporters must “make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context,” “not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience” and “acknowledge and correct or clarify, in an appropriate manner as soon as reasonably practicable”.
PETA US’ complaint to the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA focused on workers punching, kicking, and stomping on sheep, among other abuses. Yes, the men screamed “fuckers” at the sheep and more, but while doing so they hit the sheep, drawing blood and causing bodily damage, all of which was deliberately ignored in the press report. The TV show Media Watch condemned the press account as “dodgy,” “ridiculous,” “almost totally wrong,” and “grossly misleading”—and criticized every journalist who failed to include the full details included in PETA US’ Australian shearing abuse exposé.
The ABC’s response to PETA Australia’s complaint stated:
Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that the stories materially misled the audience; undue prominence was given to [the sheep farmer]’s claims and the story lacked the necessary context which was made available to ABC Rural by the statement provided by PETA. The presentation of the story would reasonably lead audience members to believe that verbal abuse claims were central to PETA’s complaint against Boorungie Sheep Station; which was demonstrably not the case.
If foul language were the worst that sheep in Australian shearing sheds had to endure, then no complaint would have been filed.
Posted by Jason Baker