Monday, 1 December 2008

News just in from the PPK. A picture posted of an eagle, trussed up and unable to move. A chicken pecks at it. The farmers are putting the live eagles in with the chickens and then releasing them. The eagle flies home too scared of chickens to return. Supposedly. The picture is chilling and disturbing. I was hoping that someone would have some response. The RSPB perhaps with an address to write to. But instead I found something just as chilling.

The Daily Mail article on the subject as written by Caroline Graham which has some rather odd ways of describing things. 'The chickens can wreak their revenge'. Yes, this is all the work of the chicken. The innocent chicken who can finally get its own back on the horrible evil eagle who is picking on it.

Not really. The eagle is following instinct, the chicken is following instinct. It’s the farmer who is knowingly torturing a living being.

Then, stunningly the Mail goes on to present this as a victory for the little man over government red tape. They tell us ‘farmers have complained for years’, say that the eagles are ‘stealing their chickens but [the farmers] face fines or even jail if they kill the birds.’ The sentence structure sets us up to believe that the action of the farmers is justified. Something horrible is happening but if the farmers take action bureaucracy will come down on them. Too bad it couldn’t be blamed on the EU.

‘So instead,’ Graham continues, ‘they have come up with the idea of catching but not killing them to avoid incurring any penalties.’ To me this has the tone of someone about to say how ingenious. Salivating over a legal loop hole.

They fact that no alternative viewpoint is given to that of the farmer means that his views are not questioned. ‘They say after the trussed-up birds [sic] is freed it never returns - while the chickens also learn self defence against the birds of prey.’ This seems absurd to me but it is presented here without a counter. And by finishing on Mr Wu’s quote he is given the final word, the last say. The all-important point that sticks in the mind of the reader. And this time it’s the justification that we are expected to remember, not the pain or the suffering. ‘Otherwise my chickens will all disappear’

Allow me to speculate for a second as to why this article is as it is. The editorial policy of the Mail is well known and strongly enforced. Even without Dacre over your shoulder the presence creeps through. Everyone knows the party line and is expected to push it. Add to that tabloid writing, by its nature, is more embellished. There are more direct links between points, more adjectives and more colour. This leads to dubious connections being made and expanded upon. Even if it is absurd to the observer.

Then there is the question of what is this story. Is it a serious piece? Something about science, nature or agriculture? Or is it a weird news bit with a ‘those wacky Chinese’ tone. To me it should have been the former but is more likely the latter. That is why there is no other viewpoint.

To me this seems like an ‘isn’t this odd’ piece that has been stretched to fit political points. Points about bureaucracy gone mad and the little man triumphing against the evil predator. This is a bad taste article about a horrific practise.

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