One of the things I have valued most about my graduate education is that my mentors insisted that I look at things deeply. Don't be satisfied with how things appear at first glance or even after just a little investigation. Dig deep and look at all the sources. Confront my own bias and interpretation. This morning I'm thinking a lot about the encouragement my mentors gave me.
At various times over the last several months I've come across a controversy between the Humane Society of the United States and HumaneWatch. I got sucked right into the kerfuffle on Twitter when the HSUS retweeted one of my postings and suddenly my screen became filled with Humane Watch proxies warning me about the "evils" of the Humane Society of the United States. They were generally two different types of messages. The first generally communicated that the Humane Society wasn't very humane because they allegedly euthanize animals and the other is that the Humane society is allegedly an ominous force because they advocate a vegan diet.
Oh no. Not a vegan diet! That's just plain evil.
This morning I got a few invitations to join a Facebook page for the Humane Watch. My curiosity was finally piqued about this group and their propaganda. My first question was who is behind the organization. Was it a group of concerned animal activists? Disgruntled former employees from HSUS? I figured if I knew the structure under the organization I could understand more of where they were coming from. I figured it would be difficult to find out. In the end, this was the easiest research I've ever done.
Scroll to the bottom of the Humane Watch webpage. There is a copyright noticed saying all content is copyrighted by the Center for Consumer Freedom. This center is an organization run by restaurant, tobacco, alcohol, and other similar organizations. They run a variety of media campaigns supporting the interests of the various industries they represent. Want to do some of your own deep research about the Center for Consumer Freedom? Check out Sourcewatch. That's one place to start.
What things are the Center for Consumer Freedom supporting? They provide financial surveillance on organizations and individuals that support "anti-consumer" organizations. They campaign against animal rights groups. They go after watchdogs such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Suggest that we ought not to worry about the levels of mercury in seafood (they must be really concerned, because they have another website too). Then of course there is the kerfuffle that started all of this with the Humane Watch that is, among other things, warning that the HSUS wants us all to be vegan.
Yes, there is more. To round up the sites that the Center for Consumer Freedom sponsors we have one about Obesity Myths in which we learn it is lifestyle, not diet, that makes us fat. PETA kills animals, according to another website they sponsor. Another goes after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine because it has the gall to suggest that high fat fast food is bad for us and eating more vegan foods might be better. The Center for Consumer Freedom calls this one Physician Scam. Lastly, we apparently don't have to worry about too much sugar in our foods because it is all just a Sweet Scam.
What makes me sad here is that science--real meaningful science--gets obscured by propaganda that is trying to sell more fast food, support more factory farms, and manage our environment in thoughtless and destructive ways. Good people end up getting manipulated by the science that is intended to educate and improve the lives of society.
Carefully read what you encounter out their in the world. Look deeply before you click "like" on facebook. Give some thought to who is trying to get you to believe what--and why they want you to believe it.