Should YouTube Have Banned This Animal Cruelty Investigation Video? [Updated]
Update 3: A spokesperson for Mercy for Animals tells us, “Nathan [Runkle – Executive Director] says that it appears that YouTube is once again hosting the video, while it appears Vimeo has removed it. They will be communicating with Vimeo, as they did with YouTube, urging them to repost the video.”
Update 2: YouTube tells WebProNews that it does not comment on specific videos, but a spokesperson did give us the following statement:
With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.
Update: Now, the vimeo video embedded in this article says it “no longer exists”. Meanwhile, the video does appear to be back on YouTube, though it comes with a warning. I’ve contacted MFA for more details, and will update accordingly.
In the wake of the infamous elephant-killing video from GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons, there is another disturbing video involving animals making web news. This involves an “undercover investigation” into the practices of E6 Cattle Company in Texas. Mercy for Animals put its investigation footage on YouTube, only to have it removed.
Should YouTube have taken down this video? Tell us what you think.
“Mercy For Animals’ undercover investigation into E6 Cattle Company in Texas continues to be at the center of controversy now that YouTube has banned the video evidence documenting E6 workers committing acts of cruelty and abuse to dairy calves,” a representative for Mercy for Animals tells WebProNews.
“When news of the investigation hit early this week, the price of cattle futures fell, consumers were outraged, the American Veterinary Medical Association issued its condemnation, and agribusiness circled its wagons,” he continues. “YouTube’s notice characterizes the undercover footage as a ‘gross-out video’ that is ‘intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.'”
“However, YouTube seems to have no qualms about videos glorifying hunting, dogfighting, or similar forms of animal cruelty,” he adds.
The video is below. Be warned, the footage is indeed disturbing.
Among the video’s contents (if you don’t want to see it), as listed by MFA:
- Workers bludgeoning calves in their skulls with pickaxes and hammers – often involving 5 to 6 blows, sometimes more – before rendering the animals unconscious
- Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto dead piles
- Workers kicking downed calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs
- Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs
- Gruesome injuries and afflictions, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves
- Ill, injured and dying calves denied medical care
- The budding horns of calves burned out their skulls without painkillers
MFA’s executive director has posted an open letter to YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar about its policies. The organization has shared the letter with WebProNews. Here it is in its entirety (minus the contact info):
Dear Mr. Kamangar:
I am writing on behalf of Mercy For Animals (MFA), a national, non-profit animal protection organization, to ask that you reinstate the “No Mercy – Calf Farm Cruelty Exposed” video on your website. The video can be viewed via Vimeo at www.MercyForAnimals.org/Calves.
Earlier this week, MFA received notification that our undercover investigation video documenting routine abuses of calves raised for the dairy industry at E6 Cattle Company in Texas had been disabled for violation of YouTube Community Guidelines. The notice states: “It’s not okay to post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful. If a video is particularly graphic or disturbing, it should be balanced with additional educational or documentary context and information.”
In keeping with YouTube guidelines, as well as MFA’s mission to educate consumers about modern animal agriculture practices, the video includes documentary context and information in the form of quotes from workers at the facility, explaining why sick and injured calves are neglected without veterinary care, as well as a statement from world-renowned cattle welfare expert and advisor to the USDA Dr. Temple Grandin, condemning the cruel practices at this facility: “It is obvious that both the management and the employees have no regard for animal welfare.”
MFA strongly agrees that videos of cruelty to animals are shocking and disturbing, but in the context of helping to expose and eliminate animal abuse they are extremely important.
Consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced, especially when the production methods are shocking or disturbing, so that they can make informed choices. MFA’s “No Mercy” video opens a critical dialogue about animal use and abuse in our society, as well as pressing social and consumer issues. Without open dialogue in a free society, broken systems remain unchallenged and unchanged.
It seems an obvious contradiction that YouTube censors MFA’s efforts to expose and eliminate cruelty to animals, while continuing to allow highly sanitized meat, dairy and egg industry propaganda videos that promote killing animals for profit, and countless sensationalized prohunting videos that glamorize gleeful hunters mercilessly maiming and killing animals for “sport.” YouTube was awarded a 2008 Peabody Award and cited as “a ‘Speakers’ Corner’ that both embodies and promotes democracy.” Silencing one side of the debate over how farmed animals should be treated flies in the face of democracy. YouTube seems to be sending a message that hurting animals for fun or profit is acceptable but speaking out against such abuses is not.
We understand that the “No Mercy” video documenting E6 workers bashing in the skulls of calves with hammers and pickaxes, dragging them by their ears, standing on their necks, burning them, and neglecting them to die without veterinary care is shocking and horrifying to most people. The “No Mercy” video was posted on YouTube precisely to draw public attention to this important case and give people the opportunity to learn about and speak out against cruelty to animals, and to use their democratic voices to help pass laws to prevent such shocking and disturbing abuses from occurring in the future.
MFA’s groundbreaking investigations have a long history of leading to successful criminal prosecutions of animal abusers, raids of factory farms, corporate animal welfare policy reforms and increased legal protection for animals – all testament to the crucial role these videos play in preventing cruelty and educating consumers.
For example, as a result of our Conklin Dairy investigation that was widely viewed on YouTube and exposed animals being beaten in the face with metal pipes, repeatedly stabbed with pitchforks, having their tails broken, and being kicked, thrown, and punched by employees, a farm worker was arrested and charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals, numerous dairy suppliers ended their relationships with the facility, support was generated for a statewide animal protection initiative, and consumers nationwide learned about the dark side of dairy production.
A 2009 MFA investigation at an egg farm in Maine, which was posted on YouTube, prompted the Maine Department of Agriculture and state police to raid the farm on grounds of cruelty to animals. Grocery chains nationwide dropped the farm as an egg supplier and, as part of a landmark civil settlement, the mega-farm pleaded guilty to 10 counts of cruelty to animals, agreed to pay over $130,000 in fines and restitution, and handed over authority to the state of Maine to conduct unannounced inspections of the facility for the following five years.
The “No Mercy” video posted on YouTube is part of MFA’s important mission to educate consumers and bring justice to animals who are routinely tortured and killed in factory farms and slaughterhouses. It is vital to our efforts to hold the E6 Cattle Company and its owner accountable for egregious cruelty to animals and that the public be able to access and disseminate this video.
We respectfully request that the “No Mercy” video be reinstated on YouTube as soon as possible.
“It’s especially galling that YouTube removed the video at a time when legislators in several states (Minnesota, Iowa and Florida) are attempting to criminalize undercover investigations like MFA’s, which have exposed animal abuse, assisted law enforcement, and helped assure food safety,” the representative says. “Factory farms need more transparency and scrutiny, not less.”
Whatever your position is on all of that, the whole thing does raise questions about YouTube’s own strategy, particularly as it gets more into both citizen journalism and the movie business. As you know, movie content is also often disturbing. In fact, there’s a whole genre dedicated to that emotion. It’s called horror. Where will the line be drawn on that? Currently, the NC-17-rated “The Gore Gore Girls” is feature in YouTube’s movie offerings. It could definitely be considered a “gross out movie”. I’ve seen it. It’s by H.G. Lewis, if that tells you anything. He’s often credited as the “Godfather of Gore”.
Often, reality is more disturbing than fiction, and video is a big part of journalism. YouTube has encouraged citizen journalism, even starting its own citizen news channel. Will this be compromised if the footage isn’t family-friendly?
Currently, there is still a broadcast news clip featuring edited footage from the E6 investigation video on YouTube.
Should YouTube have banned this video? Comment here. ]