In Reporting Men Are Sickened Eating Meat, Bias is Main Course

By ACSH Staff — Mar 03, 2016
If you have a hidden agenda, it’s best to try and hide it. That's what we’d recommend after reading a misleading, unbalanced report on the website Quartz. The reporter's unsupported piece isn’t really about meat consumption and how it’s making men sick — it's about meat and how it’s making her sick.
shutterstock_83972737 Man eating meat via Shutterstock

If you have a hidden agenda, it’s best to try and hide it. At least that’s what we’d recommend in response to the latest unbalanced "news story" by Deena Shanker.

In a recent article on the website Quartz titled "Men think they need to eat meat to be manly — and it’s making them sick," Shanker, listed as its food and consumer goods reporter, points to an association between masculinity and meat and the deleterious health effects of this association, claiming that to their detriment men eat too much of it.

Now, to be fair, some of this is true, since such a link does exist and has been reported previously across scientific studies. In a 2013 article published by the American Psychological Association, its authors wrote "it makes them feel like real men" as one of the primary reasons for why men eat meat. But the gratifying effects men feel reach a ceiling when good health is threatened. Excessive meat consumption — specifically processed meat — have been associated with chronic health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.

But Shanker's article isn’t really about meat and how it’s making men sick. It’s about meat and how it’s making her sick. Because the meat industry, according to Shanker, is an industry that debases women. And when she heads off in that direction, her agenda comes into clearer focus.

What's more, when her editors affix a misleading headline on the piece, tying sickness to meat consumption, followed by her rambling on in six directions at once, that only reveals that the article isn't about health — it's just a vehicle for Shanker, the pescatarian (which she tells us in her opening paragraph), to express all of her opinions about how awful the meat industry is. Talk about bias.

Lets be clear: Quartz lists her as a reporter, not a columnist free to opine at will. And if it's an opinion piece, then tell the readers up front. So if she is going to express all of her personal opinions and present them as balanced reporting, she is doing all her readers a significant disservice.

In her article, she goes from discussing the health dangers of meat — erroneously by the way, since she lumps all types together — to a rant about the burger joint Carl's Jr. and its commercials featuring a bikini-donning Paris Hilton. She then segues into what could be considered the beginnings of a conspiracy theory about the lack of women in leadership roles across the meat industry, and ends with her disapproval of the disproportionately higher occupational safety hazards that women bear — all for the sake of beef.

Shanker is just all over the place and therefore her health allegations, which are mainly unsupported, get lost in the process.

Sure, sexism is a very real thing. And the more both men and women ascribe to social norms, the more consistently these stereotypical norms are reinforced. Men as “meat eaters” and women as “vegetarians” is a perfect example.

But Shanker's efforts to put carnivores in the proverbial pressure cooker is not the answer to alleviating that stereotype. And putting meat eaters on the defensive, on the dubious blanket-statement premise that it leads to poorer health, does nothing to solve the problem (as she sees it) that the meat industry is male dominated — which is really what has Shanker, who also self-describes as a feminist, really in a tizzy.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when a reporter's agenda becomes more apparent than the argument he or she is trying to make, it undermines both the writer and the premise.

When you get right down to it, Shanker’s piece is just a feminist tirade disguised as a anti-meat manifesto, atop an occupational safety soapbox. Unfortunately for her, her efforts collapse because the scientific support is just not there. And this is crucial when crafting a sensible story, since it requires balancing the facts and checking your ego.  Shanker does neither.

In the words of Shakespeare, the lady doth protest too much.

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