Author Topic: Getting the message across to the public. SMH 17.12.2011  (Read 5844 times)

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Getting the message across to the public. SMH 17.12.2011
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 07:57:43 PM »
Media prizes are a way for Voiceless to reward journalists who foster debate about animal welfare, writes Peta Doherty.

 Voiceless is campaigning hard to lift a veil of secrecy.

"The only way you can lift the veil is through the media," says the co-founder of the animal protection institute Voiceless, Brian Sherman AM.

That's why the organisation he and his daughter, Ondine Sherman, established in 2004 awards an annual media prize for the most accurate and influential coverage of an animal welfare issue.

Voiceless's focus is the suffering of animals in factory farms and the commercial kangaroo industry, and advancing animal legal rights. Since its inception, the institute has awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to projects aligned with its concerns.

This year, Voiceless increased the media prize to $10,000, split between broadcast and print/online. The ABC Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson and the producer Michael Doyle won the broadcast prize for A Bloody Business'aif, an investigation into the treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.

The print prize went to Christine Jackman for "The Claws Come Out", an exploration of animal law and the difficulties of prosecuting animal cruelty, published in The Weekend Australian Magazine.

"It's extremely important to the animal protection industry to have the media writing up what is really happening," Brian Sherman says.

When A Bloody Business'aif brought the gruesome fate of exported cattle to the lounge rooms of thousands of Australians, public outcry brought the live-export trade to a temporary halt.

Ferguson, who has collected a Gold Walkley with the Four Corners team for the report, says it is gratifying to have the work recognised in different quarters.

"We're very proud of the program because a powerful secret was revealed . . . the ability for people to put their heads in the sand about what happens to animals when they're exported overseas was taken away."

Being nominated for a prize distributed by an organisation that "thinks about animal welfare in a singular way" also made her think about animal protection as a social-justice issue more deeply, Ferguson says.

"Something happens when you create prizes, which is, it makes people think about the things they [the prize givers] want us to think about.

"It doesn't mean we share all of their opinions about everything. It just makes us think more deeply."

The Fairfax journalist Helen Greenwood, who was nominated for her interview with the US author and animal activist Jonathan Safran Foer, agrees that media prizes encourage people to write about particular topics.

She says her interview with Foer, who spoke at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas about vegetarianism, was not intended to be a piece about animal welfare. "It clearly was by extension and I was quite thrilled they recognised that."

The prize, now in its third year, attracted 120 nominations this year, a response Sherman says "has been quite staggering".

At the awards ceremony last month, Voiceless assigned 10 grants and two research commissions totalling more than $110,000, funded by the Sherman Foundation, the Sherman family and other donors.

The managing solicitor of Pro Bono Animal Law Service, Jillian Field, says the Voiceless grants are essential. "Without it, many issues would remain under cover."

In partnership with Animal Liberation NSW, her organisation, part of The Public Interest Law Clearing House, received $15000 for a project that will identify welfare issues in duck farming.

Field says the project aims to educate the community "in a similar way to how the community are now aware of the plight of boiler chickens and hens that produce eggs".

One of their main concerns is that ducks, a water species, have limited or no access to water on commercial farms.

The Voiceless head of operations, Elaine Morris, says: it takes many years of campaigning and work to effect change.

"A bit of a clamber from consumers for products that aren't factory farmed and ultimately we see shifts from industry."

December 17, 2011

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