Both the old and new media agree on this: If you need a story that’s guaranteed to be wildly popular — go with animals. “Kute kittens,” for example, are surefire winners, as is the entire p-group: puppies, porpoises, penguins and polar bears. And don’t forget baby chicks, goats and other farm animals — they can be awfully cute and cuddly, too.
One group that’s noticed this is corporate America, and some of the biggest corporations have jumped on the animal ploy as a way to push some of their ugliest profiteering schemes. For example, the Keystone XL pipeline, a project involving TransCanada Corp. and such oil giants as ExxonMobil. They want to shove this massively polluting, ozone-depleting, wildlife-threatening pipeline from Alberta, Canada, down through the very center of America, carrying a toxic petro-sludge called tar sands oil all the way to export terminals on the Gulf Coast.
This is not exactly a popular idea in our country, and it was made less popular by a couple of recent, very nasty spills of this tar from existing pipelines — one into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, and the other in the town of Mayflower, AR. So, cue the animals!
Larry Kudlow, a shameless, corporate-hugging host of his own eponymous TV show on CNBC, proclaimed in an August episode that — by gollies — Keystone would be terrific for wildlife. Why? Because, explained this noted expert on the habits of beasts in the wild, the lovable bears, deer, and such “like to snuggle under the pipeline (for) warmth.” An economist at the American Petroleum Institute — the chief lobbying group for big oil — immediately agreed with Kudlow, asserting that, “animals like the Alaskan crude oil pipeline quite a bit.”
How darling! And how wrong.
What we have here are a couple of shills mouthing a right-wing myth that’s been promoted on the political circuit for a while. Actual animal experts, however, note that Canadian caribou are now “listed as threatened,” largely because of the tar sands rush. And independent scientists studying the Keystone project say it will “wreak havoc” on animals all along its nature-destroying path.
How cute is that?
But while big oil is trying to convince the public that it is Bambi’s best buddy, today’s industrial agribusiness operations definitely do not want to be pictured with animals — nor do they want us seeing pictures of the chickens, hogs, cows, etc., that they confine in their animal factories.