Naturally, news stories are typically framed in ways that prioritize human interests/needs/perspectives. Privileging human interests can give the impression that nonhuman animals do not also have interests at stake or perspectives on issues that affect them. This need not be an either/or situation. To help avoid an anthropocentric bias (similar to how racial or gender bias should be avoided), and in the interest of fairness, journalists and editors should:
- Recognize that animals have an interest in habitat, territory, food, water, safety, companionship, and freedoms from pain, injury, distress, and exploitation, as well as needs to freely express normal behavior and maintain their preferred relationships. (See also Five Freedoms)
- Represent nonhuman animals as sentient individuals (fellow species who share the planet) rather than presenting them primarily in human-centered terms. Avoid stereotyping species by defining them primarily as pests, threats, game, or tools for humans for food, research, skins, or entertainment). Acknowledge that fellow animals, rather than being mere mechanical, instinctual beings, are individuals who exercise agency and have perspectives and feelings.
- Dedicate space to exploring the complex interactions between humans and the natural world, while questioning long-standing cultural prejudices against and dislike for certain species (ex: dolphins and whales over fish, horses over cows, dogs over wolves, songbirds over chickens or pigeons, mammals over reptiles, vertebrates over invertebrates, etc.). Avoid stereotypically constructing inter-species conflicts as premeditated based solely on species membership (ex: cats against birds, dogs against cats, wolves against humans).
- Whenever possible, use audio-visual media to present real animals living in their natural or captive environments, expressing themselves using their own species-specific ways of communicating. Audio-visual media are especially useful at educating audiences about where and how animals actually live.
- Interpret other species’ basic communications if they seem self-evident, such as joy, curiosity, fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, affection, boredom, or playfulness, to acknowledge these emotions for the audience. In some cases, more nuanced interpretation of animal communication might require the use of professionals, such as biologists, ethologists, and animal advocates. Experts can also be used as sources to speak on behalf of animal species’ general interests. While humans who hunt, farm, use, or own animals should be represented in the news, this perspective should be balanced with sources who advocate on the animals’ behalf (especially those who do not have a vested/financial interest in the use of animals). The latter category may include attorneys, animal activists, ethologists, biologists, veterinarians (ones whose business is not dependent on industry), animal companions and guardians, and vegans (people who do not use or consume products taken from or researched on animals). See Section Selecting Appropriate Terminology for recommendations.