Are corvids cold blooded killers or merely opportunistic scavengers? This is the question we are trying to answer in this blog post. Mainstream media and advertising businesses often have a tendency to present an idyllic and idealised version of farming practices, showcasing for example animals living in picturesque environments. This imagery is employed to evoke positive emotions and create a connection with consumers. It is nothing else than a marketing strategy aimed at promoting the products derived from the use of non-human animals, such as meat or wool, by associating them with positive and wholesome images. Humans have a natural inclination to connect with and appreciate the beauty of animals. The sight of a playful and adorable lamb triggers positive emotions, such as joy and warmth, which does evoke empathy and a sense of compassion.
Bearing this in mind, then it is not surprising that the sight of corvids scavenging on such an innocent being will without a doubt be repulsive for most people, who will immediately sympathise with the victim, and not with the scavenger. Unfortunately, media representations of such wildlife interactions with domesticated non-human animals are commonly very much one-sided, despite the well known fact that it is always essential to consider all nuances and complexities of such interactions.
Media portrayals often focus on dramatic or attention-grabbing stories, which can lead to an exaggerated or sensationalised narrative. While isolated instances of corvid predation on lambs occur, it is essential to keep in mind that wildlife predation is just one among many factors influencing lamb mortality. It is crucial to take scientific research in account, as we will do, when discussing these matters.
We will show the links between mainstream media, their owners and agricultural businesses, and we will demonstrate historical, cultural and psychological background information to explain why a picture of corvids as being coldblooded killers is being painted. We will look into the human psyche, but also at the reality of agricultural businesses.
People often develop emotional connections with animals they interact with, which can foster empathy and a sense of responsibility towards their well-being. People may form bonds with pets or farm animals and learn to value their companionship, leading to a desire to protect and care for them. However, these emotional connections do not always extend universally to all animals, and cultural conditioning can shape which animals are seen as suitable for consumption, and which are not. Cats and dogs are typical examples of animals not being considered a food source in western societies. Food habits and traditions are deeply rooted in cultural practices and are influenced by factors such as geography, climate and availability of resources. Certain animals have been domesticated and bred specifically for human consumption over thousands of years, and became a part of so called culinary traditions and dietary habits. These perceived traditions are passed down from generation to generation and become deeply ingrained in human brains.
Dietary food choices, animal welfare and animal rights are three of commonly found key phrases, which are intrinsically interlinked, but substantially different. Welfare-oriented food choices by omnivores and vegetarians typically focus on the well-being of animals within the context of their production and consumption. This approach emphasises minimising animal suffering and improving living conditions through various means, such as supporting organic farming, free-range or pasture-raised animal products. Doubtful certifications are provided to the consumer, which supposedly ensure certain animal welfare standards are met. Their goal is to promote more humane practices within animal agriculture while still abusing non-human animals for food or derived animal products.
The ethical position of not using and not harming non-human sentient beings extends beyond the focus on animal welfare, which is being promoted by ethical vegans and by supporters of holistic non-violence. This ethical belief system is deeply rooted in the belief that animals have inherent rights and should not be treated as commodities or used for human purposes. This ethical stance leads to a commitment to veganism, where individuals refrain from consuming or using any animal products, including meat, dairy, fish, eggs and honey.
Holistic non-violence does take an even broader ethical approach. It draws inspiration from various philosophical, religious and ethical traditions, including principles from figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent peace advocates. It provides a comprehensive framework for individuals and societies to cultivate peace, promote justice and address conflicts in a non-violent and ethical manner, including both, human and non-human animals.
‘Walking the path of holistic nonviolence is about questioning ALL forms of oppression and violence, seeking to better understand their common roots, and choosing alternatives. It is about being unwilling — directly or indirectly — to take part in violence, to profit from the harm of others, or to willfully ignore oppression. It is about refusing to intentionally take away the dignity, bodily integrity, freedom, or the life of another individual, no matter how they may differ from ourselves, be they a fellow human or a fellow animal. Pursuing this path is not about being perfect, but about challenging ourselves to ever expand our understanding of how our actions affect others, and over time, to come closer and closer to the ideal of nonviolence toward all. It is a long term path of self-development, integrity and service.’1
The three native corvid species common raven (Corvus corax), rook (Corvus frugilegus) and carrion crow (Corvus corone) are commonly inaccurately differentiated from each other by the general public or the media, mainly due to their similar appearances. Similarly, lack of general and specific corvid biology knowledge leads to assumptions that corvids are being regarded as birds of prey by completely ignoring the fact that they are a suborder of song birds or passerines, just as blue tits and robins are.2
In some agricultural communities, crows and ravens are considered pests due to their potential impact on crops or livestock. This perception leads to negative attitudes and dangerous efforts to control their populations. These perceptions are also influenced by local beliefs, folklore, personal experiences and interactions with these birds.
Cultural views on corvids often seem to regard these birds as a threat to the human self-image. Some people, especially the ones who entertain a self-image that depicts them as the pride of creation, tend to disdain corvids, in particular due to the their flexibility in behaviour and the ways in which they routinely outsmart all sorts of antagonising measures. Another deep-seated association to corvids is found across times and cultures and seems to be of particular importance, which is the ecologically founded connection of corvids to human death. There is also a symbolic significance of blackness as visual expression of evil and death, which has been fuelled through human cultural history.
Cultural and historical perceptions of crows and ravens vary across different societies and time periods. These birds have been depicted in a range of ways, often with a mix of positive and negative connotations. Crows and ravens have frequently appeared in literature, poetry and art. They are often depicted as intelligent, mysterious or even mischievous creatures. Examples include Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven” and their presence in various mythologies and fairy tales.
Crows and ravens have symbolised different concepts in various cultures throughout history. In some societies, they are associated with intelligence, wisdom and prophecy. For instance, in Norse mythology, ravens were believed to be the companions of the god Odin and were associated with knowledge and foresight. In Native American cultures, crows and ravens are often considered symbols of transformation and spiritual guidance. Crows and ravens have been the subject of numerous superstitions and folklore. Some cultures believe that these birds bring good luck or serve as messengers between the human and spirit worlds. However, there are also negative superstitions known associating crows and ravens with bad omens, death or the supernatural.
On the other hand, lambs are generally regarded as special animals that must be paid attention to whenever we find them across our path. Their tenderness, gentility and innocence make them so endearing to those who sees them. Although, for some people sheep are docile, passive, unintelligent and timid, an exception can be made for cute and cuddly lambs. For other people lambs even symbolise love. Interestingly, in that context, the scientific fact is that sheep are sentient beings like us and are complex, individualistic and social. Sheep have, for example, extremely sophisticated face recognition abilities on par with humans. Sheep are emotional animals and, again like us, can feel optimistic or pessimistic based on their prior experiences, including those inflicted by the farmer who owns them.
Cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological discomfort that arises when individuals hold conflicting beliefs or engage in actions that contradict their values. In the case of consuming animals, some individuals may experience cognitive dissonance when they realise the contradiction between their emotional attachment to certain animals and their participation in their consumption. However, cultural conditioning and social norms are often used to mitigate this discomfort by framing the consumption of certain animals as acceptable or necessary. In the context of farmers loving and killing the animals they raise and care for, it is very likely for cognitive dissonance to occur.
Humans in general, and farmers are no exception, often develop a bond and affection for the animals they raise. They may care for their well-being, provide them with food, shelter and medical attention, and even develop individual relationships with them. This love and attachment can be genuine and heartfelt. However, farming also involves raising animals for the purpose of slaughter and consumption. This presents a conflicting situation where farmers must reconcile their emotional attachment to the animals with their role in raising them for food. This can create cognitive dissonance, as there is a disparity between their feelings of care and love for the animals and their direct involvement in their eventual premature death.
To reduce cognitive dissonance, farmers may employ various strategies. Farmers may justify their actions by emphasising the necessity of raising animals for food. They may believe that it is part of the natural order or that it is essential for human survival. Farmers may rely on cultural or societal norms to justify their actions. If they grew up in an environment where farming and animal slaughter are considered normal and necessary, they may align their beliefs with those prevailing norms. Farmers may compartmentalise their emotions by creating a mental separation between the animals they care for and the animals they raise for slaughter. They might view them as different categories or even separate entities, allowing them to distance themselves emotionally from the act of killing. Farmers may also of course view raising animals for slaughter as an economic necessity. They often do believe that their livelihood depends on it and that they have limited alternatives to sustain themselves and their families.
It is important to note that not all farmers experience cognitive dissonance in the same way or to the same extent. The degree of conflict and the strategies used to reduce cognitive dissonance can vary among individuals based on their personal beliefs, values and cultural backgrounds. It is also worth mentioning that there are farmers who prioritise animal welfare and choose to adopt more humane and ethical farming practices. They may opt for methods that minimise harm, provide better living conditions and prioritise the well-being of the animals they raise. This allows them to align their actions more closely with their values and reduce but not eliminate cognitive dissonance. However, the end result remains the same. A non-human sentient being is used as a commodity for the sole purpose of being prematurely killed for human pleasure.
Media Warfare Against Corvids
Media outlets, in particular mainstream media, frequently exhibit biases in their reporting. This can be due to various factors, such as the political leaning of the organisation or the personal biases of individual journalists. Many media outlets are owned by large corporations, which influence editorial decisions and coverage. This ownership structure may lead to conflicts of interest and the prioritisation of profit over accurate reporting. In some cases, media outlets may lack diversity in terms of perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. This can result in a limited range of viewpoints being presented and may lead to a perception of bias or incomplete reporting.
When incidents occur, which impact on human activities or interests such as agricultural damage or wildlife management issues, media coverage usually leans toward narratives that align with mainstream perspectives and concerns. This leads to biased or one-sided portrayals of the species involved. Also, certain animal species, including ravens and crows, have been often associated with symbolism, myths and folklore in various cultures. These cultural narratives can also influence public perception and, in our case, find their way into media coverage, perpetuating stereotypes or misconceptions.
Media outlets clearly prioritise stories that are sensational or controversial, as they tend to attract more attention and viewership. This also means that incidents involving for example ravens or crows are portrayed in a sensationalised or dramatic manner, which will lead to further misconceptions or an exaggeration of their behaviour or impact. This frequently happens in the case of lamb predation. In this context it is worth mentioning an important and often omitted biological fact. Without the help of other stronger predators the beaks of crows and ravens are only able to extract food from soft organs. They are unable to break a carcass open, or in fact kill a lamb by themselves. This also means that without the help of those enabling predators scavengers do not have any choice other than to seek out the weakest entry points into the body of a deceased or dying animal, which include eyes, tongue, navel, anus and genitals. Therefore it is not viciousness, it is a biological fact, and the way scavengers like crows and ravens survive.
It also shows that farmer, journalists and reporters may not always have specialised knowledge or expertise in the behaviour and biology of certain animal species. This lack of expertise often results in inaccurate or misleading reports, where myths or misconceptions about certain species may be perpetuated.
In the chapter about cognitive dissonance we have established that there are also close links between the urge of rectification of certain actions, the occasional lack of empathy and the growing influence of the farming lobby onto main stream media. The result is a propaganda machine, which paints two different pictures with the aim to distract from the gruesome truth of the animal farming business.
The first picture the media likes to draw is an idyllic picture of lambs enjoying sunshine and green meadows whilst waiting for us humans, and in particular our children, to come and to cuddle them. This is indeed a picture of peace and tranquility. The other, completely different picture, they want us to see, is the one of cruel reckless murderers torturing or killing beautiful creatures such as lambs. And that is how birds of prey, badgers, foxes, crows and ravens are often being presented by the media to the consumer.
The aim is to distract from the fact that animal farming is a business, which culminates in the killing of sentient beings but also to distract us from the side effects of high intensity agricultural farming, such as the well known and extensively documented high lamb mortality. The agricultural moneymaking business needs its consumers, and needs to hide or distract from the truth that animals are suffering. This includes the simple fact that lambs need to be killed before they come as an unrecognisable packaged food item into the supermarket shelves and on to the plates of animal loving people, who just came back from their Sunday lamb petting experience.
This is the occasion, where scapegoating may become a useful tool, which can be used to influence attitudes and allegiances of consumers. Scapegoating is the well known psychological and social process of assigning blame to others for one’s own difficulties. Often those others are involved only peripherally in the problems at hand or, indeed, are not involved at all. The ego defence of displacement plays an important role in scapegoating, in which uncomfortable feelings such as anger, frustration, envy, guilt, shame and insecurity are displaced or redirected onto another, often more vulnerable, person, animal or group. In our context the mostly used scapegoats are non-humans animals such as corvids, birds of prey, foxes and badgers, which are officially and unofficially persecuted, enabling the scapegoater to discharge and distract from their negative feelings, which are replaced or overtaken by a crude but consoling sense of affirmation and self-righteous indignation.
Sheep Welfare and Mortality of Newborn Sheep
Now, let us have a look at the leading causes of lamb mortality. Newborn lamb mortality is influenced by various factors, which can be broadly categorised into natural, environmental and management-related factors. Some of the key factors that may contribute to lamb mortality include weather conditions, poor nutrition, lambing difficulties, disease and parasites, birth rank, management practices, ewe health and behaviour, genetic factors, lambing environment and predation.
Harsh weather conditions, particularly cold and wet weather, do increase lamb mortality. Newborn lambs are more susceptible to hypothermia and other weather-related stressors, which often lead to weakness and death. Inadequate nutrition of the ewes during pregnancy, meaning during winter time, will inevitably result in weak and underdeveloped lambs, making them more prone to health issues and mortality. Complications during lambing are likely to result in difficult births and increase the risk of mortality for both, the lamb and the ewe.
Infectious diseases and internal or external parasites can negatively impact lamb health and survival. Lambs born later in the lambing season may face higher mortality rates as resources may be limited, and they may receive less attention from their mothers. The management practices implemented during lambing, such as shelter availability, lambing supervision and lambing pen hygiene, can significantly improve lamb survival rates. The health and behaviour of the ewes play a crucial role in lamb survival. A healthy and attentive mother does increase the chances of lamb survival.
Some genetic traits affect lamb survivability, such as lamb birth weight and mothering ability. There is a definite survival advantage when the ewe has to care for only a single lamb. Twins or even triplets are obviously desired by the farmer, as these will potentially increase their profits. However, it will also definitely decrease survival chances of mother and lambs. Unsurprisingly, the lambing environment, including the availability of suitable lambing areas and protection from predators and adverse weather conditions, will impact on lamb survival. This seems logical and actually common knowledge. However, what is truly surprising is the fact that it is a very rare sight of shelter being provided for any of the so valuable farm animals. Regular monitoring of the flock during lambing season would also help identify and address potential issues early on, thereby improving lamb survival rates.
It seems also understandable that predators such as foxes, birds of prey, but also uncontrolled dogs can pose a threat to newborn lambs, especially when they are vulnerable, poorly and unable to defend themselves. However, despite best efforts, the proportion of lamb deaths remains rather stable at 15% to 20%, whereas predation does play no economical role whatsoever, as we will demonstrate later.
Media campaigns sponsored by the farming industry and eagerly distributed by main stream media will not explain these details and the scientific background. These campaigns are rather designed to distract from the truth and to focus on scapegoats such as corvids or predators like foxes or birds of prey.3 4 5 6 7
Corvids and the Killing of Lambs
The natural diet of many corvid species is omnivorous, consisting of invertebrates, nestlings, small mammals, berries, fruits, seeds and carrion. Some corvids, especially crows, have adapted well to artificial non-natural environments. Crows seem to have the most diverse human made diet of all, which includes foods such as bread, spaghetti, fried potatoes, dog food, sandwiches and livestock feed. The increase in available human food sources, including the expansion of intensive animal farming, are contributing to population rises in some corvid species.
Agricultural animal outdoor farming of cows and sheep does subsequently produce large amounts of carrion and afterbirths, which will attract predators and carrion eaters, such as carrion and hooded crows as well as ravens. However, since they lack a specialised beak for tearing into flesh, they must wait until animals are opened, whether by other predators or as roadkill. Without the help of other stronger predators their beaks are only able to extract food from soft organs and the weakest entry points into the body of a deceased animal, which includes eyes, tongue, navel, anus and genitals. This explains the common pattern of widely publicised horror stories and misperceptions about crows and ravens, suggesting that these animals are vicious killers who love to prove their wickedness to us humans by deliberately choosing to torture and disfigure their food source.
Interesting and eye opening research has been done in Scotland and published in 1977. This extensive study uncovers the truth about corvids attacking pregnant ewes. It has been found that it is not an uncommon problem, and in itself acknowledged by the farming community, that pregnant ewes can fall onto their back and are unable to right themselves without help. This usually happens by accident facilitated by waterlogged fleece and heavy weight especially in outdoor environments without any shelter, which is rarely provided anyway, neither for pregnant animals nor for vulnerable newborn lambs. Farmer often complain about corvids attacking ewes in this potentially fatal situation. Whilst this might very occasionally happen, the study has found evidence that corvids are virtually in all cases not responsible for the death of the animal concerned.
Close supervision by the responsible farmer or keeping vulnerable pregnant ewes indoors would have saved their lives and also the lives of their offspring. A sheep trapped on its back can only survive a short time and usually not longer than 12 hours. The number of trapped ewes found alive and being attacked by crows whilst still being alive was negligible low and rather a great rarity, but seems always a welcome opportunity for the farming industry to be used by their propaganda machine.
The same study also found that most crow attacks on live lambs took place on animals, which had reached an extremely weak condition due to starvation or some other cause. The researcher concluded that one cannot include the losses in the study group of lambs in any estimate of the damage caused by crows, because their chances of survival anyway must be considered as negligible.
The study also concluded that there are probably two main conditions in which lambs are vulnerable to crow attacks. Firstly, all lambs, whether viable or not, may be attacked shortly after birth when both the ewe and the lamb are weak and may not be able to defend themselves. And secondly, any lambs, which become weak after birth due to disease, exposure or starvation, will again become vulnerable to crow attacks when they become weak again, shortly before they would have died anyway. In this context, other studies have found that the likelihood of predator attacks increases when twins or triplets are born, who are particularly prone to hypothermia and subsequently disease due to their low birth weight, and the prolonged birth period, which renders the ewe unable to defend their offspring.7
A Case of Advanced Scapegoating
Whilst we are on the topic about corvids as presumed killers and scavengers, there are some other accusations made by the farming community, which we would like to at least briefly address as well. The next two topics are about corvids supposedly endangering song- and game birds and about specifically rooks destroying crops. We will also briefly touch on the topic of mental capabilities of corvids. Unfortunately, it has to be acknowledged that the fact that corvids prove to be very intelligent and resourceful, does not really make them more popular with farmers.
Corvids Endangering Other Song- and Game Birds
There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that corvids, such as crows, ravens and magpies were solely responsible for the decline of UK songbirds. Corvids have complex interactions with songbird populations, and the impact they have can vary depending on several factors, including location, species involved and environmental conditions. While corvids are often viewed as potential threats to songbirds due to their opportunistic nature and omnivorous diet, the evidence regarding their impact on songbird populations is not always straightforward and depends always on the context.
The decline of songbird populations in the UK, as in many other countries, is a complex issue influenced by multiple factors, and it cannot be attributed solely to corvids. While corvids, such as magpies and carrion crows, are known to prey on songbird nests, and can have localised impacts on certain species, they are just one of many factors contributing to songbird decline in the UK.
One of the primary drivers of songbird population decline in the UK is habitat loss and fragmentation. Many songbirds rely on specific habitats for breeding and foraging, and as these habitats are altered or destroyed due to urbanisation, agriculture and land use changes, songbird populations do suffer. The use of pesticides in agriculture does lead to declines in insect populations, which are a critical food source for many songbird species. Reduced insect abundance can result in lower reproductive success and survival rates for songbirds. Climate change does disrupt the timing of natural events, such as migration and the availability of food sources. This does negatively impact songbirds, as they may struggle to find food during key times of the year.
While corvids may predate songbird nests, other factors like predation by introduced species such as domestic cats and other natural predators play a far greater role in songbird nest losses. Disease outbreaks and the presence of parasites can weaken songbirds and reduce their reproductive success. Habitat degradation and fragmentation, including pollution and changes in vegetation structure, can make it more challenging for songbirds to find suitable breeding and foraging sites. Isolated populations are more vulnerable to genetic problems and face a higher risk of extinction. Habitat fragmentation can lead directly to reduced gene flow among songbird populations. Also, invasive plant species can alter the composition of habitats, affecting food availability and nesting sites for songbirds. Last but not least, increased human activities, such as recreation and development, frequently leads to disturbances that disrupt songbird breeding and feeding habits.
It is essential to recognise that the decline of songbird populations is typically the result of a combination of these factors, and the relative importance of each factor can vary depending on the specific songbird species and the region within the UK.
As mentioned above, a similar and not less controversial topic in this context is the role of domestic free roaming cats and their impact on natural ecosystems. However, the way this scientifically proven and rather serious problem is being discussed, acknowledged and dealt with is rather different, when compared to the discussed interactions between sheep and corvids. Here we can see the completely opposite approach, whereas the domestic predator is being granted the freedom to roam and to kill at will, and anyone questioning this approach is at risk to be verbally attacked by the responsible guardian of the animal concerned.11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
The topic of cats and wildlife is being discussed in separate blog posts, which can be found by following the links provided.
Rural Rooks Destroying Crops
Rooks do provide several benefits to agricultural fields, making them valuable contributors to the ecosystem and agricultural practices. Rooks are omnivorous birds and have a diverse diet that includes insects, grubs and small rodents. They actively forage for invertebrates and pests that can damage crops, helping in fact the farmer to reduce the populations of agricultural pests naturally, which raises the questions why friendly farmer use noisy canons or other scare tactics, whilst others just kill the birds and think about their role in the artificial ecosystem later.
It is also an established fact that rooks may feed on seeds and fruits from various plants. As they fly and forage, they inadvertently disperse seeds, aiding in natural plant propagation and promoting biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. Rooks are known to probe and dig the soil in search of food. Their foraging activities can help to aerate the soil, which enhances nutrient cycling and improves soil health.
Rooks are scavengers and will consume carrion, including dead animals found in fields. By feeding on carrion, they help to clean up the environment and are beneficial in controlling the spread of diseases associated with decaying carcasses. Rooks consume various organic materials and their droppings, along with the remains of their food, contribute to nutrient recycling in the agricultural ecosystem. This helps to maintain sufficient nutrient levels in the soil and supports the growth of crops.
Rooks are part of the natural biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Encouraging diverse bird populations, which should include rooks, can help to create a balanced ecosystem that promotes ecological stability and resilience.
This being said, in a few cases, large rook populations may cause minor damage to crops, such as pecking at seedlings or foraging in newly sown fields. However, the degree of damage is usually exaggerated, which holds in particular true in spring. The required and preferred diet during breeding season is mainly based on animal protein, which includes bugs, grubs, insects and agricultural pests, which would in fact destroy the farmer’s crops, if they would not be harvested by rooks. Instead the farming community is using highly toxic pesticides with devastating consequences for our ecosystem.
These facts should actually lead to the conclusion, that by understanding the ecological role of rooks and other bird species in agricultural landscapes, it would be crucial to promote sustainable farming practices whilst conserving biodiversity. However, this does only rarely seems the case.20 21
Corvids Outsmarting Humans
Corvids are highly intelligent birds known for their problem solving abilities and complex social behaviours. They have demonstrated cognitive skills that rival some primates and can indeed outsmart humans in certain situations, which is not always appreciated, and may hurt human egos and frequently leads to conflicts.
Corvids have been observed using tools to obtain food. They can fashion sticks, twigs, and even leaves into tools to extract insects from crevices or holes. Some species have also been seen dropping nuts or hard objects onto roads and waiting for cars to crack them open before retrieving the exposed edible parts. Corvids have excellent memory and can recall the locations of thousands of cached food items. They are also skilled at navigating complex environments and finding their way back to specific locations.
Corvids can learn from observing others, and not just their own kind, and may adopt new behaviours by watching their conspecifics. This ability to learn from each other contributes to the transmission of knowledge within their corvid community. Corvids exhibit sophisticated vocalisations and non-vocal signals to communicate with each other. They can warn each other about potential dangers, such as the presence of predators or humans with harmful intent. Some corvid species have demonstrated the ability to recognise individual human faces, even distinguishing between friendly and threatening individuals. This suggests a high level of perceptual intelligence. Corvids have shown the ability to use insight to solve novel problems without prior training or trial-and-error learning. This is considered an advanced cognitive skill.22 23 24 25 2627 28 29 30 31
Conclusion – Are Corvids Cold Blooded Killers or Merely Scavengers?
Are corvids cold blooded killers or merely scavengers? This was the question we have tried to answer in this blog post. It turns out, and not completely unexpected, that once again we are being told lies, which are being sold to distract from the truth, to guarantee profit and personal gain and to justify the use and abuse of sentient beings. Most studies have found evidence that corvids are virtually in all cases not responsible for the death of lambs or ewes.
We have learned that the representation of certain aspects of reality in the media is being influenced by various factors, including societal norms, cultural practices and industry interests. This leads to a disparity resulting in the portrayal of playful beautiful lambs in fields on one side, and the dark and evil picture of corvid behaviour on the other.
Humans have a natural inclination to connect with and appreciate the beauty of animals. The sight of a playful and adorable lamb triggers positive emotions, such as joy and warmth, which can evoke empathy and a sense of compassion. These emotions make it easier to relate to animals as sentient beings with feelings and needs, leading to a preference for the image of a happy lamb.
The consumption of animal products is deeply ingrained in many societies and cultures. The portrayal of animals as food sources is normalised and accepted as a societal norm. Consequently, media organisations may not prioritise showing the processes involved in animal agriculture, including the killing of lambs, as it may challenge prevailing cultural beliefs or risk alienating viewers. Media outlets may therefore rather seek ways to hide a truth which is rather difficult to digest.
Media outlets often have business relationships with various industries, including the agricultural and food industries. These relationships shape the narrative and content that is promoted. As the livestock industry plays a significant role in the economy, media organisations are influenced by the interests of these industries and often choose not to cover processes that may raise ethical or environmental concerns. Also, media outlets often aim to appeal to their target audience and consider what content is likely to resonate with them.
Scapegoating is often being used to distract from the reality of intensive agricultural farming practices, and their side effects, such as high lamb mortality. However, corvids are not the only ones, as other species such as badgers, foxes and birds or prey are equally blamed and misrepresented. 32 33 34
Existing conflicts between farmers and conservationists regarding the management of bird populations create additional pressure on to the farming community. Farmers may argue that controlling corvid populations is necessary to protect crops and prevent economic losses, while conservationists may emphasise the importance of preserving biodiversity and protecting bird species. Painting a negative picture of these birds seems to be a way for farmers to garner support for their perspective and gain understanding for otherwise unjustifiable actions.7 15 17 18 19
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