Press Council censures The Weekend Australian over kangaroo hunt disclosure

APCThe Australian Press Council (APC) has reprimanded the The Weekend Australian over an article on kangaroo hunting it published in January, which failed to adequately disclose that the author had travelled at the expense of kangaroo mince company Macro Meats.

The adjudication is one of several the the national broadsheet has been putting under close scrutiny publicly as it continues to put pressure on the APC and chair Julian Disney, as part of an ongoing campaign around its practices and scope.

In the latest case the APC found the paper failed to adequately disclose a conflict if interest after the journalist had travelled to the kangaroo hunt at the expense of Macro Meats, stating only that he had travelled courtesy Liquid Ideas, Macro’s PR company.

However, it rejected complaints by the Australian Society for Kangaroos which argued the article was inaccurate and unfair because it said that kangaroo harvesting involved “world’s best practice”, is “tightly regulated”, and “the most humane harvest in the world” ruling that these were “subjective assessments by the journalist rather than verified statements of fact.”

The ruling stated: “The Council’s Standards of Practice state that publications must ensure readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion and that relevant facts are not be misrepresented or suppressed. They also state that readers must be advised of any potential conflict of interest.

“The Council has concluded that the involvement of Macro Meats in proposing and sponsoring the trip amounted to a potential conflict of interest and should have been disclosed explicitly to readers.”

Nicholson cartoonHowever, in its ruling the APC defended the right of food writer John Lethlean to make subjective assessments, an area which The Australian had been critical of the APC for venturing into. Two weeks ago the paper published several articles critical of the looming adjudication, including a cartoon presenting Lethlean as a kangaroo being hunted by APC chair Julian Disney. 

Saturday’s ruling found that: “The statements about kangaroo harvesting in the article were likely to be read as subjective assessments by the journalist rather than verified statements of fact.

“The journalist is a well-known food writer and readers would recognise it was not an investigation into the kangaroo industry, but part of a paddock to plate series in a weekend section on food and wine.

“There was no basis for concluding that any evidence of Macro Meats’ processes being inhumane or unhygienic had been omitted. Accordingly the complaint relating to inaccuracy and unfairness is not upheld.”

In an opinion piece run on the weekend, Lethlean acknowledged “I did make one mistake” in the piece, relating to the disclosure.

“And the complainant, whose substantial gripe was rebuffed, got a small win. I told readers my trip was sponsored by Liquid Ideas; I should have said it was sponsored by Macro. The article made it clear the trip was hosted; my mistake was to make an assumption about the obvious link.”

“So began a saga,” he added. “Should the council have entertained the complaint? Many of my senior colleagues believe not. Certainly food writers, like any others, should keep an open mind and be willing to change their opinions on evidence. I saw nothing in the bush that night, or in the meat works in Adelaide, to alter my opinions.”

Nic Christensen 


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