Did Cesar Millan Commit Animal Cruelty?

Millan_TodayShowThe Internet has a new target of scorn, and this time it’s animal trainer and “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan. A recent episode of Millan’s show “Cesar 911” featured a French bulldog/terrier mix nipping a potbellied pig in the ear. Cue the outrage mafia, which is demanding that the show be canceled and he face criminal charges. A petition to get the show off-air has reportedly gathered 11,000 signatures.

The dog in question was aggressive towards pigs and was being trained to become non-aggressive. Millan responded to the controversy by saying people are blowing this way out of proportion, and the dog’s owner has come to his defense. The dog, meanwhile, appears to have benefitted from the training, as seen in a subsequent clip of it with the pig in which the latter doesn’t appear distressed at all.

Outrage mobs are notoriously self-righteous, and this is no exception. But, as an animal control officer notes, context is vital in any investigation of animal abuse. A short video clip may be misleading.

Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happens when groups like the Humane Society of the United States try to mislead the public about farming practices. They might show a video—horror movie soundtrack optional—that makes something look bad.

Maternity pens for pregnant pigs are a good example. A video can be manipulated to make it seem like the pigs are distressed—for example, by shooting film during feeding time, when the pigs are simply more excited. We’ve actually been to farms that use them. The pigs are quite content.

What’s the lesson? Don’t rush to judgment. But in the age of 24/7 news and instant “hot takes” on social media, that’s easier said than done.