Oprah beats beef, emu ranchers v. Honda next

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

AMARILLO––A federal jury in
Amarillo, Texas, on February 26 ruled that
TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey did not
libel beef when she exclaimed she would
stop eating hamburgers while interviewing
vegetarian activist Howard Lyman about
“mad cow disease” in April 1996.
The core of the case failed on
February 17, when Federal District Judge
Mary Lou Robinson held that the plaintiffs
hadn’t proved the food libel charge during
four weeks of testimony. The case continued
on a claim of common-law business disparagement,
which required the ranchers to
prove Winfrey intended malice.

The Texas food libel law will be
tested again soon in the same courthouse
when 10 emu ranchers seek $750,000 damages
from American Honda, for broadcasting
a 1997 TV commercial, in which one
character termed emu meat “the pork of the
future.’” The ranchers contend the commercial
brought the collapse of the emu market
by making light of their product and likening
the lean meat of emu to the fat meat of pigs.
Certainly the emu market did
crash, with consequences still coming clear.
Probing the January shooting of 64 emus
near Cool, Texas, by a 76-year-old man
who said he couldn’t afford to feed them,
after recording 20 local emu/car accidents in
1997, Parker County sheriff Jay Brown
learned that as many as 400 emus were at
large within 15 miles, either escaped from
farms or abandoned. A roundup by Brown
and deputies on January 17 netted 211 emus,
of whom 148 were sold––mostly to slaughter––at
an average price of just $2.00 apiece.
ANIMAL PEOPLE predicted the
then-booming emu and ostrich speculation
would soon fail in January 1994. Breeding
pairs of emu then fetched as much as
$40,000. ANIMAL PEOPLE also predicted
the big, fast, flightless birds would
establish successful feral populations. Feral
emus have recently been found at large in
virtually every state below the snowbelt,
including Georgia, whose first known
emu/car collison occurred on January 10.

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