Texas Cattle Ranchers Sue Oprah Winfrey

TitleTexas Cattle Ranchers Sue Oprah Winfrey
Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsLadenson, R
Corporate Authorsof Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, IIT
Date Published02/1998
PublisherCenter for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsbusiness , BUSINESS ethics , FREEDOM of speech , Law
AbstractOprah Winfrey is currently being sued by a group of cattle ranchers from Amarillo, Texas under a newly enacted Texas statute that creates legal liability for questioning a perishable food's safety without "sound scientific proof." Twelve other states have enacted similar laws. Oprah's case, however, is the first of its kind. On April 16, 1996 the price of cattle dropped a dramatic 1.5 cents per pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange after Oprah's program that day. The program, which occurred during the time that the British "mad cow" epidemic broke as big news, dealt with the safety of American beef. Oprah's guest, a former cattle rancher turned vegetarian, claimed that large numbers of cows that are "fine at night, dead in the morning" get ground and fed to other animals. According to the cattle ranchers who sued Oprah there is no evidence of mad cow disease in the United States. They protest that the "Oprah crash" on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange resulted in devastating financial loss for cattle ranchers. Is the Texas Statute under which the cattle ranchers have sued Oprah Winfrey a reasonable law to protect the legitimate financial interests of food producers or does it encroach upon the fundamental right of free speech?
NotesCase from the February 26, 1998 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Copyright Robert Ladenson, Center for the Study of Ethics at the Illinois Institute of Technology, 1998.
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