Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Why I don't like PETA: Meat, it turns out, is not murder.

I've been a vegan just short of seven years...about a third of my life. That makes me one of the 1% of Americans who abstains from meat (including poultry, fish, and, yes, even "stupid" animals like shrimp), dairy, eggs, and gelatin. It seems natural to many people that because we vegans are such a small yet convicted group of eaters that we would all band together with one mindset, one set of goals, and one attitude toward our chosen diet (and toward people who don't adhere to our diet, which is 99% of you); Joe Omnivore for some reason tends to think that we all jive with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the nation's most visible animal rights groups.

But alas, PETA bugs the heck out me and most my vegan friends. They are nothing short of a half-assed militant group who thinks that the road to unerstanding is paved with judgement, self-reightousness, and fear.

For example, many Cal students have seen the large PETA displays on campus that visually and textually liken animal cruelty to the Holocaust. Hmm. Let's think about this. "You know what would be a great way to recruit people to our vegetarian lifestyle? By alienating them and comparing one of the most tragic events of the 20th century to a legal and socially acceptable practice such as meat eating! This won't offend anyone who's lost a loved one to genocide!" Yee haw, PETA. In general, PETA public demonstrations are obnoxious, and ineffective at best.

Or how about this suggestion, from, a sub-site at
Within earshot of other shoppers in the checkout line, talk with a friend about the television special that you saw on animal experimentation. Have loud conversations on the subway or bus about how great it is to be vegetarian. Be sure to carry literature with you so that when everyone around you starts asking questions, you can provide them with more information. People eavesdrop all the time—use their nosiness to animals’ advantage.
No! Being loud and obnoxious and smug is a terrible way to get people interested in your ideas. This website, plus many PETA pages, also say that massive flyering is a good way to get the word out...'cause if there's one thing that's gonna save the animals, it's exausting reems of bleached paper. Oh yeah.

What about the well-known PETA maxim "meat is murder"? Well, I'm not a law student, but doesn't murder mean that the killing is illegal? I think that using animals for food, clothing, and entertainment is one of the most disgusting and shameless institutionalized forms of abuse in this country, but I'm not going make stuff up in order to get my point across. By making exaggerations, you say to the general public, "I'm right, you're a murderer. I'm saved, you're destined for brimstone."

Lastly (and I'm leaving a novellette of stuff out), PETA panders to the power celebrity, even if it means having spokespeople who have compromised beliefs about animal rights. Pamela Anderson, for example, has become a prominent icon for PETA, due in no small part to the cute contradiction that a beautiful woman would actually have, like, beleifs. She protests furs, and is even identified as a vegetarian. But she eats seafood and other animal products. Why is this a problem? It's not that I oppose support having a broad range of degrees of animal rights lifestyles and beliefs under one organization; it's that I oppose an organization touting celebrities who have lifestyles and beliefs that the organization simultaneously likens to murder. With such a non-inclusive brand of ideology, it's annoying that PETA can only find kind words for "murderers" who have media appeal.

Why can't there be an animal rights organization that believes that compassion and love are the best ways to promote a diet choice that is in fact about compassion and love? How about a coalition of people who supports all forms of animal rights; rather than claiming that eating animals is murderous, this group could say that any small effort that a consumer makes - be it to eat meat once less every week, or to avoid shampoos that test on animals - is a positive step toward a better planet, whether or not you have the resources and desire to be hard core all the time.

After all, you don't win friends with salad.


Post a Comment