PETA: equating civil rights with steak

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an extremist organization. Some might even call it a cult, and a violent one at that.

Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, is a particularly objectionable fuckwit. Many of my friends are vegetarians for ethical reasons. They object to the treatment of the animals we use for food, and they object to the impact raising food animals has on the environment. It's a personal choice. But they don't think that a chicken is the ethical equivalent of a person. My friends just aren't that stupid.

Ingrid is not one of my friends. In her message for the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., she takes stupid to the next level---worse than nauseating, worse than burning, worse than blinding. She equates the assassination of America's greatest civil rights leader with making omelettes.

MLK was one of thousands of people who were killed trying to gain equality for African Americans. Thousands more were physically injured, and millions more suffered the burdens of racism, Jim Crow, and segregation.

As we reflect on the violent killing of a man who stood for peace and equality, it's a good time to ask ourselves what we are doing -- because there's so much we can do - to help humanity reach those goals.

We may not be able to stop all the violence in the world, but each of us has the power to end the violence and suffering we're responsible for every time we sit down to eat, simply by choosing humane vegetarian foods instead of meat, dairy, and eggs. The animals who are killed for our food never have the freedom to do anything natural or enjoyable.

There are a couple of ways to interpret her idiocy. One is that Blacks are no better or worse than animals, given that both deserve the same rights. I find this abhorrent.

The other is that all people are no better than animals when it comes to how we treat each other. I find this equally abhorrent.

If you do not recognize that there is a moral difference between how we treat other humans and how we treat animals, you are missing something fundamental: the world isn't fair. We were not put on Earth to help other species. We exist in a world of predation. Thankfully, we are most often the predator. Sure, we can choose not to eat animals, but it is not the same as choosing not to eat a person. People are far more intelligent than other animals, and each person is a member of human society. Chickens are not, and will never be, integrated into our society, either physically or morally.

Anyone who claims that eating animals is the moral equivalent of Jim Crow, lynching, and assassination is not only an idiot, but is a racist idiot, and a dangerous idiot---if animal lives are the equivalent of human lives, then some fucktard out there is going to kill a person to save an animal.

I don't think it's going to far to say that PETA should probably be on a terrorist group watch list, if it isn't already. People have been hurt, and more surely will be.


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The animals who are killed for our food never have the freedom to do anything natural or enjoyable.

Tell that to the sheep browsing everywhere on the hillsides here in New Zealand!

By grubstreet (not verified) on 06 Apr 2008 #permalink

I'm with grubstreet. I eat beef on a semiregular basis, definitely more than other meat. However, all the beef I eat is from cows raised on my family farm. They spend most of their lives wandering their pastures, eating and drinking and doing all the other things cows do, which is about as natural as things can get for a cow. This is not representative of all our meat supply of course. But to see any animal we eat as not ever doing "anything natural or enjoyable" is downright silly.

I agree with the commenters, but I just want to make something clear:

Yes, the world is unfair. Yes, we have evolved to be occasional meat eaters (though we should respect the choice of anyone who chooses not to partake).

Having said that, it's important to remember that what we eat does have ethical implications. Animals do not have rights, because they cannot exercise them or respect the rights in others. However, humans have the responsibility to deal with animals in a humane manner, and not to cause unnecessary suffering.

It's similarly a mistake to assume that the issues are limited to meat. Plant farming also has ethical implications, related to land use and the environment.

By Pseudonym (not verified) on 06 Apr 2008 #permalink

If an animal is the moral equivalent of a human then the reverse must also be true. Since some animals are predators and eat other animals then obviously, if humans are equal to animals, humans may also eat other animals. Animal predators of course don't concern themselves with the freedom or living conditions of their prey but some humans do. Perhaps humans then are morally superior to animals. In either case there is no logical reason to believe that a human should not choose to eat meat. I personally have killed animals for food but my moral compass tells me not to eat veal. Go figure.

PalMD, what are you a 15 year old boy?

grubstreet, you mean the ones who had their tails cut off by farmers?

Anyone who claims that eating animals is the moral equivalent of Jim Crow, lynching, and assassination is not only an idiot, but is a racist idiot, and a dangerous idiot---if animal lives are the equivalent of human lives, then some fucktard out there is going to kill a person to save an animal.

Oh, PETA goes way beyond Jim Crow laws and lynchings. It's likened eating meat with the mass murder of the Holocaust. Perhaps you remember its "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign?

PalMD, what are you a 15 year old boy?

I might be, for all you know, but I'm not sure what the relevance is.

"grubstreet, you mean the ones who had their tails cut off by farmers?"
No, that's the farmer's wife.
See how they run! See how they run!

But seriously, you're talking about mulesing, which is performed on merino lambs raised for thier wool, not sheep raised for food consumption. Woolbearing skin (not "huge chunks of flesh", as PETA and other animal-rights literature says) is snipped and removed from young lambs around the rump. When the wound heals, the area has no wool, and thus wet waste is less likely to stick to the animals and attract blowflies. Moreover, the skin around the anus tightens and becomes smooth so that even if flies do land, they do not lay eggs. This prevents flystrike.
What is flystrike, you might ask?
Search for it on Google Image Search, but make sure you haven't eaten anything before doing so...ugh!!!

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

I'll start supporting animals' having equal rights with people when animals start forming independent organisations and agitating for those rights themselves. The first chicken who asks me for its freedom and the right to vote is going to have about 110% of my political support.

In the meantime, I'm not holding my breath -- or my plate.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

Great post - as a vegan (primarily for ethical reasons), I'm disgusted by PETA essentially every time a new announcement is made. There have been extensive criticisms written by better authors elsewhere of PETA's tendency to fall into sending sexist or racist messages or taking bizarre anti-environment stances through a myopic view that no animals should die, ever, so I won't launch into those. I think it's important to recognize the ethical, environmental, or health benefits of reducing meat consumption (I'm an empiricist, last I checked the literature there's no health difference between a low meat diet and a strict vegetarian diet), without yoking it to extremist views or raw-foodist/anti-toxin woo.

There's a great book called "Drawing the Line" that attempts to argue for different levels of ethical management of animals based on empirically assessed cognitive capacities and degrees of consciousness - controversial as that latter notion is in cognitive psychological circles - it manages to do a decent job of arguing for ethical stances without being an extremist. As an aside, it manages to be one of the best recent reviews of comparative psychology research; it was released about the time I finished my graduate course on learning & cognition, and was extremely up to date (~2004).

"painkillers tested on animals"

Well I never could get a PETA protester to volunteer to test analgesics and I suspect the IRBs would get real pesky about that, even with volunteers. Something about strapping them down and using electrodes, I guess.

"grubstreet, you mean the ones who had their tails cut off by farmers?"

As Laser Potato mentioned, this is something that's done to actually help the animal live with less sickness. Unless you think its worth them to die from a bacterial infection.

The reason PETA and its ilk bother me so much is the rampant anthropomorphism of animals. They are not humans, things that would be cruel to an animal would be perfectly fine to them.

Geese shove their beaks down their kids throats. Would you stick a baster down your kids throat? No... they're not related, so don't try and see something done to an animal in comparison to a human. Compare what we do to what's done naturally, and see how hard we work to be humane.

I swear PETA must think Lions have no ethics for their rampant eating of meat.

By Evinfuilt (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

"They are not humans, things that would be cruel to an animal would be perfectly fine to them."

I really need to hit preview. I meant:
They are not humans, things that would be cruel to a human would be perfectly fine to a specific animal.

By Evinfuilt (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

Gee, I guess I'm terribly naive, but I interpreted her remark as follows: On the occasion of the annual memorial day to someone devoted to nonviolence as MLK was, it is appropriate to contemplate all forms of violence we practice. And one form of violence that's easy to identify and relatively painless to renounce is the violence we do to the sentient species we eat.

Come to think of it, that does look an awfully lot like what she said, doesn't it now? But how foolish of me to obstinately accept this as a reasonable observation when I could just as easily choose to interpret it as, well, gosh-----as incitement to terrorism!!!! That kind of self-indulgent hysteria surely is a lot more fun, though how it's a valid expression of skepticism and rationality is a little unclear to me....

JB, I have no problem with those who choose to eschew animal products for their own personal ethical reasons.

What I have a problem with is making the moral equation between animal rights and human rights.

To deny that there is a fundamental difference does not improve the status of animals, it lowers the status of people. A human's life *is* worth more than any animal's, even a really cute puppy.

So, really, to devalue human life this way is basically a call to violence.

"the sentient species we eat."
Wait, what? Livestock is sentinent?!

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

Wittgenstein, Russell, Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir, Bessy...

"PalMD, what are you a 15 year old boy?"
"I might be, for all you know, but I'm not sure what the relevance is."
On the Internet, nobody knows you're a squid.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

I strongly disagree with the post's interpretation. The release says that although we can't easily stop MAJOR cases violence (against violence) we can easily stop MORE MINOR cases (like cruelty to animals) by not consuming animal products. In no way did I see any kind of "equivalent".

I've found past PETA releases as ridiculous as the next person but I think in this one it's just a case of projection from them being seen as some kind of evil.

Perhaps I missed the big picture. You see, by juxtaposing human civil rights and animal rights, they...

Nope, I don't think I missed anything.

One of the things I find objectionable about Michael's first comment is that it makes a false assumption---that we can't easily stop major violence--and then makes a bizarre conclusion--that stopping "little violences" makes up for it.

As the civil rights movement showed, individuals can have an enormous influence.

Also, there is not some pool of moral behavior out there, where replenishing from one end somehow helps the other end.

Laser Potato, if you go to the link I provided, you'll see that the article referred to is a reprint from the Pilot-Virginian. I wouldn't post something from CCF without verification.

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 08 Apr 2008 #permalink

PETA operates no shelters. PETA kills 98% (that's 98 out of every 100, kids) of the healthy pets the terminally naive turn over to it for rehoming. They justify this by claiming that every single animal was "too sick" or had "behavioral issues", including the perfectly healthy orphaned squirrels and raccoons which could have been sent to wildlife rehabbers and released back into the wild upon reaching adulthood.

PETA and their conjoined twin organization, the HSUS, spent months lititgating to get posession of Michael Vick's dogs so they could murder them, while at the same time, using their images in a fraudulent and deceptive fundraising campaign in which they gave the impresssion they were raising money to "care for" the dogs. (One tends to get the impression they hate animals nearly as much as they hate people, really...).

The fact is, the only reason the Veganist Jihad has not succeeded at killing someone as yet is because they're lousy bomb-builders. Every single incendiary device they have placed for roughly the past ten years has had a secondary explosive designed to blow up about the time First Responders arrive on scene. These sick-ass wingnuts want to kill firemen, EMTs and cops in addition to their primary targets (scientists, doctors, homebuilders, and anyone who sells a car).

If Jerry Vlasak (a former ER doc, btw) were wearing a white hood and soliciting the murder of blacks and hispanics; rather than wearing a greenie-granola pin, and soliciting the murder of doctors and scientists; he'd already be in prison.

Greenie-granolas and the Veganist Jihad for some reason still have a "get out of jail free - or don't go in at all" card in this country. I fear it will take these whackos actually successfully murdering someone for them to be treated as the terrorists they are.

JB--I, and all the humans I know, have never eaten a sentient species. Food animals aren't sentient in the way you are using the word. If you mean the first dictionary definition of sentient, "A faculty, possessed by animals, of perceiving external objects by means of impressions made upon certain organs....", then practically every living creature on the planet is sentient. Including insects.

If, however, you mean the commonly used definition of sentient: "Perception through the intellect; apprehension; recognition; understanding; discernment; appreciation." Or, "Sound perception and reasoning; correct judgment; good mental capacity; understanding; also, that which is sound, true, or reasonable; rational meaning. "He speaks sense."", then the only creatures on the planet that are sentient are humans. And perhaps chimpanzees--but that is still up for argument.

I repeat--I eat meat, but I have never eaten anything sentient.

I repeat--I eat meat, but I have never eaten anything sentient.

Don't you mean "anyone" sentient?

I don't see the difference, really. A "one" is still a "thing".

Animal rights is mental illness masquerading as philosophy.

I don't think chickens are the same as humans of course, but the same can be said about crustaceans, chickens and cows, monkeys and apes, whales, fish and dolphins, that they're not the same as any of the others. I do think there's more or less like a continuum, that we're not as detached from the rest of them as much as most of us would like to think.

I have recently made the choice not to eat beef (unless of course some of you guys invite me to their farms for a nice dinner), but I don't have too much of a problem eating fish, chicken and their derivatives. I don't eat crustaceans (actually, arthropods altogether) or molluscs, but that's just because I find them disgusting.

PalMD -- are you saying that because I stated an interpretation of what I think PETA meant that I therefore agree with this argument?

"it makes a false assumption---that we can't easily stop major violence"

In this case can you please let me know of an easy way to stop major violence?