Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Clarification on PETA

Rather than railroading a discussion at Peacebang with my own axes to grind. (Heh. Mixed metaphor.) I'm going to respond more fully to a comment there right here.

PowderBlue wrote That’s why the animal-exploiting industries focus their attacks on the characters of PETA’s members and their communication style rather than the content of PETA’s reporting, which they of course prefer not to talk about."

First off, PETA has been caught in mistakes and exaggerations many times.

But to me the primary issue that makes this hard to discuss is that animal-rights activists and I approach this issue from such different premises.

Fundamentally, I believe that if an animal has to die, even painfully, to save human lives, then that is unfortunate but quite acceptable.

And make no mistake, Mary Beth Sweetland, the diabetic PETA executive who uses insulin, believes it, too, at least when it is her own life at stake. She's just apparently OK with letting other people die for her beliefs.

She was quoted in Glamour magazine saying I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic. Twice a day I take synthetically manufactured insulin that still contains some animal products -- and I have no qualms about it ... I'm not going to take the chance of killing myself by not taking insulin. I don't see myself as a hypocrite. I need my life to fight for the rights of animals."

But if YOU have a disease as scientists are trying to find a cure by testing on animals, PETA is against that. Sweetland needs her life, you might not need yours.

While I think that Sweetland's position is pretty indefensable, I do consider "An animal life is worth the same as a human's if we wouldn't test something on humans, we shouldn't test it on animals. If I get diabeties, I will control it through my diet and hope for the best" a moral and decent position. But it doesn't leave much room for discussion.

We can discuss how PETA's tactics hurt PETA's cause and make people think that animal activists are all nutjobs, though, and that is usually the point I try to make as it so nicely points out some of the problems in the comparable activists I see on other issues.



powderblue said...


You stated: “Fundamentally, I believe that if an animal has to die, even painfully, to save human lives, then that is unfortunate but quite acceptable.”

As you have probably noticed, a lot of people who advocate for non-human animals agree with you about that.

You may be interested to know that of the 10 billion-plus beings in the US alone that we humans subject to unimaginable suffering and slaughter each year, less than one percent are used in animal research, and most of that “research” has nothing to do with saving human lives.

The rest are tortured and killed for our pleasure, for our “culinary preferences” if you will.

Perhaps PETA deserves your low opinion of it. Thinking that you might have more respect for the Humane Society of the United States, I would like to ask you do consider this quote from its president, Wayne Pacelle:

“I believe that all animals have that spark of life that infuses all of us. They can’t write a sonnet or a book, but in fundamental aspects they are the same: they want to live as much as we do, and they fear as much as we do. Animals are a test of our character, because we have absolute power over them. We can choose the path of exploitation or the path of mercy and kindness. That last path is the only right one.”

(BTW, he is a vegan.)

Chalicechick said...

When PETA boycotts KFC, I don't join the boycott necessarily, but I understand and respect their position.

When PETA harasses someone like J. Lo, wasting money that could be spent on building more shelter space, making themselves look silly and effectively making it impossible for her to stop wearing fur without looking like she's backing down, I shake my head and say they are their own worst enemy.

When PETA tries to disrupt the retirement dinner of a professor who used work with monkeys to figure out how to improve the quality of life for the handicapped, I get annoyed and write blog posts and talk to my friends about how they suck.

(FWIW, I really doubt that the research at Iams was about imrpoving the quality of life for humans. My guess was that it was about improving the quality of life for dogs.)


Elizabeth said...

CC, I hear you on this. While PETA has done some good in getting issues in the public eye, I am convinced that it has done twice the harm by equating animal rights/vegetarianism/veganism with as you aptly put it, nutjobs (or as I say, crazies). As I tell my lovely partner who sometimes gets, I think, a little carried away with his veganism and related beliefs, it doesn't matter how right you are or how right you think you are - if people think you are crazy it does no good whatsoever. My best friend has recently become a vegetarian and is exactly what the movement needs - she is all about educating in a nonchalant, chill way about the environmental impact animal product consumption has saying "take baby steps. be aware. reduce a little here and there. see how it goes." i think there is also room to educate on the suffering aspect for sentient beings, but often that is less appealing than "what you eat is destroying the world" (vs. "what you eat causes a lot of suffering to chickens. - true but less effective). thanks for the post. here's to friendly, non-judgmental, consistent, reasonable animal rights/vegetarian movements.

iBeth said...

I completely agree with you on this, CC. I have been trying to cut back on my use of animal products for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that I don't want another being to suffer on my account if it isn't necessary. Nutty extremists are more offputting than encouraging, not only because who wants to join a group of crazies, but because they raise the bar so high . . . as when they imply that it's never ok to accept life-saving medical treatment derived from animal research. If I have to support the death of children in order to be a true friend to animals, I'll just walk away, thank you.

Of course, very reasonable, very dedicated animal rights activists are out there doing very good work. Thank goodness.

indrax said...

Well, there's this:
Steve Irwin attacked by animal rights group

Or more brightly:

indrax said...

Ahh shoot, that's what I get for not reading the parent thread first.

Anonymous said...

But you have to figure out where you put "save human lives." If we're pouring floor cleaner down dogs' and monkeys' throats in order to figure out the point of toxicity, so the makers of consumer products don't put stuff on the market that will instantly slay the mischievous three year old who gets into the cleaners stored under the sink (by dimwitted parents), then do you regard that as causing painful animal death in order to save human lives? Or could we just not develop new cleaners and be happy with the ones we have, even if they're not the best possible? Ditto every other consumer product that does not in itself contribute to extending life, only to increasing human knowledge or well being. If the first monkey we sent into space had come back harmed by the experience, should we have stopped sending animals into space or would it have been OK to keep hurting animals so we could find out how to make shuttles that would keep humans safe?

As powderblue points out, very few animals are killed for life-saving medical research. As for IAMS improving the quality of life for dogs, I think you mean the quality of life for *pet* dogs. And once we're doing something only for the pets of a species, we're not really doing it for the species; we're doing it for the comfort of the humans who keep pets.

Unknown said...

An animal life is not as valuable as a human's life! People need to stop anthropomorphizing animals. We are divine beings We are sons and daughters of Him who formed the universe and created us spiritually! We even look like him with fingers, toes, bones - in His image in fact do our bodies and spirits resemble His body and spirit. We are, as He is, eternal beings.

Do animals have spirits? Yes they do! They also live on as part of God's creation, but our purpose is even greater. Animals were created for our use. All life and resources on this earth are for our benefit and progression. God has ordained these things for us. The usefulness of this earth is as divine as we are and He is divine.