There's an article in the LA Times entitled "Animal Rights and Wrongs" that is worth reading because it shows how easy it is for those ignorant of the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, however well-meaning they might be, to fall into a trap in which they help radical Animal Rights groups "move the middle" (see below).
(My rule of thumb to distinguish between AR and AW is this: The AR people believe that if it is immoral or unethical to do something to a human, it is likewise immoral or unethical to do it to an animal; that animals have a "natural right" not to be eaten, kept as pets, caged, used in biomedical research, kept in zoos, raced (dogs, horses), bred to breed-standards, have their ears or tails clipped, or any of a myriad of other things. Still, AR people advocate spaying and neutering animals, in blatant disregard to the animals' reproductive rights . . . go figure . . .)
In any event, the fact that the article appears in one of the most influential papers in the world can only cause the PeTA folks occasion to break out the tofu beer and give one another high-fives, since they come off looking like the very embodiment of moderation and positive accomplishment, a false image they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to cultivate — successfully, it would appear:
I can still remember the day my then-3-year-old son, Lucas, hit one of his playmates. Instinctively I slapped him gently on his bottom and told him to stop.
The father of the other boy turned immediately to me and said, "Do you really think the best way to teach Lucas that it's wrong to hit someone is for you to hit him?"
My friend was right. I never hit Lucas again.
That was 12 years ago. But I was reminded of the incident this month when I read about five recent vandalism attacks at local McDonald's.
Although police have made no arrests, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) — an underground group that is on the U.S. Department of Justice list of domestic terrorist organizations — has claimed credit on its website for at least two of the attacks. Not that there was much doubt who was responsible. The vandals not only broke windows but spray-painted walls and windows with such messages as "ALF," "McMurder Killers," "Don't feed your kids McKillers" and "We won't sleep until the slaughter ends."
These radical animal rights activists are so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they vandalize restaurants, threaten chefs, farmers and scientists and steal live animals to achieve their aims.
I think many of these ALF guys are predisposed to antisocial behavior and violence, and simply use the AR cause to rationalize some nasty acting out. But that's only my opinion.
Just as I didn't think I could teach my son not to hit others if I hit him, so I don't think anyone can teach people to treat animals humanely if they behave inhumanely toward others.
"McDonald's spends $2 billion a year on advertising … we have to get our information out in other ways, and these attacks get a lot of press coverage," says Dr. Jerry Vlasak, spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, a separate organization from the ALF, one that publicizes and supports but doesn't participate in ALF activities.
Ah yes. That would be the same Jerry Vlasak who believes there is ample philosophical basis to justify the assassination of scientists, and openly advocates the practice. It is his contention that if you kill a few — say 10 or 15, the rest will get the message and stop their vivisecting.
Of course, one must presume that if assassinating 15 doesn't do the trick, it may be necessary to kill another 15 or 20. And if that doesn't work . . .
Why target McDonald's? "It's using more animals than any other chain of restaurants in the world," Vlasak says.
Their strategy, says one ALF-affiliated website, is to cause "financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through the damage and destruction of property." That behavior is justified, they say, because they don't physically harm human beings and because property, unlike an animal, feels no pain.
But the humans who own the property can certainly feel pain — the pain of losing their livelihood and fearing for the safety of their families.
Just look at what animal rights radicals did last year in the Great Foie Gras Wars.
They spray-painted the home of a San Francisco chef known for his various foie gras preparations. They also splashed his car with acid, sealed his garage door with glue, painted "foie gras is animal torture" and "stop or be stopped" on the doors and windows at his partner's home and went to the gourmet shop and restaurant that the two men planned to open and poured cement in the sinks, spray-painted the walls and flooded the shop (and two adjacent businesses) by turning all the water taps on.
Animal rights activists also "liberated" — i.e., stole — 15 ducks at Guillermo Gonzales' Sonoma Foie Gras farm.
The anti-foie gras terrorists argue that force-feeding ducks to make their livers grow to eight or 10 times normal size amounts to torture.
With the help of such renowned scholars of veterinary science as Kim Basinger, Martin Sheen and Paul McCartney, these broccoli-crazed activists persuaded the California State Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenducker to enact a law last year outlawing the production of foie gras, beginning in 2012.
Heh. My thoughts exactly.
As a longtime supporter of such causes as the civil rights and women's rights movements, I fully support the right of peaceful protest. And, yes, McDonald's is a big, wealthy corporation, a symbol of America's global cultural imperialism, a major contributor to the growing obesity of American children and a purveyor of truly terrible hamburgers.
Oh Sheesh . . . a cliché, wrapped in a cliché, bound together with a cliché, resting on top of a cliché . . .
But there's a way to protest any or all of this. Don't eat at McDonald's. I don't. Or, if you want, march, picket and write letters. Present your case forcefully — but peacefully and responsibly.
Vandalism and violence are wrong, no matter how noble the cause — whether it's ending war or saving animals. Stealing, defacing property and posting people's names, addresses and photos on websites alongside images of targets, bullet holes and rifle ammunition are just wrong.
Though I might quibble about whether or not BigMacs are terrible (personally, I love them . . .), our author is completely correct about the use of violence being wrong. If you want to protest, to bring McDonalds down, do so "forcefully — but peacefully and responsibly."
Of course, by balancing the notion of violence and threats of it against PeTA's public image, rather than against a mainstream Animal Welfare group, PeTA is made to seem far more benign than it actually is. The reporter has, to PeTA's benefit, "moved the middle" of the debate towards radical and violent Animal Rights activists, and away from mainstream animal welfare.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the oldest and largest of the animal rights organizations, thinks it can best achieve its objectives without vandalism or violence.
"That isn't a strategy we use," says Lisa Lange, PETA's vice president for communications, in the organization's new L.A. office. "We do street theater, things that get a lot of public attention, like our campaign, 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur' and our graphic advertisements, like the one that showed a decapitated cow's head and said, 'You want fries with that?' "
PETA won't "put ourselves in the position of condemning or condoning" the ALF, Lange says. "We can only answer for our own actions…. But I don't lose any sleep if I hear of any animals liberated from cruel situations."
Where to start? PeTA won't condem violence, vandalism or intimidation against people, but will against animals? Say, what?
And the idea that PeTA is a stand-up group willing to take responsibility for it's own actions and words is laughable.
Regrettably, our author seems to take PeTA at face value, a public face PeTA itself creates, rather than to appreciate PeTA's hidden substance, which he easily could have done with but a few clicks of his keyboard mouse.
When it comes to supporting terrorists, PeTA is up to its collective neck, as I've pointed out here and here, for example. (Those two links will provide you with the tip of a very large iceberg . . . ).
When it comes to philosophy and intent, you need only look at the quotes of PeTA luminary Ingrid Newkirk and other AR luminaries here.
My point is very simple: by not informing his readership of what PeTA's agenda and history are, the author leaves the false impression that PeTA is a benign, perhaps slightly goofy group of people who have a few weird ideas, but whose motives and methods are pure and, most significantly, non-violent. By this omission, PeTA appears to be much more moderate than it actually is.
[ . . . ]
Temple Grandin, in her book "Animals in Translation," argues fairly persuasively that many animals do feel pain. That's why she's worked so diligently for the humane treatment of animals. She consults with McDonald's and with Bob Langert, the company's senior director of social responsibility. As a result, PETA's Lange says McDonald's is actually "leading the way" in reforming the practices of fast-food suppliers, in the treatment and the killing of its beef and poultry.
And now we see PeTA presented as co-operative, rather than coercive, appearing to work within the mainstream to get what it wants through conventional political means. This passage leaves the reader with a snapshot of a benign and well-meaning PeTA.
But at best, we see only part of the picture. And without the really ugly other part — as documented in the links above — the public is denied the full information that would help them make informed decisions about PeTA's credibility and whether or not they wish to contribute money to PeTA.
Do you really want to contribute money to an organization that feels free to send your contributions forward to support convicted arsonists and terrorist organizations (links above), or cite it as a moral authority?
I'm disturbed by the notion that McDonalds might be "leading the way" in reforming its animal practices by having bowed to the greater moral or business wisdom of PeTA. True, this is the PeTA spokesman's comment, but it stands alone, as if the story ends here.
It does not.
Businesses sometimes make decisions simply to avoid bad publicity, irrespective of other considerations (its the same logic that drives corporations to settle junk lawsuits: it'd cost more to fight than to settle). PeTA has a well-oiled machine that can and does single out individuals and corporations upon which it then launches a brutal, relentless and negative PR campaign.
So the fact that companies decide to adopt PeTA's "suggestions" doesn't necessarily mean that they acknowledge PeTA's moral authority, or that they necessarily agree that the practices PeTA advocates are any more humane than their current practices might be.
The companies may cave simply because it's easier to do so than not — in other words, they may cave because they were coerced. And when you see how fast and loose PeTA plays with facts (see links above), caving is not an unreasonable business decision.
PeTA counts on this.
Ironically, the most recent vandalism by animal rights activists comes at a time when there is a greater effort than ever to treat animals humanely and to kill them as painlessly as possible. Organizations like PETA can rightfully claim some credit for this consciousness-raising. These changes have not come about because of violence and vandalism, though. Chefs, farmers and others are not acting out of fear but out of conviction, and I applaud them for that.
[ . . . ]
What a fascinating implication! Being non-violent and not engaging in vandalism is not a norm! PeTA deserves praise because they do neither!
Beyond this, where, exactly, is the evidence that Chefs, farmers and others "are not acting out of fear but out of conviction"? Frankly, this sounds like a PeTA sound-bite and seems ludicrous on its face.
In fact, I suspect just the opposite is true, that a great many people and businesses, when faced with PeTA making "suggestions" for how they could "improve" their treatment of animals, feel fear indeed: PeTA is not shy about helping their newest "contacts" understand how they, PeTA, play the game if their "contacts" fail to "negotiate" a position that PeTA finds acceptable . . .
Nobody who runs a business wants to be in PeTA's cross hairs. All you have to do is read the demonizing propaganda PeTA produces in their ads and press releases, which are invariably sprinkled with the descriptors "torture," "abuse," "neglect," "cruel," etc. to want to stay as far away from them as possible.
He might have been less sanguine about PeTA had he, especially in light of what one of PeTA's founders, Ingrid Newkirk, views PeTA's relationship to the press: "We are complete press sluts."
Our LA Times author might do well to relfect upon the possibility that he's been used . . . if that matters to him (I would think it does, if he cares about presenting his own views to his audience, not being duped into presenting a false image of a radical group).