I lost the bet I had with myself. I'd figured that having reaped a whirlwind of criticism over it's "Are Animals the New Slaves" touring display, and after having stopped the tour to "reassess" whether or not to continue their project, PeTA might well decide not continue it and let the tour and the criticism of it melt into the background, as if it never was, never had been.
But PeTA picked what I thought was the less likely strategy, and has issued a press release announcing that they, PeTA, are restarting their odious Animal Liberation campaign, a campaign which likens the human/animal relationship to the relationship between slave owners and slaves:
Inspired by the words of civil rights leader Dick Gregory, who said, "Animals and humans suffer and die alike. … the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel, and brutal taking of life," PETA will unveil a thought-provoking "Animal Liberation" display in Seattle this week. The huge walk-through exhibit juxtaposes images of once-accepted acts of cruelty to humans with images of present-day cruelty to animals.
Translation: "All we're doing is bowing to the understanding and authoritative moral insights of Dick Gregory, whose opinions we like because they favor our agenda.
"Oh — and for those of you who believe our display trivializes the historical suffering and exploitation of black people and who don't like our Animal Liberation campaign, especially those in the black community, let Dick Gregory take the heat. He's our authority."
Still — isn't it interesting that the campaign apparently has been renamed — it evidently is no longer being referred to as "Are Animals the New Slaves" but simply as "Animal Liberation."
What point is PETA trying to make?
We are setting out to remind Americans just as it is still considered acceptable to deny billions of sensitive, intelligent animals everything that is enjoyable to them in the name of food, entertainment, or science, it was once thought acceptable to set up slave markets and deprive other Americans of freedom and liberty in a nation built on those very principles:
[ . . . ]
There are a couple of things here . . .
First, PeTA is telling its readership that they, PeTA, should be judged on their motives, the pure ones that underlie their campaign, not on the basis of the campaign's effects.
Speculation alert. For the Animal Rights people, good intentions are a virtue that is nearly absolute, irrespective of outcome, and you can test the purity of your intentions against your own conscience: if my conscience is clear, my motives are good and my actions are justifiable. (Of course, this presupposes that one's conscience is infallible . . ..)
I suspect that a moral code in which one is judged on the basis of his motive rather than an outcome explains why AR groups demonize scientists by attacking their motives and their character, and why PeTA finds nothing untoward about their odious "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign, or the present Are Animals the New Slaves campaign. Their motives are pure . . . or so they would argue . . . End of speculation alert.
Second, if you think that the animal/slave comparison defies logic, then you don't understand the single most important premise underlying Animal Rights/Animal Liberation. IF you accept the core principle of AR/AL — that the life of a human and that of an animal are equally valuable — THEN the PeTA animal/slave parallel makes sense.
To an AR person, animals have the right not to be dominated or controlled by humans.
And IF you accept the AR premise of animal/human equivalency, THEN you can answer the questions I placed at the beginning of a previous post, which questions also are a good test to see if you understand the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. (If you still don't understand the difference between AR-AL and AW, read this.)
In any event, if you begin with the premise underlying AR-AL, then the rule-of-thumb moral standard is this: if you wouldn't do something to a human because it is immoral or unethical, you shouldn't do it to an animal.
The exhibit reminds observers that not long ago, it wasn’t just other animals who were persecuted because they were deemed inferior. The display includes images of slaves who were chained, beaten, branded, and forcibly separated from their families; Native Americans who were evicted from their ancestral lands; women who fought for the right not to be treated as their husbands’ property; and children forced to work long hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Today, animals are chained and beaten to make them perform in circuses; poisoned and cut open in laboratories; and bludgeoned, drowned, and electrocuted for their skins. Mothers and their offspring are separated, auctioned off, mutilated, and killed for their flesh.
Once again — it all makes sense if you start with the AR premise: that to discriminate on the basis of species ("speciesism") is as immoral as to discriminate on the basis of race, age or sex.
As outrageous as such a premise seems to be, I can kind of understand someone having a "click moment" and converting to AR, much as the odd person has a "click moment" and converts to a bizarre cult. Once converted, of course, examining a cult's assumptions and premises becomes much less important than living according to its dogma: and to an Animal Rights/Liberationist person, if it is immoral or unethical to do something to a human, it is no less so to do it to an animal. Simply put: it is immoral to discriminate on the basis of species.
But what I do not understand is how PeTA can champion the principle that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value, and then justify killing fully 80% of the animals they take into their shelter (12,400+ in 5.5 years).
(PeTA has enormous resources — in 2004 alone, they received about $29 million in contributions, and their shelter could become a "no-kill" shelter over night. Yet PeTA kills a far higher percentage than other, impoverished shelters in their vicinity.)
If animals have "rights," how important can they (rights) be if PeTA can capriciously deprive them (animals) of the one that counts the most?
Nor do I understand how PeTA, and other AR groups, can fail to see the enormous contradiction between their core value of "anti-speciesism" and their advocacy of spaying and neutering of animals. Think about that . . . forcibly subjecting non-consenting animals to an unnecessary surgical procedure that violates their "right" to reproduction.
If animals have "rights," how important can they (rights) be if PeTA can capriciously deprive them (animals) of the one that counts the most (life) and the one that comes in second (the right to reproduce, and the associated pleasures of sexual activity and rearing offspring)?
So — how do we reconcile PeTA killing animals hand-over-fist, and AR groups, PeTA included, being such strong advocates for spaying and neutering, with the core anti-speciesm principle that is the basis of Animal Rights?
Cold logic dictates that, if the AR people are to live by their anti-speciesism principle, they'd kill people and forcibly sterilize them for the same reasons they do animals.
"We now know that the abuses of the past were wrong. We must remember that changes only came about after an uphill battle to open people’s hearts and minds to the pain of others," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk.
[ . . . ]
Of course, Ms Newkirk's statement presumes as true the very premise that is in dispute: that the life of a human and that of an animal are of equal worth . . .
I've written before why I think PeTA began this campaign, and I don't think it's to persuade the public to the AR cause, or merely to attract attention to PeTA (though it certainly does . . .). PeTA, I believe, has other, more sinister fish to fry . . . or so I would argue.
Finally, there is this:
RICHMOND, Va. A controversial display by a Norfolk-based animal rights group that compared animal cruelty to black civil rights abuses will continue -- but on the West Coast.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will continue their Animal Liberation Project today with a stop in Portland, Oregon.
It features graphic photos of blacks being lynched, beaten and chained. Those photos are displayed with pictures of animals being bludgeoned and hung.
The exhibit earned criticism from the N-Double-A-C-P and others who say the display demeans the experience of many blacks.
PETA spokeswoman Dawn Carr says most people liked the display and PETA officials believe it should go on.
It will stop in Seattle; Spokane, Washington; Boise, Idaho; and Salt Lake City.
PETA says further dates and cities are pending.
This is going to get very, very interesting, progressively so as the word gets out.
UPDATE: 9/13/05 — 3:30 PM PDT. Newsday has latched onto the story, and adds this:
[ . . . ]
PETA officials are confident the exhibit should continue, said spokeswoman Dawn Carr.
"What we kept seeing is that the complaints always boiled down to not wanting to be compared to animals — which is the very bias we're trying to challenge," she said in an interview Tuesday.
As I said — the life of a human and that of an animal are equally valuable, and the AR goal is to erase any "bias" that suggests the contrary.
In a lengthy statement, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk defended the decision, even as she acknowledged the display's unintended impact.
"I unequivocally apologize for the hurt and upset that this exhibit has caused some of its viewers," she wrote. "I realize that old wounds can be slow to heal and for not helping them heal, I am also sorry.
Just as she did previously after the Holocaust on Your Plate campaign ended following a run of 2 years, we see Ms Newkirk issuing a non-apopogy apology: the apology is for the hurt, not the moral equivalence, which she continues to stand four-square behind.
"That said, I would fail in my duty if I allowed this exhibit to disappear."
[ . . . ]
Newkirk argued the same mind-set that caused slavery has a role in animal abuse.
"It is only human supremacy, which is as unacceptable as racism and sexism, that makes us afraid of being more inclusive," she wrote. [My emphasis . . . ed]
As I've said — to the AR activist, to discriminate on the basis of "speciesism" is every bit as immoral and unethical as to discriminate on the basis of race or sex.
Except when it comes to killing animals taken into your shelter, or spaying and neutering them. Unless, of course, you'd kill humans and forcibly sterilize people for the same reasons you do so to animals . . .
That message fell flat with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has called the display an attention ploy.
"I'm not surprised," NAACP spokesman John White said of the decision to resume the display, declining to elaborate.
[ . . . ]
Thanks to Joe W for the link to the update.
UPDATE: 9/14/05 9:15 AM PDT: Reader David M. wonders with brilliant, delicious cynicism if the timing of PeTA's pause and subsequent restart of its odious "Animal Liberation" (aka Are Animals the New Slaves) tour might be related to the timing of their 25th Gala Anniversary Celebration:
Have you considered that maybe PETA suspended its "Animal Liberation" exhibit in order to preclude civil-rights groups from protesting outside its Hollywood gala? The timing of ths campaign's re-launch, so soon after the gala event, is highly suspect.
Heh. I hate myself when I miss insights like this . . .