Thoughts on PETA

Thursday, 7 August, 1997. The Oscar Meyer Weinermobile has come to visit San Jose, California. The San Jose Mercury News reports that about 35 children came to sing the Oscar Meyer theme song and hopefully qualify for a spot in a hot dog advertisement. It's really been a traditional children's dream, a spot of lightness and innocence in the American landscape.

But on this particular Thursday in San Jose, the lightness and innocence were gone. Protesters representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, among other groups, objected to the very concept of the Oscar Meyer Weiner. And this isn't the only appearance of the Weinermobile that has been met with protests, either; the newspaper article reports that 34 similar demonstrations have been held since June 18.

Now, admittedly, PETA and other vegetarian groups have as much right to voice their opinion as anyone else. But bringing adult issues to what can only be perceived as a childrens' event amounts to nothing less than abuse of the right to free speech. San Jose, among other cities, levied similar complaints against anti-abortion advocates, and there are now fairly serious restrictions on where those groups can proclaim their position.

The PETA position is based on exaggerations and false logic, for the most part. It involves mindless acceptance of the equality between man and beast, something the mainstream American public simply won't agree with. The slogans PETA members called out at the San Jose protest -- "Feeding kids meat is child abuse," and a claim that companies like Oscar Meyer are "trying to brainwash kids into eating meat" -- simply don't fit in with the ideals of a carnivorous nation.

PETA is attempting to force its minority ideals upon the majority, and attempting to use the most extreme examples to make an impression. PETA's claim that "The Oscar Mayer wiener is a lot like the Joe Camel thing and children smoking" is simply illogical; while cigarettes have been shown to have virtually no health benefits, meat provides, among other things, protiens which are necessary to life. Restrictions on cigarettes and on cigarette advertisements are there to protect children from lung disease, cancer, and death; analogous restrictions on meat would only protect animals, and save the lives of few if any innocent children.

Reading through the PETA web page shows me an organization perfectly willing to ignore reasonable facts an arguments to forward their own unsupported agenda. Why should we place incredible value upon a single animal's life? PETA never tells us. Most people would value a human's life above an animal's -- and without animal testing, the only way to test new drugs would be through clinical studies on humans. Banning animal testing, as PETA would have us do, would stop all new medical research.

A slightly detailed reading even points out some fairly major inconsistencies in PETA's position. For example, how important is a warning label? One page says that the existence of a warning label is a good enough excuse to avoid animal testing. When the testing happens anyways, though, another page insists that the warning label just isn't good enough.

PETA's assumptions largely rest on "some facilities are bad, so we must stop them all." "Dissection: Lessons in Cruelty" draws this technique to its worst end. PETA investigators "documented cases" of animal abuse. I'm not about to deny that the sort of thing PETA objects to happens. However, I am hard-pressed to believe that it happens in every single facility that they describe. PETA's later assertion on the same page that "Students with little or no interest in pursuing a career in science certainly don't need to see actual organs to understand basic physiology", and that even students with an interest in science should avoid dissection as well, simply makes no sense from an educational standpoint. (One Dilbert cartoon in which a computer "expert" is banished by the sight of "his most feared object" ["Look! Actual code!"] comes to mind.)

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