So when we left off, PETA was so ferociously anti-cruelty that they had stopped paying any attention to what that actually means.  Here’s a few basic points that I started to touch on last time.

  1. If you want to keep animals from suffering, you first have to define “suffering,” and that has not been done.  You have to distinguish whether we’re talking about mental anguish, sadness, stress, fear, and the like, or whether it’s physical pain that’s more the issue.  Or maybe it’s environmental or incidental impact; we can all agree that a tree doesn’t feel pain (I hope), but cutting it down affects other creatures and maybe that’s the problem.  These are important definitions that need to be laid out, and no one’s doing it.
  2. Once you’ve defined suffering, which PETA hasn’t, you have to determine whether the animals you’re “protecting” from suffering are actually capable of feeling it.  One example, outlined nicely in this Slate article, is oysters.  Oysters come almost exclusively from factory farms, and the ones that don’t are harvested, not dredged, so there’s no incidental destruction of other animals, except I suppose the barnacles that live on the oysters’ shells.  The ones on farms pose no impact to the environment except the tiny amount of space they occupy, and the oysters eat plankton so we’re not using any resources to feed them.  There are even efforts to use the natural filtering effects of oysters to improve water quality in bad areas, which no doubt someone will jump on as exploitation of innocent oysters.  But even from a more individualized point of view, oysters have no central nervous system, or anything that could really be called a brain.  Based on everything we know about how this stuff works, they can’t feel pain at all, and they certainly can’t feel stress or sadness or fear or any other negative emotion.

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In an article titled “EATING OYSTERS ISN’T VEGAN AND NEVER WILL BE, AND SHAME ON CHRISTOPHER COX AND SLATE FOR IMPLYING IT IS JUST TO DRUM UP CONTROVERSY ON THE INTERNET,” and yes that’s actually the entire title of the article, Jason Das explains that it’s all well and good if Cox wants to examine silly things like “morals” and “making good choices,” but veganism is a black-and-white issue, goddammit.  Here’s an actual quote from the Supervegan article.

Because of our very consistency, there’s no gray area for vegans when it comes to eating animals. Cox is trying to be ethical about his consumerism, and that’s great. I just don’t understand how the hell anyone thinks the way he’s going about it can be described as any form of veganism. It isn’t.  Vegans do not knowingly/willingly/actively consume or purchase any part or bodily product of an animal that was taken from a living animal or for which an animal was killed.  End of story.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s known as COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT, YOU FUCKING TWATS.  The issue that Cox and myself are trying to raise is very simple, and you’re ignoring it.  The question is not whether you should or shouldn’t eat animals; you’re welcome to avoid all animal products if you want.  But we have the right to ask you why you’re doing that.  Here are some example situations:

  • Alligators are often killed to make leather products.  The rest of the body is thrown away.
  • NFL footballs are made from leather, but they are made from slaughterhouse leather.  Those cows would have died either way.
  • Wool is taken from the sheep without killing it, but often the sheep get infections in the flaps of skins at their back legs if they’re not cleaned.  To prevent that, ranchers just cut those flaps off.
  • Smartwool pays their suppliers extra to clean out the sheep’s legs, rather than cutting the flap off.

And yet all of these things fall firmly on the “not ok” side of veganism’s and PETA’s ok/not ok binary system.  Does this make sense to anyone else?  Why is the Smartwool strategy just as bad as the alligator one?  Why does an oyster, which sits in one place having no environmental impact and consuming from the bottom of the food chain, have more rights than a carrot, which does exactly the same thing?  And it’s not as though Jason Das doesn’t care about the moral issues and wants to keep it black and white.  This a man who in a different article wrote, and I quote, “Without a firm ethical basis, why the hell would anyone go vegan?”  Why indeed, you insufferably thick man-clod?

You see, if you can’t explain why you’re doing something with at least some degree of rationality, then you can’t expect us to take you seriously.  We can ignore you, because you’re basically defending yourself with “because I said so,” and that’s childish and stupid.  And we especially have no reason to listen to you when you get on your fucking high horse and tell us that we should be vegans if you don’t even know why you’re a vegan in the first place.  Here’s where the hypocrisy comes in.  If you can’t tell me why you do something, you have no goddamn right to tell me why I should do it, and you don’t deserve a goddamn shred of respect until you can.

Enter PETA.

Now, in case you can’t read that copy line, it says “Be comfortable in your own skin and let animals keep theirs.”  The rhyming’s fine, and the fact that Chad’s literally steaming is par for the course with PETA’s slap-you-in-the-face-with-childish-imagery style, but wouldn’t that message be a little stronger coming from a guy who isn’t HOLDING A PIECE OF A DEAD ANIMAL AGAINST HIS DICK?  Yes, that’s leather, boys and girls.  The NFL uses 22,000 footballs a year, at the cost of 3,000 cows.  Now like I said, they’re slaughterhouse cows.  My personal set of morals does not extend to cows, because I don’t think they have the rights or capacity for suffering that I do.  I don’t care that they’re eaten or skinned because I don’t think they have the right not to be, so it’s not a problem for me.  Conscience = clear.  But PETA’s not ok with those things, so shouldn’t they be boycotting the NFL (they’re not)?  No, because they’re attention whores who are willing to compromise their apparently stringent morals in a fucking heartbeat if it gets them some media time.  And I know you could argue that Chad’s only using his position to get them press, and the leather in the NFL is unfortunate but he really does believe that, except OH HEY here’s some pictures of him in leather jackets.

With different women, I just noticed.

But the worst of PETA’s hypocrisy is far worse than that.  There’s a little bit of dishonesty, or at least stretching of the truth, in all advertising.  Does it make it worse that they’re taking an intellectually indefensible moral stance?  Yes.  Does it make it even worse that they’re adopting that ferociously self-righteous position, and then completely throwing it away for the sake of publicity?  Yes it does.  But all of the dishonesty and whorish desire for camera time isn’t as bad as killing puppies.

Yes.  Killing puppies.  And kittens and mice and rabbits and everything else.

You see, PETA “rescues” thousands of animals every year.  Some come from puppy mills, some from pounds, some from vets, doesn’t really matter where.  They take them in and promise that they’ll find homes for them.  And then they kill them.  Since 1997, PETA has euthanized 85% of the animals they’ve taken in.  Let that sink in.  Seventeen out of twenty.  I even made you a graphic.

That number’s been rising, too.  In 2006, PETA killed 2,301 animals and adopted out eight.  In total, PETA has been directly responsible for the deaths of over 21,000 “rescued” animals in the last 13 years, and that’s by their own numbers.  Now that may not seem like that many, given that over four million animals are euthanized every year.  In fact, Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA, staunchly defends PETA’s practices, arguing that no-kill shelters are a pipe dream and that “many of them had to be euthanized, because there was simply no place for them to go.”  That makes sense, I guess, and it’s true that no-kill shelters have had very little success in the past.
Oh, except for the entire Nevada Humane Society, which upped its volunteer force from 30 to 1,700 and managed to find homes for ninety percent of the animals they took in.  All without turning away any animals either.  Here’s a few more stats from the Newsweek article on the subject (emphasis mine).
Shelters in Virginia, New York and San Francisco report successes similar to Nevada’s, and communities in more than a dozen states have announced no-kill goals and added legislative mandates to their agenda. King County, Wash., passed a law requiring area shelters to achieve an 85 percent save rate by 2009. San Antonio, Texas, is aiming for zero kills by 2012. And Ivan City, Utah, saved 97 percent of its shelter animals beginning in 2006 when the animal control ordinances were rewritten to prohibit the euthanasia of healthy animals.
You see, it can be done.  And even if you don’t adopt strict no-kill policies, you can still shoot for better numbers than that, surely.  For perspective, PETA’s from Norfolk, VA.  In 2003, the Norfolk SPCA found adoptive homes for 73% of its animals, and Virginia Beach adopted out 67%.  PETA found homes for 14%, worse than 80% of animal shelters in Virginia.  Hey look, I made you another graphic.
The rap sheet is not a short one, either.
In 2005, two PETA employees were charged with 31 counts each of felony animal cruelty after they were caught throwing the bodies of eighteen animals they’d just picked up from an animal shelter in North Carolina into a dumpster.  Thirteen more dead animals were found in their van.  That discovery came after dozens of dead animals had been found in dumpsters in the area, likely from similar means.  One vet, Patrick Proctor, says he’d been handing over adoptable animals to PETA with the promise that homes would be found, only to later learn that they’d been left to die in the van.  And in 1991, PETA killed 18 rabbits and 14 roosters it had rescued from a research facility.
PETA took in almost $35 million dollars in 2009, but apparently they’d rather spend it on moronic pictures of Pamela Anderson than, I don’t know, DOG FOOD.  Which is about as attractive to look at, and certainly healthier.
Get it, because if you turned over one of the leaves, you’d SEE HER VAGINA This is why people hate advertising.

It’s almost like they have no integrity whatsoever, preferring to spend money on their image rather than on not murdering baby animals.  But PETA actually defends their euthanasia techniques, saying,

PETA has provided euthanasia services to various counties in that state to prevent animals from being shot with a .22 behind a shed or gassed in windowless metal boxes — both practices that were carried out until PETA volunteered to provide painless death for the animals.
Aaww, isn’t that nice?  PETA has taken animals off the hands of vets and shelters, animals that could have had decades of loving family life ahead of them, and sentenced them to lethal injection.  Because they love them so damn much.  On a purely semantic note, getting shot in the face with a .22 doesn’t hurt.  It’s messy, sure, but the animal doesn’t suffer.  Same goes for being gassed.  I’ve seen kittens gassed in Plexiglas boxes so they could be neutered, and it’s not painful.  They look confused, mew a little, go cross-eyed, and fall down.  Turn the gas off and they wake up, leave it on and you have euthanasia.  Not painful.
Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s head honcho, has always been about killing animals.  She used to bring in animals to an animal shelter only to find out they were being killed, so naturally she started working at a shelter herself.  SO SHE COULD KILL THEM WITH HER OWN BARE HANDS.  In 2003, she said,
I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn’t stand to let them go through [other workers abusing the animals]. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.
And that wasn’t some secret memo, that was in the fucking New Yorker.  Newkirk also got all pissed off at former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over the death of a donkey, not because Arafat killed it, but because a terrorist used it to try to blow up civilians.  Shouldn’t animal rights take a slight back seat to religious suicide bombers who want to kill those who believe differently from them?  Apparently not, according to Newkirk, who said the world would be a better place without people and that having children was “nothing but human vanity.”
So let’s recap real quick.
  • PETA advocates human rights for all animals.
  • PETA seems to think that every interaction between humans and animals counts as abuse.
  • PETA does not distinguish between uses, impact, or the type or intelligence of animal, as evidenced by the fact that they’re just as pissed off by Sea World’s treatment of orca (feeding them and jacking them off periodically) as they are by Butterball’s treatment of turkeys (cutting their beaks off, force-feeding them grain their entire lives, and then electrocuting them).
  • From the previous two points, we can establish that PETA has abandoned the original reasons for being opposed to animal cruelty in favor of a radical, blanket anti-human policy.  Or:
  • PETA literally does not know why it says what it says.
  • PETA vilifies companies that kill animals for really bad reasons like food or clothing or medical research, and then
  • kills the fuck out of them for really good reasons like running out of space, or forgetting to take them out of the hot van, or having spent all their money on a picture of Corey Feldman.
I know you were hoping I’d made that up. I’m sorry.
  • PETA then defends their euthanasia practices, saying that no-kill shelters don’t work (except when people, you know, try them) and that they were actually sparing those animals from the far worse fate of, god forbid, something like this.
Now listen up, minions.  I want you to spread this around.  I want you to refer people to my posts, and to SFGate, and to Newsweek, and to this link and this one and this one (actual PETA submitted report) and this one and this one and this one.  I want you to point out to people that they’re much better off donating to their local shelter than to PETA.  And I want you to bring up the finer, deeper points that I raised.  Why do animals have rights?  Why does an ant deserve to live just as much as a dog?  Are cows raised in dairy farms really suffering if they’re not in physical pain and don’t have the capacity (I don’t know if they do) for mental anguish?  Isn’t it possible that a fish is just too damn primitive to experience pain?  These are things that need to be brought up.
Keep in mind, though, that people do not want to hear about these things.  They do not want to talk about them.  And they will immediately jump to wildly irrational conclusions about you as a person if you even raise the questions.  If you ask “should animals really have equal rights to humans?” people will assume that you’re trying to make the case that animals should have no rights whatsoever.  This goes for a lot of the stuff I write about.  If you ask about whether abortion is really such a bad thing, people will assume you fucking love abortion.  If you ask about whether faith is really beneficial, they will assume you hate them for thinking Grandma Edith is in heaven.  If you ask whether crystal healing is really the best approach for treating cancer, they will want to know why you’re trying to steal people’s hope away and reduce them to weeping, quivering shells of their former selves.  And if you mention that horoscopes don’t actually have any scientific basis, they will assume you’re personally assaulting their intelligence.
I’ve been dealing with this shit for years, and there’s only two ways to deal with it.  One is not to bring it up at all, and that’s cowardly.  To have knowledge that you can spread to other people, and that would allow them to make better decisions, and then not to give it to them?  Unacceptable.  The other option is to hang in there.  You’ll become very frustrated at people who simply do not want to listen.  You’ll want to get angry.  DO NOT YELL AT PEOPLE.  I yell on the blog because it’s not a targeted attack.  Yelling at a person will make them hate you, and then they won’t listen to you.  And most importantly, keep the conversation on track.  If you bring up these PETA stats, and they get mad at you for wanting to do away with animal rights altogether, remind them that that’s not what you just said.  It’s hard, but it’s important.  The only way to end irrational bullshit like this is to show people that it’s out there, and I know 4,000+ people read this every month.  You make a difference.
Now, the blog will be back to its former snarky, lighthearted self for a while, starting in a few days, but before we go, I want to give you a quote from PETA’s “About” section.

“No one is more successful than PETA in exposing and stopping cruelty to animals.”

You hang on to that.

9 Thoughts

  1. Very nice. I especially like that you've taken to the “minions” label. You know, you could use “dear students”, but then I think you'd need a big fake rack…

  2. Hey Angus! I really liked these posts. I've been a vegan for 2 years now (for ethical, health and environmental reasons/benefits) and I really like reading other people's thoughts about food choices. I agree that PETA has a flakey agenda and unclear message. Thanks for the examples and ads. If you're interested, you might read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safron Foer for a solid analysis our relationship with animals. Also, Bill Clinton has been a vegan since May 🙂

  3. I might read that.

    I'm actually curious how you personally reconcile the questions I brought up, as far as what you decide is ethical and what isn't.

    And I didn't say that PETA has a flakey agenda, I said they're unconscionably hypocritical attention whores with no real agenda except to cling to their “controversial” image, regardless of cost.

    Also, Barack Obama has been a non-vegan for ALMOST 50 YEARS.

  4. You should read it! I think you would really enjoy the writing style and variety of research/arguments. You might also like Carol Adams' “Sexual Politics of Meat”–she detests PETA but is a radical, feminist vegan. Worth reading I think, especially if you already have strong opinions about this kind of discussion. Also, I haven't read it yet but my cousin Chris Densmore says that “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows” is terrific.

    I say PETA is flakey because I think they are inefficient, disrespectful, impractical and often stupid in their methods, but to a degree they create awareness and in turn promote the ethical treatment of animals. While puppy killing seems cruel, the humaneness of the practice is defendable. I do not think PETA people advocate it as a better alternative to animal adoption, however they might be more extreme than I want to believe. (Did you know Ingrid Newkirk's will states that her body will be bbq'd and made into handbags? Not that surprising I guess, but still freaky!)

    As to my own veganism, deciding what is ethical and what isn't is obviously a complex issue, not just with food but with everything/everyone we use. For me, I find that being a vegan has made eating consciously (in respect to animals, the environment, economics and health) because by deciding to not eat food from animals that suffered I can happily and truly healthfully sustain myself and know I'm making less of an impact on the planet and my own wallet (organic tofu is less expensive than organic meat, but not dollar menu meat). I'm not sure if you'll believe any of this, as there is a lot of information to sift through for yourself.

    Because eating animal products is mainstream and almost universal (at least in America), it is uncomfortable to challenge so I’m still figuring out the most appropriate and effective way to do so. At this point, I really recommend getting into research (more! I know you've done some) for myself and anyone who is interested and trying to have an open mind about the possible findings.

    You're right, Obama and billions of other people have been non-vegans for their entire lives. But people can change and more and more are everyday. One more reading suggestion- “The China Study”. I don't know too much about it but I guess it is what convinced Clinton and the focus is on heart health.

    Veganism can be a complicated topic and somewhat easier to explain in person, although reading on your own is probably the best way to understand its variety of rationales thoroughly. I'll be back in Colorado indefinitely starting on Friday- do you ski vail/beaver creek?

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