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.
- 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.
- 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.
This article was not well received by the website Supervegan.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Thank you. Greatly appreciated.
Wow, PETA is a bunch of hypocritical douches.
Fantastic and informative article. Thanks for linking on The Friendly Atheist. I found it impressive enough to post to my wall.
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…
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 🙂
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.
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?