Contrary to what PETA may have you believe, not every animal rights activist resembles those bald Hare Krishna devotees from the movie Airplane!, pestering passersby with fliers and flowers until Robert Stack brandishes his Kung Fu skills and takes them all out. Believe it or not, there are some perfectly sane animal activists out there. You’ve just never heard of them because they’re not the ones setting McDonalds on fire. While standing in the parking lot holding signs. In the nude.
Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights
When I took an animal science class in high school, I was taught the difference between the belief system of animal rights and that of animal welfare. Animal welfare is the term used for the fair treatment and responsible use of animals to satisfy human needs.
An example of an animal welfare group would be Compassion in World Farming, a UK-based organization that campaigns against cruel farming methods, such as the use of live exports and certain methods of livestock slaughter. A better-known animal welfare group would be the ASPCA (the one with those heartbreaking Sarah MacLauchlan commercials). The basic philosophy is that, even when animals are raised to be eaten and whatnot, they must be treated in a humane manner. I say that’s reasonable.
Then we have animal rights, a philosophy that goes above and beyond the rallying cry for fair treatment of animals. Its basic idea is that animals should be afforded the same rights as human beings: the right not to be property and to be part of our moral community. According to this, animals should not be used for food, clothing, scientific research or entertainment. Alright, I see where they’re coming from.
And then there’s PETA, which, time and again, has proven itself to be little more than a group of misguided, attention-seeking and outright silly activists who provoke ridicule with their antics and general inanity. In the process it makes all those in favor of helping animals look like they all have the mental capacity of a goldfish.
Recent act of ludicrousness number one: while PETA has long been known to use sexuality to promote their cause—most often with models and actresses posing nude with a slogan like “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”—the group recently announced its plans to launch its own porn website. Because nothing gets the message across like butts and bosoms, right?
Recent act of ludicrousness number two: PETA released a statement condemning the latest Super Mario game because the title character is portrayed wearing a tanuki suit, thereby sending the message that it’s okay to wear fur. And while he’s at it, he also promotes flying, throwing fireballs and turning into a statue. How dare he?
Recent act of ludicrousness number three: in honor of Thanksgiving, PETA has launched a campaign attempting to convince the residents of a town in Texas called Turkey to change its name to Tofurkey. And while we’re at it, let’s head to the Middle East and change the country’s name as well.
Although my personal beliefs lay on the cusp between the two philosophies, I lean more towards animal welfare. I respect animals and believe in humane treatment, and I am opposed to the wearing of fur, the use of animals in blood sports and needless experimentations, and the exploitation of animals in circuses and other such institutions. However, I acknowledge exceptions: though I am mostly a vegetarian, I eat fish for medical reasons, and I favor the use of animal testing as long as the experiments contribute to the medical community and the quality of health care. Needless to say I don’t believe animals should vote or run for office.
As an animal activist, I do have some valid things to say, cases to make and causes to promote, and I certainly do not declare allegiance with groups such as PETA. When a sane, diplomatic activist wants to make their voice heard, please listen. Don’t write us all off.