Own a pet? Visited a zoo? Enjoy grilled cheese? If so, you’re violating the core ideals of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. You’ve probably seen PETA before in the news organizing pickets across the country. Recently, they’ve been outside SeaWorld calling for an end to Shamu shows, but they’ve also sauntered about in lettuce bikinis promoting vegan food or dressed up as condoms supporting pet sterilization.
The slogans they offer (“Meat is Murder,” “Zoos: Cruel Animal Prisons”) are certainly pithy and attract devotees, even if they invite derision. But are they actually worth taking seriously? Yes—if only to consider the implications.
Believe it or not, PETA’s ideology—“total animal liberation”—holds that the mosquito that bit your leg is just as entitled to life as your child. PETA’s President, Ingrid Newkirk, famously said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”
Indian tennis player Sania Mirza is dressed as an angel as she poses with images of dogs and cats and holds a placard for People for the Ethical Treatment (PETA)'s latest campaign in Hyderabad on September 11, 2014. Sania Mirza supported PETA's campaign calling on people to adopt homeless animals from the streets and to never buy from a pet store or breeder. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM
And that absurd belief means that the animals in the zoo are supposedly “enslaved,” no differently than African Americans in the antebellum South. PETA made this argument before a federal court in California. Their lawyers argued that whales are entitled to liberation under our Constitution which outlaws slavery. PETA makes the same arguments against the concept of seeing-eye dogs for the blind.
But you can’t give animals the right to vote. Or a better classroom education. Animals are cognitively inferior to people. Moreover, you can’t just set them free. If captive animals are “liberated” at the urging of PETA and similar loons they most probably would die. (Imagine if everyone turned their pet dog loose).
Keiko, the orca that was cast as Willy in the 1993 film Free Willy, was released to the wild in 2002. But unlike the fairytale on the silver screen, real life played out a lot less well for Keiko. One of the whale’s trainers during the release process describes what really happened in the new book “Killing Keiko.” Short version: The whale died roughly one year later.
But fascinatingly, PETA and other animal liberationists don’t care what happens after they take their photos and declare the animals “free.” Indeed, an attorney representing PETA argues that elephants born in captivity are still better off dead than cared for in a modern zoo.
“Better dead than cared for” seems to be a core part of PETA’s animal liberation ideology, because the group follows it in numerous ways. PETA kills up to 97 percent of the dogs and cats that come into its care at its Virginia “animal shelter” in a given year, rather than finding these pets adoptive homes. PETA also advocates against a program that sterilizes stray cats that are then released to live out the remainder of their lives. PETA instead believes that each of the 50 million or so feral cats should be rounded up and killed.
In other words, it’s taking the side that an animal is better off dead than living a full life that might entail discomfort at some point. That’s like arguing we should round up and kill the homeless—and since PETA thinks animals and humans are equals, the organization just might support that.
But PETA is not the only organization espousing this radical ideology. Other groups (like the $130 million-per-year “Humane Society of the United States,” which doesn’t actually run any pet shelters despite its name) are also motivated by this idea of animal liberation. PETA just has the boldness to say openly what HSUS and others believe privately.
Remember that fact when the dangerous radicals show up whether they are wearing lettuce bikinis, animal costumes, or polyester suits.
Will Coggin is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.
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