PETA Set Your Priorities

By Karla Fetrow

On the surface, PETA seems like the ideal organization to support if you have a consciousness for the fair treatment of animals and their conservation. After all, who wouldn’t agree that animal testing isn’t inhumane, that assembly line slaughter houses are abominable, or that placing a creature in an unnatural environment causes it to suffer? PETA has even raised some levels of awareness in humane activities. When Alaska’s elephant, Annabel, began to suffer poor health due to living in a harsh environment she wasn’t equipped to handle, a campaign was successfully launched to send her to a safari like animal conservatory and a chance to roam freely with other elephants, without the neat for an artificially heated shelter. Although Annabel had arrived in Alaska through no fault of the citizens; she was brought there by a traveling circus and abandoned years ago, the people were happy to pick up the charges for her upkeep, place her in the zoo and grow fond of her. They were very reluctant to let her go, but compassion ruled in their sensibilities and she was released to a wildlife reserve where she has been healthy and happy ever since. This was all largely due to PETA’s campaign.

However, some of PETA’s interference in Alaskan animal life policies have made them a very unwelcome presence. Arctic ice melt has forced Polar Bears to move farther inland in search for food. Last year, several made appearances in inland villages that normally never see villages, and two were shot and killed. PETA was very indignant, chastising the villagers for killing a member of an endangered species. Without a doubt, the villagers felt endangered. The favorite food of Polar Bears is seals; a very salty meat. The only inland animal with a high salt content is humans. There were children and women to protect. When it came down to eat or be eaten, the villagers preferred to eat.

A recent campaign to regard fish with the same mental attributes as mammals has resulted in a failure so great, even young girls punch holes in the argument. Said eleven year old, Harmony, the fourth generation of a commercial fishing family in Unalaska, “it just doesn’t look right,” after looking at the cartoon and reading through the information on the site. “They say that they’re intelligent, but they’re not really,” Harmony. “They have tiny, tiny little brains. Very miniature.” Her friend, Chastity, aged twelve, agreed. “They call them sea kittens. I don’t see them as sea kittens. I see them as food.”
The girls also take issue with the claims that sea kittens are unhealthy to eat. “They only talk about farm fish — it’s not wild Alaskan, which is very good for you,” Harmony said.

PETA’s claims that fish can feel affection and develop attachments in the same way as a mammal are highly dubious. Most fish species are cannibalistic and apparently rely more on instinct than any actual higher brain function. Their brains are indeed very tiny; even the shark has a proportionately smaller brain for size than the water dwelling mammals. If we are to rank the animals we eat according to brain capacity, in the natural kingdom fish would still rank just above vegetables. Appealing to the compassion of a tiny brained animal in a state where one third of the population is dependent on the fishing industry for its livelihood, and two thirds eat fish as one of the main indigenous foods in their diets is just not going to work.

PETA is very fond of making broad statements without scientific evidence. They stoutly insist that factory farming is the number one cause of greenhouse gasses, while the majority of scientists agree carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning, creating pollutants, acid rain and dumping toxins into our ocean, altering the currents; is the leading man made attribute toward global warming. Although corporate farming creates its own harm through synthetic growth hormones, steroids, stimulants, crowded conditions leading to diseases and salmonella poisoning, methane gas is part of the natural composition for rejuvenating earth’s life cycles. If we returned to manure instead of oil-based fertilizers, we would grow healthier agricultural foods in chemically free soil.

They feel animal kind would have been better off without their domestication, which consequently would bump us down a few notches in the food pyramid. PETA has failed to recognize the importance domestic animals has contributed to our modern life styles Without their domestication, we’d still be in the stone age. . We would not have had oxen to pull carts, pack animals for travel, live stock liberating us from spending most of our time foraging. We would still be struggling with tiny garden plots, barely conscious of our neighbors, and shivering at night, worried about the wild animals that roamed around us. Dogs, originally used for guard duty, then later expanded to include hunting, pulling and other work capacities, would be dangerous pariahs, and cats, had they forever been shunned from domestication, would not have played their role in wiping out the Bubonic Plague.

The domestication of animals aided humankind over the process of several thousand years. There are many species that have developed such dependencies. They would not survive without the protective lines of fences, food and shelters. Although domestic animals may no longer be as useful to us as workers, and we wouldn’t need them if we all become vegetarian, they still need us. What to do about all the unwanted domestic animals? Once again, PETA offered a practical solution; spay and neuter your pets so they can’t reproduce. There are few pet owners who have visited the local dog pound who wouldn’t agree to this, although it seems a little surprising coming from a group that believes even teaching your dog to go to the bathroom outside is cruel. Spaying female dogs that have never had puppies often produces a life-long neurosis in the animal, leaving her with maternal cravings and exercising her motherly instincts on everything from stuffed animals to small children. Neutering animals doesn’t decrease their alpha desires. They’ll still hump everything in sight, desperately trying to reduce their blank shot urges. However, it’s far less painful to watch your cherished pet suffer frustrated natural urges than it is to try and find homes for excess puppies and kittens.

The problem is, PETA goes beyond the scope of trying to reduce the unwanted pet population. Their ultimate goal seems to be the complete eradication of domestic animals. According to a 2007 report from the office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA terminated the lives of ninety percent of the unwanted animals placed in their care, while the Virginia Humane Society managed to find homes for sixty five percent of their animal orphans. With a thirty million dollar a year income to build shelters and ethically treat animals according to their ideals, this seems a little shocking.

Euthanasia seems to be their favorite solution. The recent protests against chicken nugget producers is not against the way corporate farming raises them; in tight little boxes, never seeing sun light, shot full of stimulants so as to drop two eggs a day in their productive years; but in the manner that they are killed. PETA wants the slaughter houses to use gas instead of whacking their heads off, even though it hasn’t been proven that gas is any less painful to the chicken’s short-lived trauma than butchering them.

At best PETA is a cult, ignoring the laws of nature or attempting to re-organize them in the sense of their fair play. Nature has its own agenda. The lion is not going to sleep with the lamb until nature makes the lion an herbivore. Fish are not going to be viewed as sea kittens until they develop fur, legs and a playful, cuddly disposition. We are not going to be able to live in harmony with our animals gone wild until these animals leave our crops and trees alone, are taught not to invade our streets and homes, or endanger our lives. At worst, PETA is an organization, wasting millions of dollars in tax payers money, tying up courts with such intricacies as administering euthanasia to circus animals because they’re better off dead, and allowing villages to starve as they’re cruel to the fish. They diminish the efforts of other wild life organizations whose main purpose is to maintain a healthy balance between all species of creatures. They demand we relinquish our centuries old relationship with domestic animals; a relationship that has entailed a bondage of mutual service, responsibility and affection; and release these animals out into the wild so they can be duly slaughtered by their predators. They have joined the throw away society. Since domesticated animals no longer have a use for them; after all, we now have plenty of technology to replace their servitude; we should just throw them away. This may sound fine to urban dwellers whose only adjustment would be in becoming vegetarian and wearing cotton or oil based synthetics, but it’s sad, lonely and somewhat frightening to the rural person who struggles with the forces of nature, hunger, herbivores that steal their crops and predators that lurk just beyond their fields every day.