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On Dead Cougars, Positive Reinforcement and Compassionate Cooks

First, go to Invisible Voices and learn who took this photo and why this gorgeous boy was killed on a Sunday morning in early June. Here’s a hint: It involves tax dollars.

Next, PETA’s blog featured Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary yesterday (the story of Marcie from May 16). Here’s my query, and it doesn’t just refer to PETA: Do you support individual actions that you agree with when you disagree with many more? I’m not even talking about money, here. Do you go to the PETA blog and say, "Hey, thanks for featuring Peaceful Prairie!" If we all did that, without also disparaging PETA, would that help PPS? (Probably.) Would it help PETA? (I have no idea, which is why I’m asking for your input.)

If, for instance, Mary Martin, Ph.D., Animal Person, commented on the PETA blog, I know one thing for sure: I’d get dozens of e-mails asking why I’m promoting PETA (after all, I am blogging about them right now). Now if individuals commented, or if I commented as someone else or anonymously, which I have never done, ever (who do you think I am, John Mackey?), that might be a different story. And it might not.

How about this one: Wayne Pacelle’s people contacted me when he first started his blog to read it and comment. I replied, saying that I don’t agree with much of what the Humane Society of the United States does, but if there is something they do that’s great, and he blogs about it, I’ll comment. A while back, he allowed dogs at work and I commented and the comment was published. But I was ambivalent about what I did, and I still am (and again, don’t even start on me about my one-time, restricted Rural Area Veterinary Services donation).

So what’ll it be, folks? Should I be completely ignoring PETA and the HSUS? I’m a positive reinforcement kind of person, therefore my impulse is to concentrate on the good things that people do. Is mentioning the good things the same thing as promoting everything? Furthermore, and maybe more to the point, is refraining from negative comments undesirable because that might be construed as promoting the organization deserving of the negative comments (by omission)?

Do I focus on what everyone’s doing wrong rather than what they’re doing right? Do I have to do both all the time? (That’s my intention when I deconstruct, though because of my choice of stories to cover, there’s often not a lot of positive material to mention.)

Whatever your answer to that one, go to Green Options and join the conversation started by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks. Be nice to the people who are clueless!

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. emily #

    What exactly would it acheive to all stay in closed boxes with 'our own kind'. I don't see a comment only-and-always as an endorsement, I read the comment and assume it to mean exactly what it says, good bad or indifferent.

    This post makes me wonder whether, as a non-abolitionist, I am unwelcome here? I am interested in abolitionist thought, I want to challenge my own thinking, I comment when I feel I have something to say that just might be on interest. If the message is 'this is good, but I still have issues with your larger mission'– that could always be said in full?

    September 10, 2007
  2. Emily,

    You are welcome here. Everyone who writes a reasonable comment and leaves a valid e-mail and doesn't comment anonymously is welcome here (I've learned from experience I need to require that). I asked for input, and thank you for yours. I don't personally strive to stay in a box, which is why I'm writing my pamphlet for people who are willing to question animal rights and where they fit.

    September 10, 2007
  3. I'm thinking Emily and I aren't the folks you're really asking this question of (me, much moreso than Emily), but I suppose it emphasizes the point even more.

    I'm obviously not an abolitionist, and I don't support PETA for vastly different reasons from you, but I think it's important to participate in discussions that interest you, and to find (and comment on) areas of common ground.

    I think it's pretty easy to limit endorsements to the topic at hand, and in a positive manner, without extending that endorsement to every policy espoused by the organization (or individual, or movement, or whatever). I think it's important to identify where folks agree every once in a while instead of constantly bludgeoning our "opponents."

    September 10, 2007
  4. Actually, Boyd, I want to know what everyone thinks. And thanks for your input. I'm certainly not a fan of bludgeoning anyone, metaphorically or otherwise, and I do think that comments can indeed act as positive reinforcement and cultivate future behavior in line with whatever the positive action or statement was. On the other hand, I'm sure there's a scenario where any supportive action sends the wrong message. (And some might think the scenarios I mentioned are examples of that.)

    September 10, 2007
  5. Sure, there are organizations which, overall, are so wrong that it would conceivably send the wrong message to endorse any of their opinions. I believe in most cases it's possible to clearly draw the lines, though, to distinguish areas of agreement from those that you can't support.

    September 10, 2007
  6. emily #

    I think we all struggle with this issue to some extent. In my academic employment I was outright told not to communicate with people in animal rights groups including PETA, AWI etc and had to do so very discretely. I am surprised to discover the private and NGO sector is far more accepting of concepts like agreeing-to-disagree, temporary alliances and even just keeping your enemy close ๐Ÿ˜‰

    September 10, 2007
  7. emily #

    p.s. on the cougar issue:

    *12* hunting permits are allowed on these precious sheep. That is ridiculous. They are either protecting animals, or killing them.

    September 10, 2007
  8. Heya Mary! I guess one question might be: what effect will your 'positive reinforcement' have?

    Will they see 'Mary Martin' and realize that you typically do not approve of their comments, but do in this instance, and will want to repeat the behavior that attracts 'Mary Martin'?

    Or will this simply be viewed as another comment from a PETAphile, and continue on their regular path?

    I don't think endorsing PETA is worthwhile. Perhaps if you wrote that you typically didn't support them, listed a number of reasons why, and then concluded with 'but in this one instance i approve', then perhaps it might satisfy a desire not to endorse other behavior..but then, the likelihood of it getting published is minimal. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In the end, i'd say don't bother..

    I wonder how PPS feels about being mentioned by PETA?

    September 10, 2007
  9. I like it, Dave. And if Chris weren't recovering from surgery, I think I'd ask Michele what she thinks of this, but since it's sort of for my curiosity, I'd feel selfish disturbing her right now. I do find this particular pairing (PETA/PPS) fascinating. I had the same thoughts as you, so I refrained from the PETA comment. They get so much attention as it is; it's not like they need me to approve of anything they do. It did give me pause, though.

    September 10, 2007
  10. Thanks for engaging your visitors in the discussion at my Green Options blog, Mary. I definitely encourage people to chime in with their thoughts but also to "Digg" my article. The more "Diggs" an article gets, the more exposure it gets – the more exposure veganism gets. So, if people could just take a couple seconds to "Digg" it, that would be fantastic. Just my 2 cents. ๐Ÿ™‚

    September 10, 2007
  11. Ron Kearns #

    Dr. Martin,

    I appreciate your link to the Invisible Voices (IV) site. I will answer any questions your readers might have. Whatever their preferences, I can respond here or on the IV site.

    This is my first visit to your informative site. You and Ms. Durant both provide excellent outlets for furthering the causes you passionately espouse.


    September 10, 2007
  12. Mike Grieco #

    Hi Ron,
    The radio collar and unnecessary destruction of this 'Cougar' is yet another raw example of the tactics used in "wildlife management".

    How would you view this behavior/actions by man in another species?



    September 10, 2007
  13. I canโ€™t speak for Michele, Chris, or PPSโ€™s Board, but as someone who works closely with PPS, I doubt PPS cares very much one way or the other about what PETA posts regarding PPS or the residents, as long as it is factually true.

    PPS is abolitionist (in the Francione sense) and rights-based and does not agree with the welfare and utilitarian philosophy of PETA. PPS also engages in straightforward vegan advocacy without sexism or tactics which grab media attention outside of plain vegan advocacy. So, there are profound differences between PPS and PETA and there is no relationship between the two. If PETA links to PPS in a blog entry, I suppose PPS will just hope that another welfarist adopts the abolitionist approach after reading PPSโ€™s website and literature. ๐Ÿ™‚

    September 10, 2007
  14. Ron Kearns #


    "How would you view this behavior/actions by man in another species?"

    Predator or non-predator species, the extermination of a research subject in this manner is unethical and unconscionable.

    September 10, 2007
  15. emily #

    I am not an abolitionist but I still draw ethical lines. A researcher enters into a relationship with an animal participant. The cat is trapped and wears the collar so that the researcher may learn about his species. Once the research ends, the collar comes off. For any researcher who secures permission to use animals through a utilitarian justification this is not a trivial issue.

    September 11, 2007
  16. Ron Kearns #


    Thank you for your well stated perspective.

    September 11, 2007

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