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On PETA and the EU Dog/Cat Fur Ban

I’m not interested in the battle of the huge nonprofits: who’s abolitionist (um, none of them), who’s new welfarist, who’s welfarist. I give to organizations that are aligned with my beliefs, and criticizing "the movement" isn’t my job. Providing commentary on how we all talk about, write about and view nonhuman animals is where my interest lies. And today, that interest is focused on PETA’s opposition to the EU’s ban on cat and dog fur (no, it’s not a complete, real ban, like you might assume).

Because PETA tends to be in favor of anything that they perceive curbs suffering in any small way and believe that those incremental changes will lead to animal rights, I was surprised to learn of its opposition to the ban. I was especially surprised to learn of the reason, other than the reality that the actual language of the bill hardly protects one hair on a cat or dog’s head. Check out the verbiage:

Our concerns really boil down to the fact that the ban will help the fur trade by giving consumers a false sense of security that it is safe to buy fur because they’ll believe it isn’t from dogs and cats. . . . . The ban’s only practical effect will be to promote the acceptance of fur from other species of animals, including canine and feline species such as coyotes and lynx, who are just as abused as dogs and cats in the fur trade.

Isn’t that impressive? But as impressive as it is, it’s also very confusing and disconcerting because if PETA understands that a false sense of security is the result of weak legislation regarding cat and dog fur, why is it they don’t make that same connection regarding, say, gestation crates for pigs? And why is it that they claim larger cages for battery hens (or whatever) as a victory? Why should we not eat foie gras (but still eat ducks)? Doesn’t any kind of happy meat campaign have the same effect as the EU ban (i.e. the result of a false sense of security and the promotion of the acceptance of animal consumption of some sort)?

I’m thrilled that PETA has taken this kind of stand. In my perfect world, this would be the first of similar stands for PETA. I’m interested to see if this is an aberration or the start of a new direction.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dustin #

    I suppose this is a question more than a comment, per se; but I am wondering how you feel about the issue of separating animal skins in general (i.e., leather, suede, wool, etc.) and fur? I ask this out of interest, as I wonder if the animal rights community doesn't send a diluted message, offering a permissiveness by keeping them separate in our campaigns? I know fur the fur industry is particularly hideous. I know that to approach leather and fur in the same breath, for many, would be a stretch (but so is almost every issue, namely using the V-word), as it seems most people view leather as a by-product ("I eat meat, therefore I might as well use the whole cow.") How can we construct a campaign that approaches both of these issues? Or should we? I only wonder because of my own voyage to veganism. All of those years spent as a (lazy and uninformed) vegetarian, the issue of leather was rarely brought to my attention, unless I actively sought out the issue. Having been a teenager in the late 80's when the issue of fur was huge and hard to ignore, I think I would have become a vegan much sooner had I really been confronted by the issue of animal skins as a whole. Leather (and other animal skins besides fur) are so pervasive, and animal activists seem reluctant to educate or confront both issues simultaneously. Like I said, I do not think that I have an answer to this question myself; wondering whether you think such an understaking would even be worthwhile. I also wonder if part of the reason that fur has gained so much popularity in recent years is not BECAUSE we do not confront the issue of animal skins as a whole? The fur industry has effectively and successfully campaigned a message that tells consumers there's no ostensible difference between leather and fur, and since everyone is OK with leather … (Is that too simplistic an analysis?)

    PeTA was the only animal rights organization I knew of growing up. I mention this because almost ALL of the campaigns they undertake sent a very confusing and inconsistent message. Of course they are criticized for this ad nauseum, but it's effectively true: They seem completely uninterested in taking the job seriously, instead always opting for being the provocatuer, the bearer of mixed signals and hyperbole; not to mention, I find especially offensive the very personal attacks (recently calling Michael Moore "fat" or using Rudy Gulianni's prostrate cancer as an ad campaign, to name only a few). Could go on and on about why I think PeTA is dangerous to this already divided movement, but what's the point? My bad feelings for them aren't going to make PeTA go away or make them less of a nuisance or presence. But a lot of the bickering back and forth between AR groups is, indeed, justified, in my opinion. There ARE people interested in actually advancing the cause of rights and the position of abolition (and I disagree that none of them are actually large AR groups; Friends of Animals is abolitionist and articulates their views clearly; I came to understand and adopt the abolitionist position BECAUSE of FoA, and reading Lee Hall's "Capers in the Churchyard" was a transformative experience; Lee Hall clearly articulates the need for the dialogue that needs to happen that some view as divisive, and I would argue, too, that this dialogue we're having within the movement is allowing a more clear view of what animal rights is at its very best; how will we realize our fullest potential without some uncomfortable conversation? This needn't be viewed as diviseness, but rather an opportunity for some much-needed clarity). No, perhaps Animal Rights needn't be a battle ground, but we need not let the giant welfare organizations—the ones who get nearly ALL of the media attention—speak for all of us.

    June 28, 2007
  2. prad #

    peta's concerns about the eu dog and cat fur ban is justified based on the
    the 'feel good' rationale they give.

    however, is the same sort of reasoning not applicable to their efforts to ban
    gestation crates or do the 'support' of burger king's veggie burger?

    i think peta's argument may run as follows based on their utilitarian 'reduce
    suffering' principle:

    "elimination of gestation crates will reduce suffering for pigs (though
    admittedly 'happy meat' may make people feel better about eating pigs),
    however, banning cat and dog fur does not reduce suffering in general, but
    merely transfers it to other species."

    while this may be a valid argument, i don't find it particularly useful in
    context of the larger scheme of things.
    (of course, the burger king thing is really weird.)

    i also find an interesting contradiction in attitude within the opposition to the ban itself. since peta believes in incremental changes leading to eventual elimination (hence ar), it seems illogical for them to "oppose" the ban because the ban itself is an incremental change.

    i think they are just using the opportunity to generate some publicity like they always do and draw attention to the fur thing.

    June 28, 2007

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