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PeTA: A Hit and a Miss

Though it's been years since I gave PeTA any money, I'm still on their mailing list and when I saw the Sea Kittens campaign my initial reaction was: Well done! They found a way to quickly, easily make the connection between the sentience of fish, whom I think we can all admit are a bit difficult to relate to, and the sentience of kitten. And everyone loves a kitten and surely doesn't want any harm to come to their adorable, puffy little selves.

Now, the right to not suffer shouldn't be contingent upon cuteness. However, many people, as long as they live, aren't going to grasp that sentience, regardless of species or cuddliness, is what should matter. Especially kids.

I call this a hit because I think we (meaning, not you) lie to our children about the animals we slaughter unnecessarily for food. It's safe to say that most of us over 40 were lied to by our parents and teachers about the animals we pay to have killed for us. From Old McDonald who had a farm, to the half-truths and no-truths about humane farming (the most important no-truth being that it can be humane), we're lucky that we were ever able to associate bacon with pigs by the time we were 10, despite Charlotte and her web.

The Sea Kitten campaign says: In every way that matters, fish = kittens. That's honest.

It wasn't long, of course, before, the media got hold of this story, and my favorite colossal failure to understand the facts comes from's Jerry Gerardi, of the "Outdoors" column. "Outdoors," of course, is a euphemism for the stalking and slaughter of unsuspecting sentient nonhumans. The article is called "PETA and the Sea Kittens: A story about an organization that's lost its way." Clearly, Gerardi doesn't know much about PETA's original mission and message (and there's plenty room to comment about that or anything else).

PETA appears to have been hijacked by members with an agenda that differs from the rank and file. Radicals, if you will.

PETA’s latest campaign is aimed at eating fish, balanced diets and children. I asked Ashley Byrne at PETA’s national headquarters if in fact there wasn’t an ulterior motive behind their campaign to rebrand fish as “sea kittens.” Her answer didn’t surprise me.

“We absolutely encourage people to (follow) a vegan diet,” she said. “The diet we (Americans) eat has too much protein.”

But that’s not what worries me. What concerns me is that PETA is taking this program to the schools to influence small children.

Radicals, if you will? Hijacked? What Mr. Gerardi doesn't know is that PETA's original animal rights message was "hijacked" by the reality that you can raise more funds if you aren't "radical," and if you water down or change your message to one that includes using animals for no good reason.

Furthermore, small children are surrounded by lies fed to them by corporate America with the intention of cultivating good little consumers who eat and shop and entertain themselves in a very specific way. Small children get a steady stream of misinformation about why the nonhuman world exists (i.e., for their benefit). It's not PeTA's message about fish that's dishonest and inappropriate.

Inevitably, we get to the real objection:

The scary part is they are using questionable persuasion techniques on the children, targeting them while they are very young and impressionable. There’s a reason we don’t let little kids make lifestyle decisions. That’s the parent’s job. If the parents want the family to follow a vegan diet, fine. But it’s mom’s and dad’s decision.

This is serious stuff for sport fishermen. Our recreation is at stake, not to mention lasting relationships with our children.

I don't have any children, but I'd like to think that if my child came to me with a well-thought-out reason for doing or not doing something, and no harm would come to anyone because of what they want to do or not do, I would allow it. Lots of kids become vegan before their parents, due to something they learned outside the home. But of course the real threat is to "sport fishermen," who perhaps should rethink whether or not taking your kid out for the day to torture and slaughter beings as sentient as the family dog, has all the ingredients of a healthy parent-child bonding experience.

Finally, the "miss" is regarding PeTA's policy to kill healthy cats and dogs just because they're homeless. You can read David Irving's response to PeTA in "We must decrease animal populations" at Thomas Paine's Corner.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. "This is serious stuff for sport fishermen. Our recreation is at stake, not to mention lasting relationships with our children."

    How heartless we are — ruining people's hobby. However will they spend their free time?

    I never once went fishing with my parents but still managed to form lasting relationships with them. Perhaps this guy needs to be more creative in his parenting.

    December 27, 2008
  2. Targeting children while they're young and impressionable? That's horrible.

    Oh, wait, that's the major purpose of public education! Make them think life is only about people and making money. Eliminate their feeling of connection to other animals and the natural world. And above all don't make them question why daddy's killing that fish for fun.

    December 27, 2008
  3. Connie Graham #

    The targeting of children by PETA is bad, but it's okay for Disney, Mattel, McDonalds, et al to do so? I wonder if PETA paid oodles of money to advertise regularly in newspapers, would that influence their coverage by staff writers? That said, I also stopped supporting PETA many years ago because of their stance on feral cats – that they are better off dead. They feel the same way about ALL pit bulls. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. But, no one is perfect, especially not me!

    December 27, 2008
  4. Kelev #

    I agree with Animal Person, or in my words, that PETA has lost its "radical edge" in the pursuit against the immoral radical cruelty inflicted upon animals in individual, industrial and institutional hell holes due to their pursuit for attracting fluffy pet lovers ONLY, as well as going along with the media's perception of some of PETA's silly, comical advertising,and consigning serious animal advocates as "nuts" or mindless stars, etc. I am a loyal supporter of PETA, despite some of their timid, in my opinion, tactics, and admire the major accomplishments that could not have been possible without a powerful AR organization's ability to attract and act. Still, dealing with accepted DEADLY radical, legalized animal abuse and sinister attacks by media calls out for equally radical, serious tactics.For decades, we have been courteous, patient – for what!? Tiny tiny steps, results remaining far off even now, for the animal's benefit.

    December 28, 2008
  5. Anon #

    Fish are not as "sentient as the family dog." They basically have no long term memory. You can catch the same one four times on the same fishing lure (believe me I've done it and seen it done) and they simply will not remember the other times.

    The question of animal cruelty is a question of abstraction. How low a level is the abstraction of your undying love for the better treatment of animals? Do you cry when you kill a mosquito that has landed on your arm? What about all the bugs on your windshield? What about the animals that used to live in the space where your home now resides? What about the millions of single celled organisms that we kill everyday without even knowing it. Being a vegan with such an extreme aversion to death and the natural food cycle is a luxury of living in crowded cities where you have no contact with other animals. Does an osprey cry for the fish which it tears apart (yes eaten alive) on the branch of a tree overlooking the stream? Does a pelican feel sorry for the fish it swallows whole–without even chewing (you can see the fish still kicking when its going down its neck), from the water? The answer to all these questions for me and for the animals is a resounding NO.

    The farmers that grow your vegetables are most assuredly not vegans – I know some of them, and hunt the geese from their fields and ducks from their ponds. I have the ultimate respect for the animals I kill, they are beautiful creatures. My motto as well as just about any hunters is "one shot" and only one shot, it may not always work out that way, but it does to the best of my abilities. Wild game is the only true organic food. Industrial organic farming results in lower crop yields which results in the necessity to clear more land and hence animal habitat for farming.

    January 21, 2009
  6. Mary Martin #

    First, Anon, it's tough for me to spend much time on someone's comment when they call themselves Anon and use a mailinator address.

    Next, I've never heard anything about the long-term memory of fish, and it wouldn't matter anyway. What matters is the ability to feel pleasure, pain, boredom and frustration, and of course the obvious–fighting for your life–as evidence that you'd like to continue living your life, preferably free of pain.

    What occurs in the world between nonhuman animals is not my concern–there is no moral judgment there. What I can judge, however, is the action of a human who kills though he does not need to. What we do is in no way comparable to what ospreys do. Or lions. Those comparisons are silly and an attempt to distract from the real issue.

    The only point I do agree on is that there are myriad creatures, sentient and otherwise who have died when our homes were built and when our food is grown. Even our vegan food. I don't know a vegan who believes that she lives a completely cruelty-free life (though they may exist). I have written, numerous times, about how no one is 100% vegan.

    January 22, 2009

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