July, 21st 2009

PETA: Shooting self in foot

– Liz Mair

I'm a big animal lover-- everyone who knows me knows this about me.  I cry at those ASPCA ads featuring Sarah McLachlan that air on Saturdays between episodes of What Not To Wear.  I donate to a variety of animal charities.  I recently freaked out fellow audience members at a screening of Disney's Nature by wailing a bit too loud when the polar bear died.  I thought Michael Vick got off way too light.  You get the point.

But I've got to say, some news that is admittedly coming to me quite belatedly from my hometown (Seattle) evidences that one animal rights organization in particular really can go a bit overboard and, in my view, risk undercutting what are very often serious messages about treating animals well and stopping animal cruelty.

PETA, in this particular instance, is who I am thinking of.  Yes, they who are the focus of this story from the paper I used to write for, the Seattle P-I: "Topless activists protest veterinarians' fish toss."  

Most people have heard about the local attraction that is the men who throw fish at Pike Place Market, one of Seattle's biggest tourist destinations (and actually a good place to shop for particular items, even if one is not a tourist).  I've certainly observed them many times, probably a good 50 or so in my lifetime.  I have never seen them throw a live fish across the market (I would have tried to stop them).  And I do not consider the tossing of a dead fish by one man to another before it is wrapped and taken home by its purchaser evidence of the men doing the fish tossing showing "disrespect" to marine life in general, and fish, in particular (yes, one might describe fish-tossing as "weird" but I think "disrespectful" is a little out there).  But that was apparently PETA's argument here: Veterinarians taking part in a team-building exercise that involved tossing non-rubber/non-fake fish under the supervision of the fish-tossing men was "disrespectful."

Here's some free advice to PETA, for what it's worth: If you  want to make a point about cruel treatment of animals (and I'm all for that), then stage events and campaigns that deal directly with the issue of cruelty to animals, not (ostensibly) with things like... the tossing of already dead fish.  And here's another suggestion: Quit using spokespeople for campaigns that do things you object to, like wearing fur.  It clouds the message and makes people take you and your causes less seriously.  I am one of them.

I am assuming that's not the objective, right? [intro]


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