Saturday, May 8, 2010

PETA piper

Here's a picture of PETA people outside the Westminster Dog Show back in February, all dressed up to make a really good impression.

The message, as I half-understand it, is that dogs shows are bad, but the symbolism here seems ambiguous at best. I wasn't there to pick up one of the flyers--I lived in New York long enough to know I won't be going back--so it's not at all clear who the Klan outfit is directed at.

It's apparently not all that clear to PETA, either--according to their own news release, the Halloween outfits are meant to convey the idea that the AKC sounds the "death knell for many beautiful, healthy, and loving dogs whose lives end at animal shelters. Shelters do their best to help the millions of animals dumped on their doorsteps every year, but life in a cage is no life for a dog, and euthanasia becomes a sad necessity."

But wait--if that's their position, doesn't it follow that the white sheet and hood are on the wrong side of the door? Aren't the people on the inside of the building the oppressors, the sworn enemies of shelter dogs everywhere? Something's gone horribly wrong here, unless--let me see--could this actually be about a photo op, and the siren allure of getting above the fold of tomorrow's paper?

Which worked: The story made USA Today, the LA Times, and NBC, to name a few.

But, to be frank, launching ad hominem attacks on the people who are involved with PETA is just too easy--we can chant in unison that Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, is personally responsible for killing 23,000 shelter animals in a single 18-month period, while finding homes for eight.

Or we can point out that PETA has gotten into legal trouble in Virginia for illegally dumping dead shelter animals.

Or we can laugh at the PETA initiative to rename fish "sea kittens" on the theory that people won't eat a creature with a cute name.

But if we want intelligence injected into the debate about right relations with other creatures, PETA has not earned a place at the table. And, if my poking around on both sides of the story is accurate, the supposedly more middle-of-the-road Humane Society of the United States hasn't either.

My point here is that throwing stones at tempting targets (this is code for "people I don't agree with"), is pointless--name-calling only freezes people more firmly into their positions, even if they know those positions are illogical and untenable, sea kittens on dry land. I'd much rather focus on the disagreement itself. Like the snappy little dog described in an earlier entry, that is where the rubber meets the road.

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