PETA blights its own cause

Jenna Staul

Vegetarianism is great.

In fact, I would recommend a diet devoid of meat to anyone. It’s an exceptionally healthy choice (have you ever seen an overweight vegetarian?) and even helps ward off illnesses such as heart disease. It has numerous environmental advantages, as the business of raising and slaughtering livestock is often a wasteful drain of resources. A vegetarian diet also allows one to experience a bevy of interesting foods often foreign to meat-eaters’ palettes. And perhaps most importantly, vegetarianism promotes animal rights.

But that isn’t what this column is about.

This column is about how People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the most widely known animal rights and vegetarian/vegan advocacy group, hurts the very causes it aims to support.

With PETA at the helm of the animal rights movement, little progress will be made in converting mainstream America into living an animal cruelty-free lifestyle, and no significant change will occur. That’s because the radical tactics often employed by PETA in its desire for change make the movement look like a bunch of crazed, cow-hugging extremists instead of educated activists with a legitimate issue to promote.

In the past, PETA has used some colorful, if not downright bizarre, campaigns to “advance” its cause. Does it honestly expect America to buck its carnivorous ways after seeing a PETA member donning a loincloth and pig mask tied to a life-sized crucifix during a protest? Does PETA realistically feel that a demonstration with a grown man dressed in a chicken costume and bikini-clad girls in cages will keep the masses away from KFC and the Colonel’s infamous fried chicken recipe?

If PETA does, it is disconnected with reality.

PETA’s latest desperate attempt to thrust itself into the public eye with a tasteless publicity stunt was its request to socialite-turned-convict Paris Hilton. PETA recently reached out to the celebrity inmate, whose affinity for fur has landed her on the group’s worst-dressed list, asking her to become a spokesperson for caged chickens after her own alleged bout with claustrophobia in her prison cell. Once again, PETA proved it is about style over substance.

The group practices a brand of activism that makes headlines instead of sense. If PETA really wants to make a difference, it will begin to use more logical, intelligible means of promoting its ideals. After all, there are plenty of beneficial reasons to become vegetarian or vegan – perhaps PETA should take off its pig masks, let the girls out of their coop-like cages and simply communicate those reasons to the public.

Unfortunately, PETA and its constant quest for the spotlight have become synonymous with the animal rights cause as a whole. When PETA members show up at a protest wearing nothing but strategically placed, oversized signs, it sends a negative message to the public about the movement in general and reinforces people’s resistance to adopting vegetarian/vegan lifestyles.

When PETA members aren’t busy making fools of themselves during protests or capitalizing on media hype like Hilton’s incarceration, they actually can do some good. I suggest going to PETA’s Web site to learn some pretty shocking information about the meat industry and animal cruelty.

So forgo that hamburger at dinner tonight and reach for some tofu instead. Just don’t do it because PETA told you to.

Jenna Staul is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].