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I'm not a PETA fan. I admit that. From Connie Schultz in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Practicing ethics or polemics?
Thursday, February 17, 2005

Connie Schultz
Plain Dealer Columnist

Ten years ago, I had my one and only run-in with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA.

I had adopted a beagle named Charlie after the owner assured me the only reason she was parting with him was because she already had two dogs, and a third was too much. Charlie was gentle and devoted, she said, and my 8-year-old daughter and I took one look at his big brown eyes and floppy ears and fell in love. By the end of the week, he was sleeping in my daughter's bed.

The first time it happened, I told myself Charlie was just upset. We had a loud, full house for Thanksgiving when he bared his teeth and lunged for the face of a friend. He barely missed.

The second time, one of my daughter's classmates was in our kitchen when she started to laugh. Charlie leapt for her face, and if I hadn't caught him by the collar, he would have bitten her.

Charlie had to go.

I put Charlie in the basement because I no longer trusted him in the house, then called the woman who had given us Charlie and told her she had to take him back. She refused.

"He never bit anyone here," she said.

Then she admitted that she was his second owner, not the first.

Every animal shelter in the area told me the same thing: If Charlie was a biter, they could not place him in another home. I called the previous owner and told her that if she didn't take Charlie, he would have to be destroyed.

"Oh, you wouldn't," she hissed.

The deadline passed. "You have no choice," our vet told me as I sobbed in his lobby.

The next morning, a woman who identified herself as a member of PETA called me at work to say the group was working on finding a home for Charlie. The previous owner had called her.

I told her that Charlie was gone.

"You mean murdered," she said. "You murdered that poor dog. How will you live with yourself?"

I hung up the phone, stunned. I had admired much of PETA's work to educate the public about animal abuses. Because of PETA, I wince at the sight of fur coats. I don't buy makeup from companies that test on animals. I'm not a vegetarian, but I buy free-range chicken and never order veal.

None of that mattered to PETA that day. I was despicable because I valued the lives of humans over that of a dog.

An ad in this week's New Yorker illustrates why I have grown even less sympathetic to PETA's cause over time.

Dominating the ad is a red ribbon, the symbol for AIDS awareness, about to be set on fire. Above it runs this quote attributed to Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's president and co-founder: "Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it." The ad cites USA Today as the source of the quote, but it originally appeared as a paraphrased quote from Newkirk in a 1989 story in Vogue, said PETA spokeswoman Lisa Lange.

The ad is sponsored by, a nonprofit whose chief concern is not AIDS or any other medical research but rather the meat, dairy and restaurant industries that fund it, which research director David Martosko readily admitted to me.

Nevertheless, the group's various ad campaigns shed a glaring light on PETA's efforts to ban any medical research that saves human lives but uses lab animals in its testing. PETA's hit list is long, 18 pages long if you print it from the Web site, and it is a who's who of this country's biggest medical researchers, including the March of Dimes, the Alzheimer's Association and the American Cancer Society.

PETA's Lange said Newkirk was unavailable for comment. Newkirk, she said, never bothered to correct the AIDS quote -- which has run in many publications over the last 15 years because "the sentiment behind it is true."

Lange argues that not enough money is spent to find alternatives to live animals in medical research and that they are out there. But she's fuzzy on the science. At one point she argued that no human lives have ever been saved by animal research. On that one, she backed down.

I want PETA to be right about those alternatives for research. Until we find that better way, though, let's remember that people are animals, too.

My reasons for not liking PETA aren't that complex. I get offended by them. I really do. They take their ads and they go overboard. Like the Holocaust ad a few years ago? Sickening. I mean, sometimes they do somewhat funny things - like when they sent tofu and veggie burgers to a cannibal. That made me laugh. Of course, their sermon tires me. ("People who eat meat feel disgusted by human flesh. Vegetarians feel disgusted by any sort of meat.") They do things solely to upset and irritate -- like the billboard of the Virgin Mary with a lifeless chicken in her arms with the tagline "Go Vegetarian -- It's an Immaculate Conception." (OK, some sick part of me finds that funny - and on a solely First Amendment free speech level, it may fall into the "I hate your speech but I gotta let you say it.) Their pamphlets for kids, "Your Mommy Kills Animals." This ad (in PDF) stating that eating meat causes impotence is pretty funny too. (Though I wonder where they get their "evidence" to support this claim.)

My problemwith PETA is that you just get the sense that they care more about animals than they do about people. PETA is good on concept, their goal admirable, but they just get so radical and extreme that they have become a joke of themselves. I don't think that most people nowdays support animal testing for makeup. Or think that animals should be tortured. But in general? Period? To say that all animal testing is evil is faulty. The same as saying that all humans should be vegetarians. Animals hunt themselves. The problem may be in how animals now feed humans, but the problem isn't the fact that animals serve as food for other animals and humans.

Oh, and for your reading pleasure, a few PETA members quotes. I think my favorite was about how Hitler wasn't killing Jews, but was killing meat eaters. Though the taking honey from bees is like taking skin off animals was a close second. I am not quite sure I understood the rape analogy...


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