“PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests," and the abuse of backyard dogs. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.”Although I do agree that humans must take responsibility for our treatment of animals, I disagree with PETA’s stand and many of their characterizations of how animals are treated by people. PETA has undertook good activities, but bringing to light some serious mistreatment, such as in the fur farms. But they’ve also overplayed their position on many occasions.
I remember listening on TV to one individual complaining about California cheese ads with the slogan, “Real cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.” He was going on about how the ads are misleading and how bad cows are really treated on a daily basis. From his description, one would assume conditions resembled those of WWII concentration camps. His description may have worked on some New Yorkers who’ve never been seen open land. However, I grew up in a region that has a lot of farms here in California. I’ve seen just how cows are treated first hand. His description wasn’t just misleading. It was false. Beyond that, the ads are obvious funny and not meant to be taken literally. I do understand they aren’t treated as one would treat people, but they aren’t people. They are a source of food. As such, they are treated pretty damn well.
This brings me to a second point: animals as food. I’ve seen pro-vegetarian literature written from both Eastern and Western perspectives. Unfounded statements generally file pages of arguments against the eating of meat. The underlining goal is to convince the reader that humans are not meant to eat meat which is complimented by some moral or ethical reasons. I just have to laugh when I see these arguments. One argument compares the human intestine to that of a wolf. Of course, the argument never makes a similar comparison to truly vegetarian animals, such as cows. That’s because the human digestive system doesn’t resemble that of either carnivores or herbivores.
In fact, our digestive system has specifically evolved to eat something that no other animal on the face of this planet ever has before. Our digestive system has evolved to take advantage of cooked meat! Even our close cousin, the Neanderthal didn’t make that evolutionary leap. 80% of their diet was raw meat, making it likely that their intestine actual did more closely resemble that of a wolf.
A third point is that all flora and fauna have the same origin. Plants, animals and fungi all have a common ancestor. From a truly unemotional perspective, there isn’t a whole lot of different between munching on a head of lettuce and munching on strip of bacon. Actually, there may be a different. The bacon is already dead when we eat it. The lettuce is still alive! Experiments from the 20th Century proved that plants experienced rudimentary reactions to things happening to them (such as leaves being trimmed) that may be interpreted as emotional responses, such as fear. Should we stop eating plants now too?
How far are we supposed to go to protect other live forms? Our bodies may be invaded by parasites, such as tape worm or malaria. These are also animals. Is it wrong for our bodies to defend themselves against these invaders?
Is it ok to kill bacteria? Our body kills millions (maybe billions or trillions) of bacteria throughout our lives. Are we to take a moral stand against that as well?
Bottom line, all life feeds off of other life to sustain itself. The only reason why members of groups like PETA try to protect certain types of life forms is because we as humans tend to identify with them. If a person makes a personal choice to not use other animals for any purpose (food, clothes or otherwise), that is their choice. However, they should not try to enforce their own beliefs on to others, especially when those beliefs are based on emotion instead of fact. PETA often reminds me of a religious cult whose god is the idea that animals are somehow more special than other life forms.
My own personal belief is that we should use animals to fulfill our needs. This should be balanced with some level of humane treatment to avoid unnecessary suffering. Additionally, I believe that humans are responsible for the proper care of animals we have domesticated for co-habitation (pets or labor animals), whether born as such or feral. But how far we go in these areas should not be determined by self-righteous organizations that do not have a clear foundation for their reasoning.