Free Speech Letters, 6/14/11

CORRECTION
The fishing locales in the article titled “Come Out & Play” DO require an Ohio fishing license. Five Rivers Metroparks locations that DO NOT require a license are: Carriage Hill, Sunfish Pond in Germantown, ponds and Argonne Lake at Possum Creek, catch/release at Dogwood Pond and Lake George at Twin Creek. All other Metroparks require a license. We regret this error.

Kinder world begins in the kitchen
It’s human nature to attack or dismiss out of hand ideas that challenge us to rethink old habits to which most of us so tightly cling. A billboard that PETA proposed running in Dayton recently, which featured the image of a person about to cook a pork chop in a microwave juxtaposed with a picture of a mother pig nuzzling her piglet and the words, “Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby. Go Vegan,” evoked such a response from some people, but it has also sparked debate and soul-searching about the message that the ad seeks to convey, that is, that most animals who are killed for food are innocent babies who feel pain and fear just as humans do.

We are all absolutely horrified by the idea of putting a living being — in China Arnold’s case, her own child — into a microwave oven and cooking her to death. But until recently, how many of us stopped to consider that casually microwaving pork, chicken, or beef also means that a baby was killed. PETA is not equating a pork chop to a child but simply asking us to look beyond the pork chop to where it actually came from and how it was produced and to think about applying our sense of justice and compassion across the board to encompass the treatment of animals too. We may not have personally cut the young animals’ throats, but we pay someone else to do it for us if we buy the end result. PETA’s billboard makes people uncomfortable because it means that we are being asked to face ugly facts that we don’t want to face: to admit that if we eat meat, we’re eating babies who had mothers, who felt pain and fear, and who suffered horribly before arriving on our plate. The challenge it poses is to ask us to be honest with ourselves and, if we are kind people, to consider switching to vegetarian dishes.

Studies as well as common sense show that pigs, chickens, cows, and other animals form strong bonds with their young, yet their offspring are torn away from them and crammed by the hundreds into filthy sheds on factory farms, left out in mud-filled feedlots in all kinds of weather, or forced to live in tiny wire cages. These youngsters, who scream mightily during the separation process, have their tails or the tips of their beaks cut off, are castrated, and have their teeth clipped or their horns cut from their heads down to the buds ― all without any painkillers. They are also fed drugs to keep them alive in conditions that could otherwise kill them.

Pigs and turkeys are typically just 6 months old when they are killed, and chickens are just 7 weeks old. Calves raised for veal are often taken away from their mothers within hours of birth, sometimes with one leg shackled to the back of a tractor that drags them along the ground. They “live” in cramped crates for up to 16 weeks before being pushed, wobbly-legged, down the slaughter ramp. Like humans, animals are made of flesh, blood, and bone. If they are meat, then so could we be. And like us, they experience fear in the face of death and their mothers grieve when they are taken from them.

For animals, the issue of what we eat isn’t a matter of “personal choice” ― it’s a matter of life and death. PETA will not shrink from our duty to speak up for the billions of animals who are needlessly abused and killed every year just so that humans can have a fleeting taste of their flesh.
PETA succeeds in getting people talking and thinking about issues that they’d otherwise rather avoid, such as how our daily dining habits affect animals. And while PETA’s provocative campaigns garner massive media coverage — keeping animal protection issues in the public eye—we also quietly achieve countless lifesaving victories for animals behind the scenes.

Our undercover investigators go inside hellish facilities like laboratories, exotic animal distributors, slaughterhouses, and fur markets to document abuses that have resulted in cruelty charges and convictions. PETA’s fieldworkers also travel rural roads every day, going into impoverished communities to deliver doghouses, food, and medical care to lonely dogs who are forced to live on chains. Our corporate liaisons negotiate with companies and organizations, from the Department of Transportation to Victoria’s Secret, to bring about vital improvements in policies that affect animals.

Just as PETA makes a point to work on every level, from the flamboyant to the conservative, people of all persuasions can work toward a less violent world by buying products that aren’t tested on animals, having their animal companions spayed or neutered, avoiding animal circuses, and choosing faux fur and faux leather instead of the real, painfully acquired thing. And while none of us can change the fact that baby Paris suffered terribly and died, those who are horrified by her appalling murder can stop other babies from being abused and killed ― simply by leaving meat off their plates. For a free vegan/vegetarian starter kit and great recipes, please go to PETA.org or VegCooking.com.

– Colleen O’Brien
Director of Communications, PETA
Washington, D.C.
[RE: “Debate Forum Topic: Outdoor media: Cowardly? Or, socially responsible?” 6/7/11]

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