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Hands tied and mouths wide open

PETA's dietary campaign underlines greater problems for activists

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Last week, the animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced the launch of a new ad campaign that will likely give more than a few people cause for thought.

The new campaign features a message to the effect that we might as well go ahead and eat the whales in order to spare those animals that are raised and mistreated solely for the purpose of human consumption.

A PETA spokesperson confirmed the campaign is a tongue-in-cheek effort, but there's a serious undertone to it that makes me go hmm. That PETA has been reduced to signing off on one aspect of their cause for the promotion of another spells certain doom for activist movements and causes around the world. It is indeed a complex and difficult society we inhabit, but when a dedicated and conscientious group like PETA throws up their hands in partial surrender, we may have gone just a bit too far. We taxed the animal kingdom and mistreated our furry friends to the point where PETA couldn't do battle on so many fronts and something had to give; some group of defenceless animals is now without an advocate because PETA couldn't keep up with all the demands.

Hmm, indeed. Is this right? Let's consider another scenario. Maybe PETA, in their intense blanket denunciations of all pet-related industries including Looney Toons, ignored those areas where they could actually effect change. Maybe they were so busy throwing their weight around and raising a stink for the media that they forgot to do anything quiet and effective for the whales. Maybe PETA had to give up on the whales because their loud, publicity-stunt protests undermined their credibility just enough that the people who could have helped locked them out and walked away. Maybe PETA had to choose the farm-raised animals because that's all they could do.

I wonder sometimes how many special interest groups ever pause to evaluate their noise-making shock tactics to make sure they still have a focus on achieving a better situation for their representees. The stigma of the loud and annoying radical is a stereotype that every group needs to be conscious and aware of. The odd redefinition of parameters wouldn't hurt to ensure the group's effectiveness in their cause.

Look to the Afghanistan, where as we speak, a group of "relief workers" are on trial for muddling two very separate intents. Who are they really helping by getting tossed in jail? Sure, the publicity's great; but couldn't hundreds of Afghans have received food and medical attention in the weeks that the "relief workers" have been in jail?

The world is indeed a difficult place, but in fighting to keep it sane and ethical, activists need to start
focusing on results, not a high profiles. Being overambitious when trying to change the world can only result in the cynical capitulation --however tongue-in-cheek--that can be seen in PETA's "go ahead, eat the leviathans" campaign.

The noisy, aggravating demonstrations may serve a purpose, but not if no one takes them seriously.  So while we who are excluded from activist movements bear a responsibility to treat all others with the respect and dignity due, members of activist movements cannot be negligent of our responsibilities. If we do not keep the best interests of the minority parties in mind, we fail ourselves and the world at large. So please, before anyone else suggests a whale smorgasbord--let's eat a few words of our own first. Just to see how they taste.

Ruth Davenport can be reached at ruth111@hotmail.com

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