Damn It, PETA

Stop making environmentalists, animal activists, conservationists, ecologists, vegetarians, and vegans look bad. Yes, know that they’re not all the same, but most people don’t. We’re all one big, pot-addicted, tree-hugging, save the whales, kumbaya collective. And we all get judged by whoever is making the most noise or saying the most obnoxious thing.

I know this because I do it all the time whenever I decide to blame the entire Republican Party for whatever stupid thing their most fringe Tea Party candidate decides to do or say. The reality is that the Republican Party is a vast organism with many different competing aspects, individuals, and motivations. But it’s much more emotionally satisfying the blame the entire crowd for the most egregious behavior of the distant fringe.

That’s not to say that I like or even respect the Republican Party. I’m just being emotionally disingenous.

PETA actually does a lot of good in the world. Most people like animals and think that being kind to them is a good idea, even if they make those choices based entirely on which ones are fuzzy and cute. But people also tend to hate PETA and go completely deaf whenever PETA (or another animal activist) tries to raise legitimate concerns or discussion.

Shit like this? This isn’t helping. There is such a thing as bad publicity.

A Vegetarian Perspective On The Ethical Carnivore

I’ve been a vegetarian for about seven years. It started as an experiment, something that “just to see if I could.” The experiment was predicated by the reading I was doing at the time; my interest in philosophy (which would ultimately become my minor during my undergrad) led to reading several books on the ethics of food. Peter Singer’s work was the most influential on me.

I won’t go into my reasons for not eating meat beyond that: for me, it’s a point of philosophical consideration and what I perceive to be my own personal ethical imperative. It’s important for me to point out that I don’t feel the need to force the world to follow my own philosophical and ethical models. In fact, the only reasons I’ll ever talk about my vegetarianism (aside from on my blog, where I can talk about whatever I damn well please) is because somebody asks or because it’s polite to inform others of one’s dietary restrictions should you be planning a dinner or food-related social engagement. Usually, the latter reason leads to the former as people inevitably ask questions, usually of the “wow, what’s that like” variety.

Personally, I don’t really care what foods others are sticking in their respective pie-holes. My choices work for me and my innate iconoclastic tendency means I can understand why a person would get upset by being told not to eat the foods he or she wishes to eat.


There’s an unfortunate side-effect of the fact that the vegetarians, vegans, and other animal-rights folks are the most vocal supporters of food ethics. The side-effect is a sort of “rejection by association.” Basically, if a person decides that he or she hates those preachy vegetarians and vegans, or thinks they are all liberal fruitcakes, or feminist gender traitors, or whatever, that person is going to dismiss the idea of food ethics out of hand. And that is something that I think is wrong.

Here’s a great introduction to food ethics that doesn’t come packaged with a “vegetarianism is great” side dish.

To wit, I don’t care if you eat meat. It’s your choice. But I do think that you have, or at least you should have, the same moral imperative to reduce suffering in the world. This is my basic humanitarian ethic that I think all people, regardless of background, should work to uphold.

So, go ahead and eat meat! Eat a delicious steak. Have two. But do so recognizing that not all steaks were created equally. A steak that came from a factory farm created much more suffering in the world than the steak that came from your local farmer’s market.

This is why I’ve said the decision to eat meat is a philosophical one. The attitude you have with regards to your food matters. If meat is consumed in a serious, sober manner, if it is done with respect to the cost to the life that was taken, you are justified in my book. If you raise your own animals or if you hunt and butcher your own animals or if you take the time and effort to research which companies produce meat with minimal suffering, you have my support. You are meeting this basic ethical imperative.

Be a carnivore if you wish. Just be an ethical one. No, more than that; realize that this is all part of the consideration that goes into being an ethical person. I think ethics are something that have fallen out of the social consciousness; we’ve replaced ethics with religion in most circles, which aren’t the same thing in the slightest.

Zerglings Have Feelings, Too

I love this parody campaign from PETA reminding us to treat all living things with compassion, even the zerglings. For the record, yes, Zerg is my favorite race to play as in StarCraft,

Seriously, though, who can resist this adorable little guy?


Although PETA tends to go off its meds, so to speak, overall, I consider their mission of opposing animal cruelty to be a worthy one. The horrors of factory farm were one of the primary motivations that encouraged me to become a vegetarian seven years ago. I particularly like this quote, explaining the motivation for a fictional campaign against fictional cruelty against a fictional being:

So remember, while Zerglings are not real, there are many equally “strange” and exotic animals we share this planet with who deserve our empathy. Just because crocodiles and snakes look alien to us, that doesn’t make it OK to skin them alive for a handbag, shoes, or a belt.

It’s something to keep in mind. Maize and Morrigan are my two pet snakes and they are every bit as dear to me as your dog or cat is to you. I can tell you that it’s just as upsetting to see your handbag made out of the skin of one of my favorite animals as it would be for you to see me in a coat made from puppy-fur.

Just something to keep in mind. Also, in case it’s not obvious, I don’t own a coat made from puppies. That would be wrong. Also, it would be impractical since I live in the desert.