These days with our Internet connections giving us a voice to the entire world and providing us with a global forum to discuss our hobbies and interests, we’ve had a chance to look at bigger issues like no generation before us. Facts are both everywhere and nowhere at the same time, but at the very least we’re more aware of everything going on in the world (or at least we think we are). This has lead to more and more chances to speak up on issues we feel passionately about, such as animal rights. But we have to be careful how we approach each situation. If we become too vocal, we easily look arrogant and foolish, but if we become too passive, then we’re not really doing anything. We need to learn to pick our battles better, and here’s why.
Right now we let PETA do most of the work for us. They’re good about organizing rallies and protests and bringing possible issues to our awareness. They’re also, however, doing quite a lot to make our beliefs, and by association us, look extremely silly much of the time. The reasoning is fairly simple as to why PETA makes us look like fools: It doesn’t discriminate between an unimportant issue and a serious issue.
By talking about absolutely anything that vaguely relates to possible animal rights violations, a sense of weight is entirely lost in regards to the more serious offences. Take for example PETA’s response to an Xbox Live Arcade title called Super Meat Boy. The game stars a little chunk of meat that must run through level after level in an attempt to save his girlfriend while everything around him seeks to end his life. PETA’s response to this was to create a game called Super Tofu Boy, a game virtually identical except now the protagonist is made of tofu rather than meat. What this hopes to say for our side is that tofu is better than meat (something the parody game goes out of its way to point out via in-game facts and such), but in doing so we miss two important details: Meat Boy is already a victim in this game, and by drawing attention to it we shift attention away from other real problems facing our world, such as overcrowded animal shelters or known experimentation on animals.
Possibly one of PETA’s biggest missteps was their “Sea Kittens” ad campaign, arguing that fish need a better PR representative and thus made the joke that if fish were called “sea kittens” then people would be less likely to catch them and eat them. While that looks silly enough, they went a step further by creating a Flash game that lets you dress up these newly dubbed sea kittens (which are made to look like fish with cat faces) in clothes and makeup. The goal is to bring awareness to a rational cause, i.e. that fish deserve animal rights as much as any animal. However the execution is pulled off in the manner a seven-year-old would handle things, using shallow arguments and cute pictures to make a case. Presenting ourselves like this only seeks to negate anything we hope to say now or in the future.
The most important thing we can do is pick our battles appropriately. Coming down on Michael Vick for running a dog fighting ring? Yeah, that’s worth speaking out against. Wagging our finger at President Obama for swatting a fly? That’s where we start to look out of touch, preachy, and downright childish. We have an uphill battle to present our beliefs in a public forum as they aren’t generally considered the majority opinion. The average person is ready to see us make a mistake, so when we start a campaign where women walk around wearing meat or vegetable outfits, all we do is alienate more people.
So we have to be careful. That’s all there is to say really. Enough large issues are around to keep us busy so that we have no reason to fight little, insignificant battles. Our first priority is rational thinking, not sensationalism. Be smart and be aware, otherwise we do more harm than good.