Right now the fastest way to get noticed is to talk the loudest. This has the unfortunate habit of painting everyone in a specific group under the same banner as the first person to get recognition. Right now PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, tends to be the loudest and most vocal voice we hear regarding animal welfare, one of the biggest reasons many people have for becoming a vegetarian or a vegan. But is PETA truly doing us a favor, or are they doing more harm than good? Let’s take a look.
It’s always dangerous to create ultimatums or paint issues as black and white. Nothing is as simple as it seems, even something like vegetarianism. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the differences between one another before we can come to a real place of understanding and conversation. That whole “catch more flies with honey than vinegar” thing. Well, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and right now the squeakiest wheels is PETA, speaking for what mainstream society assumes is all vegetarians everywhere.
Whether you agree with PETA’s message is irrelevant as the method they’re taking to convey said message is insulting to absolutely everyone involved. Take the recent campaign they took not too long ago called Mario Kills Tanooki in which they made a Flash game showing Super Mario stealing a tanooki’s skin and forcing it to run after him, blood trailing behind, as it struggled to survive. The point was to “call out” the Mario games for encouraging the wearing of fur as the new 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land included a power-up that gave Mario a cartoon tanooki outfit when he touched a leaf.
To clarify, PETA was accusing the Mario games of animal abuse on the grounds of him wearing a suit. Now, I know and love the Mario games, and I can tell you it doesn’t take much to make actual claims about the games’ treatment of animals (Mario stomps on turtles, rides around and drops Yoshis into lava, etc), but the problem is, PETA went for the low-hanging fruit in this instance. It saw a chance to ride the publicity train since Super Mario 3D Land was new, but instead of saying something valid, it looked embarrassing.
The problem here is the same as most issues: Know how to reach your audience. Making a game about Mario wearing fur as a negative aspect, even in a parody or outlandish notion, does nothing to convince anyone new. Parody has never converted anyone to a new way of thinking, nor has outright lambasting people about one point or another. Mario fans- and video game players of all types- were not convinced suddenly to change their mind about a previous issue. Rather, they were given ammunition right back to say, “See? This is why animal activists are idiots!” On the flip side, those who do oppose the wearing of fur already agree with the message, so all this does is put them in the line of fire from those angry at the way PETA stirred the pot.
Let’s go further back a few years to the facepalm-worthy instance of Sea Kittens. PETA meant to draw attention to the issue of fishing as something they and many other vegetarians opposed as fish are living creatures too and the same “no not eat” standards we apply to cats and dogs should apply to fish as well. A valid opinion with completely reasonable and rational points to bring up. But instead of handling this like intelligent and mature individuals, PETA figured the best thing to do was make a campaign against fishing by saying that everyone should call them “sea kittens” instead because “fish” sounded so unappealing and that by being called “sea kittens” they would be cuter and more likely to gain sympathy. Essentially a harmless claim, assuming this comes from children. This came from adults and was accompanied by a flash game where you could adopt your very own sea kitten, which happened to be a fish with a cat face, and dress them up and style them. All this accomplished was to make PETA as an organization appear childish and immature. This damages the credibility of not just their organization, but anyone who is associated with their organization.
I don’t want to get into their animal euthanasia numbers as it’s difficult to know solid facts one way or another (the numbers are ridiculously high but they claim that these animals are suffering), but there is the fact that they do euthanize animals while blasting others for doing the same. Yes, there is a difference between putting down a dog with a severely diminished quality of life and a healthy dog that just happened to be in the pound too long, but the problem again rests on ETA’s public image: They give off the impression of being immature and hypocritical. They give off the impression of being opportunistic and caring more about raising money than about addressing real issues. They give off the impression of stirring controversy just to remain “relevant” in the media. Simply, they give off the impression that they’re not a very good organization at all.
The sad part is they do a lot of good things. Bringing attention to cases of animal cruelty, animal abuse, and animal neglect are all responsible, honorable causes to campaign against. Doing so by making a fool of themselves and those who share the same opinion only hurts everyone involved and makes a volatile condition for everyone to go about their business.
But I really want to know whether this is just how I’m perceiving things or if PETA has been raising your hackles as well. Leave a comment and let’s get some discussion going! I want to know what everyone thinks!