The recent dust-up between Sarah Palin and the animal welfare organization PETA, over her Facebook photos of her 6-year old son standing atop the family dog as if it were a step stool, strikes me as a little too much ado on both sides.
I don’t like much about Sarah Palin -- I disagree with her politics; find her attacks on President Obama distasteful and misleading; and think she’s basically an opportunistic media hound dog. (I do think she did a very nice job on “Saturday Night Live” when she appeared in a skit while running for vice president.) On the other hand, I respect the intentions -- if not all the tactics -- of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and its founder, Ingrid Newkirk. The group’s goal has always been to press the envelope on animal welfare issues and get them into the public consciousness, where other groups could follow with more sedate approaches. The people who run PETA are more intellectually sophisticated than Palin will ever be -- although all end up accused of a lot of grandstanding.
That said, the three photos that Palin posted show her son, Trig, who suffers from Down syndrome, holding on to the kitchen counter and stepping up, one foot at a time, onto the back of the family’s dog (maybe a black Lab) so he can reach the sink and help wash dishes, are fairly innocuous, even sweet. The pictures were accompanied by Palin’s rather moving New Year’s wish: “May 2015 see every stumbling block turned into a stepping stone on the path forward.” The dog looks about as laid back as a dog could be. If the dog is suffering, it’s not letting on.
But PETA fired off a harsh response: “It’s odd that anyone -- let alone a mother -- would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo. Then again, PETA, along with everyone else, is used to the hard-hearted, seeming obliviousness of this bizarrely callous woman, who actually thought it appropriate to be filmed while turkeys were being slaughtered right behind her in full view of the camera.”
Wince. Yes, the turkey slaughtering was one of the worst photo opps in recent memory. But this was not animal slaughter. Nor was this Mitt Romney strapping the family dog's kennel to the roof of the family car and going on a road trip.
Interestingly, some online comments from parents voiced concern for the child. If the dog wasn't OK with this, the dog could have bolted and the child could have fallen. Children, in general, can be a bit overly physical with family dogs -- falling across them, trying to riding them like miniature ponies. (My nephew, as a toddler, tried that with the family's very mellow 100-pound Golden Retriever.) I don't recommend kids standing on dogs, and Palin's son is getting too big to do this anymore and old enough to know better. Palin should make sure that he does know better in the future.
But PETA overreacted and gave Palin a perfect opportunity to lock and load against the group -- at which point she moved on from her lovely New Year's Day wish into a full-blown Facebook rant full of inaccuracies about PETA.
So, let this be a teachable moment. How lovely that Palin's young son and dog trust each other so much. Now let's all get off each other's backs.
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