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PETA’s crude analogies

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WE ALL HAVE HEARD of comparing apples to oranges, but is the burning alive of a black man equal to the burning of a chicken? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have you think so.

Known for its provocative ads, PETA has created yet another firestorm; this time exhibiting scenes of some historic atrocities and comparing them to images of animal abuse (www.peta.org/AnimalLiberation/display.asp).

The online exhibit, which accuses a “human dominated society” of tyranny over “powerless animals,” uses imagery and words to compare lynchings of blacks in the South to the hanging of cows, the Native American Trail of Tears to modern-day cattle herding, as well as forced labor of children to that of caged chickens in chicken farms. The site also employs quotes from Alice Walker, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to reinforce these crude analogies.

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We understand the need of groups such as PETA to shock society out of what it considers to be widespread indifference to a moral wrong. But this insulting and shrill approach, while guaranteed to garner PETA attention, does its cause a disservice. PETA already had to apologize this year for making an inappropriate Nazi analogy -- a common pitfall of demagogues -- when it compared the plight of factory animals to the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Another apology may not be far behind. PETA is now “rethinking” its campaign, putting on hold a tour of the art scheduled for 17 cities.

What is especially insulting about PETA’s campaign is the heinous historical pedigree of comparisons between slaves and animals. The argument that blacks and Native Americans were inferior animal-like beings was one of the justifications behind human enslavement and forced labor.

If it wants to be more effective at getting its message across, PETA will have to embrace a second meaning for its acronym -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Analogies.


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