Tuesday, August 09, 2005

PETA Gets 0wn3d

Well, PETA finally crossed the line and made a major mistake: Comparing Livestock to Slavery.

NEW HAVEN — A two-hour animal rights demonstration on the Green Monday sparked outrage instead of sympathy from the public.

"This is the most racist thing I’ve ever seen on the Green. How dare you," roared Philip Goldson, 43, of New Haven at the protest organizers at Church and Chapel streets.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal rights group, posted giant photographs of people, mostly black Americans, being tortured, sold and killed, next to photographs of animals, including cattle and sheep, being tortured, sold and killed.

"I think it is an apt comparison," said Josh Warchol, 26, of Wallingford, president of the Southern Connecticut Vegetarian Society, which is aligned with PETA.

PETA officials said they had hoped to generate dialogue with the shocking photographs.

"We realize these images are hurtful. It’s hard for me to imagine the hurt the animals go through. We should be treating animals according to their own best interests, not to the best interests of people," said Dawn Carr, PETA’s director of special projects.

PETA wants people to stop eating animals, stop using them for clothing, stop forcing animals to entertain people (as in a circus) and stop animal experimentation.

Carr said she doesn’t want animals sold or treated as property either.

The controversial display, which is on a national tour, is intended to drive home PETA’s point.

However, critics said the organization’s demonstration backfired.

One man demanded that the NAACP get involved immediately. Five minutes later, Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state and Greater New Haven chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arrived at the scene, surveyed the photos and blasted the organizers.

"Once again, black people are being pimped. You used us. You have used us enough," Esdaile said. "Take it down immediately."

"I am a black man! I can’t compare the suffering of these black human beings to the suffering of this cow," said Michael Perkins, 47, of New Haven. He stood in front of a photo of butchered livestock hung next to the photo of two lynched black men dangling before a white mob.

"You can’t compare me to a freaking cow," shouted John Darryl Thompson, 46, of New Haven, inches from Carr’s face. "We don’t care about PETA. You are playing a dangerous game."

Paul Tomaselli, 46, of North Branford took exception to an exhibit that included a photo of a black man being beaten to the ground by a white man with a stick while a white mob gathers.

Next to that photo was one of a man chasing a seal across the snow with a club.

"I think he’s right," said Tomaselli, who is white, in support of Thompson. "To compare people to animals is an unfairness to people."

The display, "Are Animals the New Slaves?" is on a 10-week, 42-city tour that started in early July. Today’s stop: Scranton, Pa., then on to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

"New Haven is important because of the Amistad. This is a place where slaves were brought. What happened here was very important for abolition. The next great liberation movement is animal liberation," Carr said.

However, the Anti-Defamation League, a national civil rights organization, has publicly condemned PETA’s use of photos comparing human suffering in the Holocaust to animal suffering today; PETA apologized in May for the hurt it caused but stood by the comparisons.

That point of disagreement became a flashpoint in New Haven.

"This is the most hostile audience we’ve had," said PETA volunteer Ben Godwin.

At one point, police hovered at the edge of the Green, across from the demonstration.

Eight of the 12 banners compared the suffering of black Americans to the suffering of cattle, sheep, an elephant, a seal and a rooster. Other banners showed Native Americans exiled from their homes, children in a factory and men in a counter-demonstration against women’s rights.

A photo showing a concentration camp inmate with a number tattooed across his emaciated chest was juxtaposed against a shot of a monkey in a laboratory with a number branded across its chest.

"I have relatives who were in concentration camps," said Alex Reznikoff, 47, of Newtown. "I think this detracts from PETA’s message. It doesn’t make me think about animals at all."

Bad News Bears for PETA. Speaking of which, I'm getting hungry for a steak...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reactions of those in the article, well as your own reaction, smack of defensiveness.

But this is, unfortunately, to be expected. Basic truths -- that in time, will be universally recognized as such -- are always ridiculed at first. It is human nature to take comfort in the status quo and, in particular, for people to feel reassured by the existence of another person or creature lower on the totem pole than they: the "other." This is why some kids are picked on in school. This is why yeoman farmers showed even greater cruelty toward black people than plantation owners. Like the classic school bully, they needed to know that someone was lower on the rung than they.

But eventually, we will wise up to this age-old game we play and treat animals with the kindness and respect they deserve.

26 November, 2005 21:16  

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