Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Am an Animal

I've said that to people. Some had already come to that conclusion on their own. A lot of other people need to be reminded they are animals. They think they're something special because they made a God in their image, or have a written language, or have learned how to destroy the world.

But in this case, "I Am an Animal" is the title of a documentary about Ingrid Newkirk and PeTA (and what is with that small e, anyway?) which is now on DVD. It begins with her reading some of the obscene hate mail she receives, then moves on to some infuriating talking heads such as Barbara Walters saying something along the line of how she likes to be kind, but life would be so difficult if you lived according to what PeTA wants. Poor Baba Wawa. Most of the rest of the film covers Newkirk's life and opinions, a Butterball undercover operation, and other animal rights groups opinions of PeTA. There were a few horrifying images, nice moments, and teary eyes along the way.

Despite agreeing with almost everything Newkirk says in the film and not being at all offended by their controversial tactics, I'm not a PeTA member. I once bought some t-shirts from their website and returned them when they arrived with big PeTA logos on them which weren't shown in the photos. I'm more interested in ideas and values than in endorsing any group.

But when people from other animal rights groups condemn PeTA's tactics in the film, I think they're either kidding themselves or just want a bigger share of the money pool. It doesn't matter if people are offended by PeTA's actions and uncomfortable truths. Wearing a fancy suit in a boardroom and being oh so kiss-assy doesn't matter either. The world hadn't become animal-friendly in the centuries before PeTA began, it's not animal-friendly now, and it wouldn't be animal-friendly even if PeTA had never existed. It's the idea that animals matter which infuriates people.

It boils down to whether you think change comes voluntarily from within the system or because the system is being pushed and pulled by those on the extremes. I think history shows that hard changes require hard actions, usually with violence and blood and death. Those in power don't give it up willingly. The actions of PeTA or even more extreme animal and environmental groups have been very peaceful from that historical hard truth. I don't have the personality to do the confrontational and attention-getting things PeTA activists do, or the strength to go undercover in a slaughterhouse for months to film abuse, but I applaud those who do.


Stephanie said...

Well put. I go back and forth with how I feel about PETA. They've done some things (and continue to do some things) that I see as absolutely counterproductive to getting people to stop eating animals, but they are also a vast source of easily accessible, quite visible information for people who want to learn--or people who want to make others learn--and they sometimes take on issues that virtually no one else will.

Lisa J. said...

It's the idea that animals matter which infuriates people.
I think this is the greatest truth I have heard on the issue all month.

The idea that people are animals is just offensive to many people, something which I don't understand. THey'll argue vehemently about why people aren't animals, and yet, I don't think we're vegetables or minerals, are we? Just because, like you said, man created a god in his own image, we think we are above the animal kingdom. It's sad. I just feel sorry for those people who are just kidding themselves about the true order of the world.

As for PeTA... well... I applaud the fact that they get people's attention. I'd rather hear someone say "those PeTA people will have something to say about this" than have everyone ignore the issues altogether. Like Stephanie said, the visibility of PeTA is it's greatest asset. I don't belong to PeTA either, but sometimes I smile when people "accuse" me of being in PeTA just because I'm vegan.