I know a lot of people don’t like PETA. They think the organization goes way overboard, that it doesn’t understand the supposed “natural” cycle of life and the food chain, that it sensationalizes terrible things to make its points.
They think PETA _ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals _ tries to “elevate” animals to the status of humans. That it’s an organization living in a fantasy world where Bambi and Thumper and Flower really talk to each other in the forest. I know very well all the gripes. And there are a few times when I see one of their campaigns and worry it will inspire more ridicule than call to action.
But ultimately, I am a strong supporter and believer in the organization because it’s going against such a colossal tide of resistance that ranges from hateful contempt to just-as-damaging apathy. Sometimes slapping people in the face is the only way to get their attention. Sure, they might then keep resisting – but they were already doing that. Or they might say, “OK, I’m going to really force myself to think about this.”
And so I commend former Tennessee player Candace Parker, now a standout with the Los Angeles Sparks, for the anti-fur spot she filmed for PETA. I need to say there are some disturbing images in this video. But the reason is to convey the reality. These horrible practices exist in large part because most people really don’t know about them and don’t want to face the reality. Thus, the need to get you to truly see it.
Yes, I realize that there are many human beings treated horrifically every day: kept in forms of indentured servitude or flat-out slavery, often sexual (particularly women and children). Poverty, disease, lack of education and overpopulation all conspire to make life on Earth a miserable existence for so many.
Thus some will say, “Why do you worry about animals when people suffer so much?” To which I say, “Why would you think the two causes are mutually exclusive?”
In both cases, we’re talking about the suffering and abuse of the voiceless and powerless, and the responsibility those of us who are so fortunate _ who possess autonomy, a voice, power and the ultimate gift of mercy _ have to help all living creatures however we can.
I became a vegetarian 20 years ago – Nov. 11, 1989 is my anniversary – and have fought to stay on the vegan trail the last seven years. I don’t always keep to it; chocolate being one of my biggest demons. But I do the best I can. And that’s something all of us can do.
The last thing I’m trying to do is be preachy. I just want to encourage. It’s very hard to get all the leather out of your life, to avoid every product that uses or tests on animals, to attempt to live completely cruelty-free. I know the feelings of guilt about falling short in that, believe me. But the point shouldn’t really be about guilt. It should be about saying, “What realistic changes can I make to my life to avoid contributing to the cruelty toward animals?”
The key word being “realistic.”
If you already are or decide to go vegetarian/vegan, thank you, thank you, thank you.
But I know most people simply are not up for removing meat from their diets. So at least consider where you buy your meat, and what the conditions are like of the animals who are slaughtered to provide it. Find local co-ops that may guarantee free-range animals fed vegetarian diets and kept in sanitary conditions. Will it cost more? Yes, so those are not decisions that everyone will feel they can make, at least not all the time. Again, just consider what you can and can’t afford to change.
Skip fast food whenever possible. It’s an utter blight on our society – not just for what it’s done to animals, but for what it’s done to us, health-wise.
Volunteer time and/or funds to your local Humane Society or other animal shelters. If you want a pet, go there. If you know someone who hasn’t had their pet spayed or neutered, please gently but firmly explain to them how critical it is to cut down on the pet population.
Check the backs of all products to see if they are listed as cruelty-free. If you’re not sure or don’t know if you should believe them, go to PETA’s website or others who monitor companies’ track records in regard to this.
We can’t remove all the cruelty against people and animals in life. But if this stirs your heart at all, realize you can do something – and every choice you make to avoid cruelty is contributing to a better world. Candace Parker made such a choice by taking time to educate herself on the subject and film this video, and for that, I sincerely thank her.