No Kooks at Animal Rights 2000

The Washington Post ran a story the other day about the Animal Rights 2000 National Conference taking place in Washington, DC. The conference brings together most of the national animal rights groups and up to 700 activists from around the world to attend 140 workshops on getting out the animal rights message.

One of the concerns of activists, apparently, is the way they’re portrayed in the media. The Post quoted Paul Shapiro of Compassion Over Killing complaining that:

The media is owned by many of the same interests that exploit and abuse animals. It’s hard when Neiman Marcus is a major sponsor of The Washington Post to get The Washington Post to cover our Neiman Marcus protests.

That’s a strange complaint since even small animal rights protests tend to receive rather extensive coverage in traditional news outlets. Perhaps more importantly, though, Shapiro lamented that once the media does show up the activists end up looking like a bunch of kooks in the accompanying coverage.

“It’s essential that we don’t make it easy for them [the media] to make it easy for them to make us look stupid,” Shapiro said. “We don’t need to make it seem like we’re just these kooky fanatics.”

Of course, The Post reports that Shapiro was immediately challenged by a woman with blue streaked hair complaining that the attempt to make animal rights activists seem less kooky is part of that whole patriarchal exploitative paradigm — “I think that we should consider that the disdain for people who don’t look like you comes from the same place as the disdain for animals . . . and the disdain for people of color . . . and the disdain for women.”

The Post records that Shapiro replied, “Well, I don’t touch on that issue at all, anyway, so it certainly wasn’t what I was implying.” Huh? I guess that’s Shapiro’s way of calling her a kook.

The bigger question, however, is where would the media possibly get the idea that animal rights activists are just a bunch of kooky fanatics? Consider, for example, anti-dairy activist Robert Cohen who at a workshop on “Getting Attention (Legally)” outlined a completely rational plan to protest Thanksgiving. He’s planning on building a 17-foot-high turkey and wheeling it to the White House sidewalk this Thanksgiving Day. Then,

We’re going to cut its throat. We want people to see what happens when Karo’s corn syrup with red food coloring comes oozing out of the turkey’s neck. We want this on national television.

No kookiness there.

Cohen also proposes arming activists with loud whistles to blow in the faces of scientists at laboratories, shoppers at super markets that sell meat, or women wearing inappropriate clothing.

Imagine 10 or a hundred or a thousand whistles outside the White House. We’re gonna break windows. Imagine a woman walking down the street with a fur coat. Anyone ever see ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’?

Now that he mentions it, the animal rights movement does come across as a bad B movie on some days.

Shapiro probably hated the latest paragraph of The Post story which described several AR 2000 attendees watching a Farm Sanctuary video of a truck filled with pigs headed to a slaughterhouse (apparently ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ was already rented). Watching the videotape, activist Jamie Cohen of Baltimore, MD, told the Post reporter, “I’m a Jew, and I grew up learning about the Holocaust. I mean this is a concentration camp — these pigs are going to Auschwitz, they’re going to get slaughtered.”

Shapiro is right, of course, that the media does make animal rights activists look like kooks, but the problem is that so many animal rights activists are kooks. Seriously comparing the slaughter of pigs with Auschwitz is the very embodiment of kookiness.


Meet-and-Potatoes. Ian Shapiro, The Washington Post, July 3, 2000.

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