PETA continues protests against the Weinermobile Tour

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has gained itself a lot
of attention by sponsoring on ongoing campaign against the Oscar Meyer
Weinermobile. The Weinermobile is a 27-foot long vehicle shaped like a
hot dog. Oscar Meyer sends it to different cities to promote its products
and audition kids for an upcoming ad campaign. And at almost all stops
it’s been met by animal rights protesters.

Carrying signs with slogans
like “Pigs are friends not food” and occasionally featuring
protesters in pig costumes (how appropriate), PETA recites its litany
about the supposed health risks of eating meat, the “torture”
that animals slaughtered for food are forced to undergo, and occasionally
attacks on Oscar Meyer for “exploiting” kids. Much of the rhetoric,
in fact, resembles the rhetoric used against the tobacco industry. As
PETA’s Bruce Friedrich put it, “The Weinermobile is the meat industry
version of Joe Camel enticing kids into a practice that may well kill
them later in life.”

A typical example of the heated
rhetoric was provided by Brenda Sloss, a director of the St. Louis Animal
Rights Team, who told reporters when the Weinermobile visited St. Louis,

They [kids] deserve to know the truth. The truth is Oscar Meyer is
in reality a dead pig that has gone through torture … Every time you
bite into a hot dog you are biting into pesticides, animal feces, ground-up
animal parts and antibiotics that have been pumped into the animals.

Friedrich seems to think that
the Weinermobile campaign is “raising awareness” and he’s probably
right — like PETA’s recent claim that milk is a racist drink, however,
the effect is probably to alert the public to just how extreme PETA’s
agenda is. As Claire Regan, manager of corporate communications for Oscar
Mayer put it,

Kids love it [the Weinermobile], and we do the auditions like Hollywood.
Hot dogs are fun food; they bring people together at cookouts, fairs
and ballparks. People are out there to have fun. What happens is that
parents get upset when activists yell at them. Parents don’t want someone
making their child feel guilty because they don’t believe in a vegetarian
diet, and they don’t want their kids yelled at. Parents feel they have
rights to choose how they live.

Well said.


What’s The Beef? St. Louis, August 1998.

Fund for Animals lectures Dalai Lama about peace

People with only a passing
familiarity with the Dalai Lama — the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner — might
assume the religious leader to be a vegetarian. In fact not only does
the Dalai Lama eat meat, but recently he has told reporters he approves
of some medical experiments on animals. Sounds a lot like the animal welfare
position espoused by this site.

Well, of course, it annoys
animal rights activists to no end to have the world’s best known preacher
of peace not in their camp. On August 5, 1998 The Fund for Animals released
a letter it sent to the Dalai Lama urging him to issue a statement affirming that
“Buddhism’s compassionate opposition to all forms of animal abuse,
including the genetic manipulation of living beings and the use of animals
in scientific research.”

According to the letter, authored
by The Fund for Animals coordinator Norm Phelps, “By refusing to
make your [the Dalai Lama’s] body a coffin for slaughtered animals, you
can only enhance your work for world peace.” The letter does not explain how going vegetarian will convince the Chinese to withdraw from

No word yet on what the Dalai
Lama thought of the letter. Could it be that the Dalai Lama values the
life of a breast cancer victim over the life of a lab rat?


Animal advocates tell Dalai Lama that ‘peace begins in the kitchen. The Fund for Animals, Press Release, August 5, 1998.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Commends Chinatown Merchants

A few weeks go, I reported
on animal rights activists who took Chinatown merchants to court to stop
live animal sales in local markets. Activists have been trying for years
to shut down the sale of live animals in Chinatown, but once again met
with defeat as a judge ruled that people have a right to sell live animals
for food. The merchants separately agreed to work with a local humane
society to monitor treatment of the animals.

At its August 10 meeting the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors took a swipe at animal rights activists
by interrupting their regular meeting to present the Chinatown merchants
with a commendation. Being that it’s an election year, the supervisors
scrambled to get their pictures taken with the merchants.


Board action spurns animal rights activists. Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Examiner, August 11, 1998.

Is Target training kids to kill?

A few weeks ago I mentioned
an animal rights group angry at the electronics chain Best Buy for selling
a series of Hunting-related computer games. Now Last Chance for Animals has put up a web site called TargetTeachesKids2Kill.Com attacking Target
for stocking similar software.

These games such as Deer Hunter, Big Game Hunter and Sportsman’s Paradise typically put the player in a first person view of a woods with the objective
being to track down and kill an animal such as a deer or bear. The games
tend to feature photo-realistic graphics (often incorporating digitized
video) and have proven extremely popular. Deer Hunter was
the number one selling computer game in the country for many weeks, which
is why Target and other stores stock them — their customers want to buy

Last Chance for Animals objects
to the software claiming, “All of these programs teach computer users,
kids and adults alike, how to hunt and kill real animals.” Yes, of
course. And cookbook and recipe software, commonly available in the discount
bins at such stores, also teach both kids and adults how to cook and
eat dead animals. Should those be banned too? Will Last Chance for Animals
soon register a domain like TargetTeachesKids2EatMeat.Com?

Last Chance for Animals goes
beyond these claims to include charges that playing these games can contribute
to everything from school shootings to gang violence, of course without
providing any concrete evidence of any sort of causal connection. Their
view is summed up by a quote the group includes from a Kenneth Stoller,

How easy would it be for your children, or children you know, to commit
an act of violence against another living creature if any authority
asked them? Playing “Duck Hunt” (aka “Kill Ducks”)
on Nintendo that your parents gave you … is not that far removed from
bashing in the heads of helpless [animals] with your parents or scout
leader egging you on.

Huh? I’d say the two situations
differ vastly in both content and context. This is just a variation on
the nonsensical idea that eating meat isn’t that far removed from cannibalism
and animal experimentation is equivalent to torture. Somebody really needs
to wean these animal rights types from their arguments by analogy.

Fortunately Target doesn’t
seem likely to stop selling these computer games. Last Chance For Animals
wrote Bob Ulrich, the chairman of Target’s board of directors, but received
a reply from Target Guest Relations to the effect that it’s up to Target’s
customers — not Last Chance for Animals — to decide whether or
not to buy a hunting game. Three cheers for Target.


Public Alert. Press Release, Last Chance For Animals, undated.

Lycos and EnviroLink have a parting of the ways

On May 14, 1998, the Internet
search engine/portal Lycos entered into an agreement with EnviroLink,
which among other things hosts web sites for extremist animal rights groups,
to send Lycos users searching for information on the environment to EnviroLink’s
web site. On August 10 Lycos summarily, and apparently without prior notice,
severed its ties to EnviroLink. What happened between May 14 and August
10? Norm Lenhart happened.

Lenhart, senior editor for
the online racing enthusiast magazine Off-Road.Com, wrote a lengthy scathing
article for the August issue pointing out that EnviroLink hosts everything
from a web site for the terrorist group, Animal Liberation Front, including
information on how to firebomb stores and build bombs, to the bizarre
Church of Euthanasia with its slogan, “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself.”
Lenhart’s article was a tour de force and one of the best anti-animal
rights pieces I’ve seen on the web (hey, he even quoted from an article
on this site). Lenhart accomplished this by simply quoting extended passages
directly from EnviroLink’s site and saying, in effect, to Lycos, “Do
you really want to be supporting this?”

Then on Thursday, August 13,
an email was posted to a mailing list run by animal rights terrorist supporters
“No Compromise” claiming that because of Off-Road.Com’s article,
Lycos was terminating its contract with EnviroLink. The “No Compromise”
email said EnviroLink’s supporters should start a letter writing campaign
to Lycos to get them to reverse their decision. The email also called
for a fund raising effort to help prop up EnviroLink, claiming that without
the Lycos sponsorship EnviroLink would only have “funds for two months
of operation. This will mean no more hosting of Animal Rights organizations,
both national and grassroots (including No Compromise, the ALF Info Site
and others), as well as e-mail lists.”

Not that all the money should
be spent on keeping EnviroLink afloat. The email also called for raising
money to help fund a libel lawsuit against Off-Road.Com for its article.

In an article on the controversy
for News.Com, reporter Janet Kornblum’s interviews with the players involved
tended to raise more questions than they answered.

Lycos attorney Jeffrey Snider
confirmed that Lycos indeed severed its relationship with EnviroLink but
claimed the Off-Road.Com article played no part in that decision — well,
sort of. Snider told Kornblum, “They [Off-Road.Com] made a complaint
and asked that the site be taken down and the site was taken down. The
fact that the two occurred at the same time was coincidental.”

A fundamental disagreement

So if it wasn’t Off-Road.Com’s
expose and complaint that led to the break, what was the cause? Snider,
like a good lawyer, would only say “there is a fundamental disagreement
about the intent of the contract” between Lycos and EnviroLink but
wouldn’t go into any further detail claiming “the contract is confidential.”

Josh Knauer, executive director
of EnviroLink, maintained that his company “complied in all material
respect to this contract and EnviroLink performed as was mandated in the
contract.” Knauer seems to take Snider’s comments about there being
no link between the termination of the contract and the Off-Road.Com article
with a grain of salt, telling Kornblum, “Basically I’m still not
ready to say why Lycos dumped us, but there certainly seem some events
occurring that have to be more than coincidental.”

Lycos lawyer Snider only added
to such suspicions when he told Kornblum that, although it had nothing
to do with Lycos’ decision, the Off-Road.Com article “pointed out
to us some things about certain sites being served up under the EnviroLink
domain that we didn’t know about and we felt were misleading to our users.
We will admit that it’s misleading to our users to have those kinds of
sites available [under a button that says] ‘save the planet.'”

Whatever the cause of the
break, Knauer confirms that without the money it was expecting from the
Lycos deal, EnviroLink faces serious financial difficulties. “This
agreement with Lycos was a major, major, major source of our funding for
this year,” he told News.Com. “We need to look toward other
corporations that have the backbone to stand up and have free speech and
free expression heard on the Internet.”

So what’s really going on here?

Reading between the lines,
here’s my take on the situation (note, this is completely my speculation
— I have absolutely no inside knowledge of any of these events).

It seems clear from Snider’s
comments that Lycos took the unbelievable step of signing a contract with
EnviroLink without being aware of the sort of sites EnviroLink hosts.
This is simply an incredible position for a company like Lycos to put
itself in. It’s not like EnviroLink tried to hide the ALF Information
Site or the Church of Euthanasia — spend more than a few minutes surfing
its site and you’ll run smack dab into content like this. That Lycos would
enter into a contract without thoroughly evaluating EnviroLink shows just
how fast and loose deals are being struck on the Internet.

Snider’s remarks are also
more interesting for what they don’t say. Specifically Snider never
comes out and denies that Lycos dropped EnviroLink because of EnviroLink’s
content. Once this is apparent, the idea that Off-Road.Com’s article wasn’t
the main cause of the decision to terminate the content doesn’t necessarily
seem improbable. Here’s what I think happened. Lycos didn’t have a complete
idea of what was on EnviroLink’s site. But as they began receiving news
feeds and checking out the content since the signing of a contract in
May, Lycos became more aware, and probably deeply concerned, about the
sort of content they were seeing.

A decision to drop EnviroLink
was probably already in the works when Off-Road.Com dropped its bombshell,
probably pushing Lycos finally into making its abrupt decision. That the
problem was content and not some other issue, say technical issues, can
also be seen in the sudden and unannounced way Lycos ended its contract.
According to Knauer Lycos gave absolutely no warning before hand — EnviroLink
workers just came in one day and found they could no longer upload information
to Lycos.

So why the tight lip from
Lycos? Why all the secrecy? Again, Snider is earning his money. Forget
the silly idea of a libel suit against Off-Road.Com — a much more likely
scenario is a breach of contract suit filed by EnviroLink against Lycos. If the break is indeed over content issues, Lycos might face legal trouble.
It may not have known about the sites EnviroLink hosts, but that’s hardly
EnviroLink’s fault assuming EnviroLink did indeed meet the material requirements
of its contract as Knauer claimed. Certainly a press release announcing
the deal and posted on Lycos’ site in May indicates that Lycos believed
it had all of the information it need to praise EnviroLink as the preeminent
environmental site on the Internet. I don’t see how Lycos could claim
EnviroLink misled them, but that appears to be what Snider might be hinting
at — that Lycos paid for mainstream environmental content only to learn
that EnviroLink is overly represented by radical and extremist groups.

Animal Rights Hypocrisy and Nonsense

Finally, lets not leave this
whole affair without commenting on the wholesale hypocrisy of EnviroLink
and No Compromise on this affair.

First there’s the threat of
a libel lawsuit against Off-Road.Com raised in the “No Compromise”
email. This is highly ironic given that one of the issues environmentalist
and animal rights activists have expressed support for is the so-called
McLibel case in the United Kingdom. McDonald’s sued two activists, Helen
Steel and Dave Morris, for libel for distributing a fact sheet titled
“What’s Wrong With McDonald’s?” The fact sheet accused McDonald’s
of a variety of wrongdoings. After a three-year trial — the longest of
any British trial in history — the two were convicted and fined $90,000.
The animal rights community criticized this abuse of the law.

So what do they do when somebody
criticizes their sacred cows? Turn around and suggest a libel suit against
those who exercise their rights to free expression, proving themselves
no better than the “evil corporations” they hate so much (the
Off-Road.Com article, by the way, doesn’t even come close to meeting the
U.S. legal definition of libel – such a lawsuit would almost certainly
be thrown out as frivolous.)

Second, EnviroLink director
Knauer’s plea for corporate sponsors is highly amusing in a pathetic sort
of way. Both the sites EnviroLink hosts as well as the content it features
directly from its home page regularly denounce “corporate domination”
and often any sort of market capitalism as representative of an unjust
social order. So what does EnviroLink do to support itself? It runs to
these very same corporations its web sites denounce for whatever funding
it can get. Apparently there is no need for these people to believe they
have to be consistent in their views and actions.

Which puts Knauer’s implication
that Lycos doesn’t have the “backbone to stand up and have free speech
and free expression on the Internet” into perspective. Certainly
EnviroLink has the right, protected by the US Constitution and the laws
of other enlightened nations, to say whatever it wants and avoid being
censored — that would and should be illegal. In fact even though it has
apparently lost its funding from Lycos, the EnviroLink site is still up
and available to the hundreds of thousands of people who view it.

But does supporting free expression
mean that Lycos and others are obligated to contribute to organizations
dedicated to destroying the very foundations upon which they are built?
If an AIDS victim refuses to give money or buy products from EnviroLink
because it hosts groups that oppose animal testing even to find a cure
for HIV, is she preventing EnviroLink from exercising its rights to free
expression? Of course not.

In fact by ending its relationship
with EnviroLink, Lycos is exercising another fundamental right — the
right of free association. Lycos would not (I hope) partner with a Holocaust
revisionist site to provide its users with information on World War II.
It would not (again, I hope) partner with Sinn Fein to provide its users
with information about Ireland (for those unaware, Sinn Fein is the political
arm of the Irish Republican Army). Similarly Lycos should be applauded
for exercising its right of free association to avoid partnering with
a site that includes among its offerings, instruction on how to commit
acts of terrorism against medical researchers trying to find treatments
for diseases and conditions that continue to debilitate and kill many
human beings.


Action Alert. No Compromise, Press Release, August 13, 1998.

Lycos ends environment site alliance. Janet Kornblu, CNET News, August 14, 1998.

Lycos to feature Envirolink, the premier environmental site on the Internet. Lycos/Envirolink, Press Release, May 14, 1998.

McLibel two convicted. Environmental News Service, June 19, 1997.

Scientists need to better educate the public

Dr. Leroy E. Hood, a genetics researcher
at the University of Washington at Seattle, told a gathering of genetics
researchers that they need to spend more of their time educating the public
on the benefits and ethical challenges of science.

Hood told the researchers gathered
for the Short Course on Experimental and Mammalian Genetics that the coming
years will bring major advances that could potentially revolutionize medical
treatment. At the same time change is coming at such a breakneck pace
that the public is falling further behind and is occasionally caught up in
distorted images about genetics research.

“Scientists say they’re
too busy with their own research and teaching,” Hood told the researchers,
“Well, everyone is busy. It’s a matter of priorities. A scientifically
literate public is important to many areas of research, including getting
it funded.”

Hood’s comments couldn’t
come a moment too soon. Already movements on either side of the Atlantic
are gearing up to protest and perhaps outlaw much of the results of genetic
engineering altogether. Greenpeace and others lead protests against genetically
altered plants while animal rights groups protest and occasionally destroy
research into promising areas of Xenotransplantation (transplanting animal
cells into human beings). If scientists don’t wake up and meet these
challenges head on, the issue might not be whether or not they can get
funded but whether or not they can legally continue to do their important


Scientists urged to help public understand science. Michael Woods, Toledo Blade, July 30, 1998.