As Easter gets closer, many
newspapers and news services are covering People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals‘ “Jesus Was a Vegetarian”
campaign. PETA has been paying for billboards around the country proclaiming
“Jesus Was A Vegetarian” and garnering lots of controversy.
In addition PETA has sent letters seeking the support of Christian evangelists
including Jerry Falwell; no word on whether PETA might interest Falwell
in a “Tinky Winky Was a Vegetarian” campaign.
Thankfully there’s been a
lot of good comments coming from religious authorities. Sister Sylvia
Schmidt, executive director of the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, told the
Daily Oklahoman that “dumping guilt on people about eating or not
eating meat is not what Jesus is all about.”
Several people have attacked
the theological and historical claims of PETA’s Bruce Friedrich, who is
directing the campaign. One might sum up the consensus by saying “Bruce
Friedrich Isn’t a Historian.”
As Dave Henry, editorial page
writer for the Amarillo Globe-News, pointed out, one doesn’t have to be
a biblical scholar to read several positive references to fishing in the
New Testament. Friedrich apparently believes these are later interpolations
into the text. Similarly, the PETA web site on the matter claims the narrative
describing Jesus multiplying fish was a later interpolation by Greek scribes.
Without going into a long debate about Biblical scholarship, it should
be pointed out that this sort of textual criticism opens the New Testament
open to a lot more challenges than simply Jesus’ dietary habits.
PETA also makes a lot of hay
over the fact that Jesus is described eating on several occasions, including
the Last Supper which, by tradition, would have included lamb – and yet
the New Testament doesn’t give us complete menus for these meals. Which
is hardly remarkable – although I eat meat, I don’t always relate what
I have at every dinner in letters to friends. I would be especially loathe
to do so if I had to painstakingly transcribe by hand such menus
as the original authors and their copyists had to do with the New Testament.
L. Michael White, professor
of classics and director of religious studies at the University of Texas
at Austin, summed up the PETA’s campaign rather succinctly: “This
is just another cause making bad use of Scripture. I’d say to them: You
can’t make the Bible do that.”
“Jesus was a vegetarian” ad makes critics cross. Reuters, March 4, 1999.
Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals‘ Bruce Friedrich posted a bizarre appeal on behalf
of convicted arsonist and animal rights activist Frank Allen. It seems
Allen and his family are unhappy with the way prison official are treating
Among the laundry list of complaints
presented in Friedrich’s email is that Allen is “receiving an incorrect
dosage of insulin” to treat his Diabetes.
Insulin? Insulin treatment for
diabetes was developed through animal experimentation and for decades
diabetics avoided health problems and premature death by using insulin
derived primarily from pigs (insulin derived from humans is now available).
As Michael Bliss, author of The
Discovery of Insulin, sums up the role of animal experiments in diabetes
The discovery of insulin in the early 1920s stands as
one of the outstanding examples in medical history of the successful use
of animal experimentation to improve the human condition. Insulin would
not have been isolated, at Toronto or anywhere else, without the sacrifice
of thousands of dogs. These dogs made it possible for millions of humans
Allen wants and Friederich supports
access to a medical technology developed with techniques that both men
are committed to abolishing.
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.
What’s The Beef? St. Louis, August 1998.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made headlines recently after sending Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson a letter asking him to change the state’s official beverage from milk to something “more healthful and humane” such as soy “milk.” PETA’s letter was filled with the typical animal rights nonsense about milk — that it’s “liquid meat” that causes everything from heart disease to cancer to osteoporosis. As PETA’s Bruce Friedrich summed it up, “If the milk industry did not spendso much money promoting milk, it would be listed as a health risk.”
Pretty standard fare for PETA except that beyond its alleged health risks, PETA Chairman Alex Pacheco claimed that Wisconsin’s selection of milk as its state beverage might also be racist. See if you can follow the logic here.
Some members of minority groups are to one degree or another lactose intolerant — most mildly so. Therefore choosing milk as a state beverage is racist or as Pacheco put it, “a white choice in more ways than one.”
It is because of proclamations like this that Wisconsin Farm Bureau spokesman Tom Thieding pretty accurately describes PETA’s predicament. “I think they overplay their hand,” Thieding told Scripps Howard. “I don’t think the general public takes them seriously, especially when they do things like this and shout down children at Oscar Mayer events [PETA has been sponsoring protests of Oscar Mayer’s Weinermobile].”
“Animal-rights group PETA attacks milk as ‘liquid meat'” – Amy Rinard, Scripps Howard, July 23, 1998.