PETA Suspends Its Slavery Exhibit

It took months before public pressure forced People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to end its “Holocaust On Your Plate” campaign, but less than a month after the debut of its “Are Animals the New Slaves?” campaign the animal rights group suspended the traveling exhibit.

PETA’s Dawn Carr told the Associated Press,

We’re not continuing right now while we evaluate. We’re reviewing feedback we’ve received — most of it overwhelmingly positive and some of it quite negative.

The NAACP and other civil rights groups vehemently objected to the comparison. NAACP spokesman John White told the Associated Press,

PETA operates by getting publicity any way they can. They’re comparing chickens to black people?

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, put it best when he told the Associated Press,

Black people in America have had quite enough of being compared to animals without PETA joining in.

PETA, of course, sees nothing at all amiss about the comparison. According to its web site,

Africans captured and forced into slavery were often compared to animals so as to somehow justify their treatment. They were called “brutes” and “beasts” because of the color of their skin. Their lives were considered expendable, and many died at the hands of their oppressors. The same oppressive mentality behind those actions leads to the slaughter of animals today.

Beatings, lynchings, burnings: These cruel acts happen today just as in the past, only the victims have changed. Cattle and horses are branded with hot irons to mark them as property; elephants used in circuses are captured from their homelands, then beaten with metal “bullhooks” and baseball bats. Cows, chickens, and pigs are strung upside-down before their throats are slit. Many animals are beaten, kicked, and spat upon by farm and slaughterhouse workers who view them as objects of scorn, not as frightened individuals.

Of course the most obvious implication of this nonsense is that African slaves who were being oppressed by the system of slavery were in turn themselves oppressors when it came to the animals they ate. Some slaves, for example, hunted to supplement their meager diet. In PETA’s view, these slaves were no better than those who laid legal claim on them as mere property.


PETA suspends controversial exhibit. Dionne Walker, Associated Press, August 17, 2005.

PETA Launches Campaign Comparing Animal Use to Slavery

Since it was so successful with its “Holocaust On Your Plate” campaign, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has followed that up with a traveling exhibit called “Are Animals the New Slaves?”

Note the oddity of the title — new slaves? Domestication of animals is believed to be about 12,000 years old. There’s nothing new about it — in fact, since animal domestication far predates any historical slavery, the exhibit would have been better called “Were Slaves the New Animals?”
Anyway, PETA special projects director Dawn Carr told WTOC-TV that,

The very same mindset in the mind today when we have animals in circuses, animals in factory farms that are beaten, branded, chained. These animals treasure their lives and want to live every bit as much as you or I do.

You can almost imagine some 19th century animal rights activist being asked if he could free a slave or a chicken which one he’d do, and having the activist reply that he’d free the chicken. Presumably, to Ingrid Newkirk, a rat is a pig is a dog is a slave.


Animal rights group showcases exhibit. Liz Flynn, WTOC TV, August 4, 2005.

PETA Gets Under Alaskan State Senator's Skin

In January, Alaskan State Rep. Bruce Wehyrauch let People for the Ethical Treatment get under his skin with their anti-salmon message.

In the wake of a study of Scottish farmed salmon that claimed high levels of PBCs and other toxins were found in the farmed fish, PETA urged people to avoid eating fish. In a press release, for example, PETA said,

While eating fish is dangerous for our health, it is always fatal for the fish. A study published last year by the Royal Society confirms what many marine biologists have been saying for years: Fish feel pain, just as all animals do. Fish raised in captivity are confined in crowded, unnatural conditions that cause stress, infection and parasites.

‘Now more than ever, eating fish is like playing Russian roulette with your health’, says PETA Europe Director Dawn Carr. ‘The best way to ensure that you and your family won’t get sick is to go vegetarian.’

This bit of nonsense angered Wehyrauch who apparently did not think PETA had done enough to distinguish between farmed and wild salmon. So, he asked Alaska’s attorney general to investigate whether or not the state would have a legal basis for suing PETA for disparaging salmon in general, which could potentially harm Alaska’s valuable salmon industry.

This seems to be an ongoing problem for Alaskan politicians who choose to follow animal rights nonsense with homegrown stupidity.

Alaskan State Attorney General Gregg Renkes told the Juneau Empire,

The governor’s looking for every opportunity to distinguish Alaska salmon from farmed salmon. We’ll try to see if there is an action that could be filed; it doesn’t jump right out at you.

Of course, there isn’t any action Alaska can take to prevent PETA from saying that people should avoid eating fish, and they come across as idiots for floating the idea that there might be — and, in the process, lend PETA’s views far more legitimacy and credence than they deserve.


PETA seafood ad vexes Wehyrauch. Masha Herbst, Juneau Empire, January 18, 2004.

PETA Distributes ‘Emergency Vegetarian Starter Kits’ at Borough Market’s Fish! Restaurant in Answer to Toxic Salmon Fears. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, January 9, 2004.

Yet Another Odd Art Exhibit Draws Activist's Ire

Here’s another bizarre example of what passes for art these days. “Artist” Damien Hirst was at the center of a controversy this summer over his latest piece, Amazing Revelations, which was displayed at the White Cube gallery in Hoxton, East London.

According to a Daily Telegraph story on the piece,

Amazing Revelations consists of hundreds of wings plucked from tropical butterflies and placed on a triangular canvas, prompting protests from animal rights groups.

. . .

A spokesman for Hirst, who is out of the country, refused to discuss where the butterflies came from or how they met their fate. Asked where he was, she said: “He’s not out there slaughtering butterflies.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Dawn Carr told the media that Hirst was a sadist. She told The Guardian,

One has to wonder if Hirst was the sort of demented child who would pull the wings off flies for fun. He certainly has become that sort of an adult. Butterfly wings are beautiful on a butterfly but tearing small creatures to bits is not art, it’s sadism.

According to The Guardian, Hirst made his name with “art” including “sawing up cows, pickling sheep and suspending sharks in tanks of formaldehyde . . .”


Hirst accused of sadism over butterfly collage. The Guardian, August 15, 2003.

Hirst breaks a butterfly’s wing to bring us art. Sally Pook, Daily Telegraph, August 15, 2003.

PETA Activist Arrested for Tossing Pie at Smithfield Foods Executive

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activist Charlie McKenzie, 24, was arrested on June 20 for throwing a pie in the face of Smithfield Foods Europe president Raoul Baxter.

Baxter had just begin giving a speech at the World Pork Congress when McKenzie jumped onto the stage yelling, “Meat pimp!” and then tossed the pie into Baxter’s face. McKenzie also unfurled a banner before she was escorted off stage and arrested.

Baxter told the crowd that, “It tastes nice, I can’t wait for lunch,” before cleaning himself off and proceeding with his speech.

McKenzie was later released after Baxter declined to make a complaint against her.

PETA’s Dawn Carr told the Daily Star (UK),

It may have taken Mr Baxter only moments to wipe the pie off his face but the mess of animal suffering, environmental destruction and lifethreatening disease that his company causes won’t disappear so easily.

We want people to stop and think about adopting a humane and healthy vegan diet.

Of course the speeches at the World Pork Congress show the sort of effect that PETA is having on curbing meat eating. Baxter’s speech was largely about how Smithfield has been successfully expanding into several international markets. A representative from Brazil later gave a speech detailing how pork production in that country had increased 116 percent from 1994 to 2002. Go veg? Apparently the other white meat still enjoys a wee bit more popularity.


It’s tofu at the top. The Daily Record (UK), June 21, 2003.

Protester evades security. Farmers Guardian (UK), June 27, 2003.

Splat! Meat Boss Is Left Pie Eyed. Sunday Mercury (UK), June 22, 2003.

It’s The Business; Veggie Might. Daily Star (UK), June 21, 2003.

Researchers: Fish Feel Pain

Earlier this year researcher James Rose published an analysis of the brains of fish that concluded fish do not feel pain. In April, however, a team of researchers from the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh published a study concluding that fish do feel pain. So who is right? Well, both are correct actually.

Not to be too Clintonian, but the debate over whether fish feel pain turns largely on the definition of “pain.”

The British researchers first anaesthetized fish and then subjected them to stimulation that would likely be perceived as painful in human beings. The researchers then watched how the fish responded to the stimulation.

Dr. Lynne Sneddon told the BBC,

We found 58 receptors located on the face and head of the trout that responded to at least one of the stimuli. Of these, 22 could be classified as nociceptors in that they responded to mechanical pressure and were stimulated when heated above 40 Celsius. Eighteen receptors also responded to chemical stimulation and can be defined as polymodal nociceptors.

The researchers also injected fish with bee venom or acetic acid and a control group with a saline solution. They found that the fish injected with the bee venom or acetic acid experienced behavioral changes. Again, the BBC quoted Dr. Sneddon as saying,

Fish demonstrated a ‘rocking’ motion, strikingly similar to the kind of motion seen in stressed higher vertebrates like mammals. The trout injected with the acid were also observed to rub their lips onto the gravel in their tank and on the tank walls. These do not appear to be reflex responses.

Animal rights organizations were quick to jump on this finding to support their cause. Dawn Carr of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told the BBC,

It’s shocking that people will still go fishing for fun. For every cruel thing people do, there is a compassionate alternative. There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors — we hope people would go hiking, camping, boating, any sort of sport that doesn’t involved animal suffering would be preferable.

But what about Rose’s conclusion that the brains of fish are incapable of feeling pain? Well, there is a wide gulf between whether or not fish are capable of responding to painful stimuli and whether they feel pain. Dr. Bruno Broughton, an adviser to the United Kingdom’s Angling Alliance, outlined the difference in the BBC,

I doubt that it will come as much of a shock to anglers to learn that fish have an elaborate system of sensory cells around their mouths . . . However, it is an entirely different matter to draw conclusions about the ability of fish to feel pain, a psychological experience for which they literally do not have the brains.

Animals which do not have some sort of ability to change their behavior in response to external stimuli would be quickly selected out in nature. But it does not follow from this that all animals subjectively feel pain in the way that humans and other complex animals do.

As Rose summed it up in his paper,

Pain is predicated on awareness. The key issue is the distinction between nociception and pain. A person who is anaesthetized in an operating theatre will still respond physically to an external stimulus, but he or she will not feel pain. Anyone who has seen a chicken with its head cut off will know that, while its body can respond to stimuli, it cannot be feeling pain.

So a lot of it comes down to whether “fish feel pain” means that fish are capable of complex behavioral changes after being exposed to stimuli that would be painful to humans, or if it is meant that fish actually experience the same sort of psychological states that human beings and other animals do in the presence of painful stimuli.


Fish do feel pain, scientists say. Alex Kirby, The BBC, April 30, 2003.

Fish ‘capable of experiencing pain’. New Scientist, April 30, 2003.