PETA Set to Distribute "Unhappy Meals"

    Just when it looked like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals couldn’t possibly go any lower on the poor taste meter, along comes its announcement that if McDonald’s doesn’t give in to PETA’s demands, the group will begin distributing “Unhappy Meals” to children at McDonald’s restaurants in at least 40 U.S. cities.

    What’s an “Unhappy Meal”? It’s a mock-up of McDonald’s Happy meal with a horror movie-style twist. The outside of the box features Ronald McDonald holding a bloody butcher knife. Inside the box are toy animals with severed limbs and heads, according to PETA.

PETA wants McDonald’s to agree to stop buying eggs and pork from U.S. companies who confine chickens in small wire cages and pigs in stalls. PETA also wants McDonald’s to refuse to buy from producers who remove the beaks from hens to keep them from pecking each other.

    If McDonald’s doesn’t agree to do so, PETA has threatened to start passing out the “Unhappy Meals” in restaurants and schools.

    When asked about the threat, McDonald’s spokesman Walt Riker told Reuters, “The only letter PETA should be writing is a letter of apology to all the parents and families who have been sickened by PETA’s blood and gore ‘Unhappy meal’ assault on kids.”

    As a parent who regularly takes his daughter to McDonald’s, the thought that some activist might approach my daughter and hand her this sort of thing is sickening. One of the obvious likely outcomes if PETA follows through on this is that some parent is going to show is lack of appreciation for handing his or her child an “Unhappy Meal” with dismembered toy animals by assaulting an activist.

    The next obvious outcome would be a flurry of lawsuits against PETA for causing emotional distress to children. If it wasn’t for the fact that this involves children, that might be amusing to watch, but it’s hard enough to shield children from the onslaught of violent and gory images in pop culture without PETA taking it upon themselves to expose children to violent images.

    This latest bizarre public stunt is typical of the animal rights movement — it has completely failed to convert people to the animal rights position, so the only thing left open are attempts to manipulate people’s emotions (which in PETA’s case, typically backfire) or outright terrorism and property destruction.

Note: If any reader out there ends up with or knows someone who ends up with one of these ‘Unhappy Meals’ I will make you a nice cash offer for one. Just e-mail me at [email protected].

Sources:

Animal Rights group press McDonald’s for change. Anna Driver, Reuters, June 27, 2000.

Will Kids Find Happy Meals Hard to Stomach After PETA’s “Big Mac Attack”?. PETA press release, May 9, 2000.

Secret Speech Is Free Speech

For the past several months issues of privacy, especially when it comes to the Internet, have popped up repeatedly in the news. Double Click got spanked by the media and consumers because it wanted to track in detail how people surfed the web. A government anti-drug site recently made news because it was using browser cookies to track users, which embarrassed the Clinton administration because it has been on the forefront of attacking private companies over Internet privacy.

With all of this emphasis on privacy and the right of people to be free of agencies and companies tracking their every move, you’d think the usual suspects would have been crying to the heavens when the Senate passed a bill last week taking away the right to privacy for some forms of political speech. Instead, the bill to force political-action committees incorporated under section 527 of the federal tax code to reveal their donors was heralded as a giant step forward.

This is hardly a scientific survey, but a lot of the anti-secret political speech advocates probably agree with the sentiments expressed in a recent Christian Science Monitor editorial applauding the passage of the bill:

The question is whether the public has a right to know where the groups’ money is coming from. Since there is no essential activity in a democracy than fair and open elections, the answer, obviously, is yes. And despite constitutional arguments lobbed by some critics of reform, disclosure has no bearing on individuals’ rights to participate in the political process. Participation and openness about that participation should be inseparable. [Italics mine]

That last sentence is worth repeating: participation and openness about that participation should be inseparable. If someone wants to be anonymous, he or she should, according to the Christian Science Monitor, simply butt out of politics. This is a bizarre view that is completely at odds with the First Amendment.

There is no addendum to the First Amendment that says speech is only free to the extent that it is not anonymous. In fact, many of the crafters of the Constitution wrote anonymously or pseudonymously, the classic case being that of the Federalist Papers, but there was a ton of material published in Colonial America and then prior to the Constitution’s ratification that was done without identifying its origin.

It isn’t too hard to think of many instances in which writers and donors might not want their identity revealed. It wasn’t too long ago, in fact, when southern anti-integration activists tried to force the NAACP and other civil rights groups to disclose all of their contributors. Suppose the National Organization for Women sets up a PAC to attack George Bush’s record on abortion. Does the Christian Science Monitor really want to say that all contributors must be disclosed? Obviously if this is the case a lot of people such as abortion doctors, fearful of being targeted by anti-abortion extremists, might be severely deterred from contributing.

And if, in fact, the Monitor is serious that all participation in politics should require full disclosure of the persons involved, Americans can forget any idea about privacy on the Internet. A group of judges in Pennsylvania are suing an Internet site using the Monitor’s very reasoning. The site has a discussion area which allows people to post anonymously, and some of those anonymous posts criticized Pennsylvania judges. Pennsylvania has a law that forbids judges to engage in partisan activities, and the judges want the names of the posters revealed to see if any of the anonymous individuals are in fact judges.

The American Civil Liberties Union is defending the web site using a defense that would make the Monitor cringe — ACLU attorney Susan Yohe is arguing that removing the right to anonymous speech would have a chilling effect on free speech. This is also precisely what the Senate’s bill removing anonymity for donors to certain non-profit groups will do — chill political speech and reduce the range of voices and positions heard. In its editorial the Monitor claimed the bill was “a credible start” to campaign finance reform, but rather it’s a continuation of the constant cheeping away of Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Sources:

Money With a Name on It. The Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 2000.

Web site criticism draws legal complaint. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 30, 2000.

Worldwatch: Forget Starvation, There Are Too Many Fat People

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry on this one. For at least three decades, groups such as WorldWatch repeated the familiar mantra: there are too many people chasing too little food, and eventually starvation will be right around the corner. Unfortunately for WorldWatch, even they can’t simply ignore the data, so recently the group issued a report noting that for the first time in human history there are more fat people than there are hungry people.

Why? Ironically because of something that WorldWatch said was all but impossible — incomes levels around the world are exploding. On the one hand, this means fewer hungry people; today 1.1 billion people are classified as “underfed” which is a large number of people, to be sure, but actually represents a significant decline in the number of hungry people as a percentage of the total world population. On the other hand, today there are many more people and they are much better off than at any time in history. As a result even in countries that still lag the developed world, people are able to afford to eat enough calories to become overweight.

Latin America, for example, held its first Conference on Healthy Weight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil is a good example of a country that “experts” once thought was doomed because it was extremely poor and extremely populous. Today, however, conditions have improved so much in Brazil that 6 percent of the men and 13.3 percent of the women are classified as obese according to the Brazilian Association for the Study of Obesity. The figure for women is especially stunning given the propensity in many developing nations for resources to be disproportionately controlled by men.

Brazilians have much the same “problem” that Americans have — as their income level rises they tend to eat more fast food.

So are the folks at WorldWatch dancing in the streets to the knowledge that the famine and starvation they predicted never happened and that, in fact, people in the developing world are becoming so wealthy that they’re eating too much? No, of course they’re as dour and concerned as ever. According to a WorldWatch’s Gary Gardner,

The hungry and the overweight share high levels of sickness and disability, shortened life expectancies, and lower levels of productivity — each of which is a drag on a country’s development.

In fact, if anything the world has lost ground. As WorldWatch puts it, “Meanwhile, the population of overweight people has expanded rapidly in recent decades, more than offsetting the health gains from the modest decline in hunger.” Got that? We’re no better off today than we were 20 years ago when far more people were suffering from hunger.

There’s just no satisfying the doomsayers.

Sources:

Worldwatch Paper 150. Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition. Gary Gardner and Brian Halwell. Worldwatch Institute, September 1999.

Obesity rising in Latin America. The Associated Press, July 1, 2000.

False Accusations of Rape: Follow the Evidence, Not the Ideology

Traditional feminists often argue that law enforcement agencies still don’t take rape accusations seriously, but I’d argue the pendulum has swung too far the other way today — law enforcement agencies tend to be not skeptical enough these days because they fear appearing politically incorrect. Such was certainly the case in King County where prosecutors were recently forced to drop rape and assault charges against a ferry captain.

A woman, whose name newspapers still won’t publish even though she clearly lied about her alleged rape, claimed the ferry captain attacked her with a knife and sure enough she had requisite wounds on her shoulders. Police should have been a bit more suspicious, though, when the alleged victim told them that she bled profusely for more than 30 minutes in the suspect’s truck, but they found not traces of her blood in the truck.

How could that happen? That’s simple — the “knife wounds” were the result of any stabbing, but rather of a surgical process. The woman went to a medical center and had incisions on her shoulders to relieve abscesses which left the “knife wounds.” The prosecutors should have been able to tell the difference between surgical incisions and a stabbing wound from a knife, but apparently were in such a rush to convict the ferry captain that they didn’t bother to pay close attention (and moreover, refused to promptly release anything but Polaroid shots of the alleged victims wounds to the defense).

It goes without saying that the automatic suspicion and derision that many rape victims used to endure was wrong, but so is the current tendency to assume, as the feminist extremists tell us, that women never lie about rape and that every rape accusation should be practically treated as proof enough of a man’s guilt. Let the evidence speak rather than ideological pre-suppositions about men and women.

Source:

Rape case falls apart: skipper may be released. Tracy Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligence Reporter, June 7, 2000.

What Ever Happened to the Mad Cow Disease Epidemic?

    Several years ago, before I had much of an interest in animal rights, I happened to attend a speech by the Humane Society of the United States’ Howard Lyman where he gave his ridiculous spiel about Mad Cow disease. I don’t remember the exact quote, but Lyman went on about how Mad Cow disease might turn into a human epidemic that would vastly outstrip HIV as an epidemic.

    In fact the latest available statistics reveal what many skeptics long suspected — so far there is absolutely no evidence of any epidemic of the human analogue to Mad Cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

    In fact given all the hoopla over Mad Cow disease in the media, it is suprising to see just how few people die from CJD. In Great Britain, which had a massive outbreak of mad cow in that nation’s cattle during the 1980s, an average of 12 people a year die from CJD. Even assuming that every single case of CJD was caused by eating beef (and there is yet no convincing evidence to finally establish the CJD/Mad Cow link), that would make eating beef from Great Britain far safer than walking up or down stairs or entering the bathtub. More children die in playground accidents in the United States every year than die of CJD in Great Britain.

    This level of risk is what drove Oprah Winfrey to claim she’d never eat another hamburger? Talk about a tempest in a teapot.

Source:

Report: Incidence of human form of mad cow disease settles down. The Associated Press, June 16, 2000.

Brigitte Bardot Fined for Racist Remarks

Prominent animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot was recently fined 30,000 francs by a French court for comments she made in a recent book, “Pluto’s Square.” In the book, Bardot complains about the large number of Muslim immigrants in France and especially the ritual slaughter of sheep during a Muslim religious festival.

In the book, Bardot complains that “…my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims.”

France, like many European countries, has laws against inciting racial hatred, and this is the third time that Bardot has been convicted of such an offense.

On the one hand, such laws are in and of themselves barbaric, and have done little to stem the tide of racial hatred in Europe. Even idiot xenophobes such as Bardot should have the right to speak freely without facing the sanction of the state.

On the other hand, Bardot’s latest episode demonstrates just what a dogmatic, intolerant group animal rights activists can be. Apparently Bardot can muster overwhelming empathy for sheep but can only think of Muslim immigrants in euphemistic terms such as “invaders.”

The reader might think that animal rights groups and individuals would want to put as much distance between themselves and Bardot as possible, but despite her repeated racist remarks there has been no flurry of press releases from animal rights group and prominent activists denouncing Bardot (this from activists who fire off press releases at the drop of a hat).

Apparently the drawing power of a bigoted has-been sex symbol is just too much to resist.

Source:

Bardot fined for racist remarks. BBC News, June 16, 2000.