Written by PETA
The internationally renowned Australian novelist and Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee gave a speech in Sydney last week, where he made a powerful case for animal rights—with a particular focus on the food industry, which, as he puts it, "dwarfs all others in the number of individual animal lives it affects." Two moments in his speech really stood out for me—in the first, he compares factory farms to death camps, concisely making the point that so many people miss when they encounter this controversial comparison for the first time: That the practice of degrading living beings to the status of production units should be rejected out of hand, regardless of the victims. Here's what he says:
"Of course we cried out in horror when we found out what they had been up to. We cried: What a terrible crime, to treat human beings like cattle! If we had only known beforehand! But our cry should more accurately have been: What a terrible crime, to treat human beings like units in an industrial process! And that cry should have had a postscript: What a terrible crime, come to think of it - a crime against nature - to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process!"
Another comment Coetzee made that really struck me related to the way children perceive animals—his remarks hint at the disturbing fact that, as we grow up, the process of socialization itself can blind us to uncomfortable truths about the wrongs that our society inflicts on others. That children are much better equipped than we are to see the horror of factory farming for what it is, and that those of us who choose to ignore it, or attempt to excuse it, do so only because we have been duped and misled by our own greed and the complacence of others:
"Given half a chance, children see through the lies with which advertisers bombard them (the happy chooks that are transformed painlessly into succulent nuggets, the smiling moo-cow that donates to us the bounty of her milk). It takes but one glance into a slaughterhouse to turn a child into a lifelong vegetarian."
At their core, the main principles of the animal rights movement are simple and intuitive—easy enough for a child to understand. But it's inspiring to see them expressed with such thoughtfulness and eloquence by one of the world's greatest writers. You can read an edited extract of J.M. Coetzee's speech here.
Proving once again that the folks in our Factory-Farming Campaigns Department are just brimming with so much compassion it could make you sick, they've just extended an offer to help our archenemy, KFC, deal with its apparent rodent problem. After video footage of a KFC in Greenwich Village that was overrun by rats on Friday went just about everywhere on the Internet, PETA sent a letter to the eatery’s owner, offering to help him implement a humane rodent-control program at his restaurant. Here's what PETA VP Bruce Friedrich had to say about the incident:
“This store’s lethal attempt to deal with rodents has failed miserably. Although KFC refuses to work with us toward minimizing the suffering of the hundreds of millions of birds killed for its restaurants every year, we hope that this store owner will work with us on a safe, effective, and humane solution to the rat infestation.”
Honestly, all this turning the other cheek and being nice to our enemies has me reeling. I'd go over to the other side of the office right now and congratulate our Factory-Farming Campaigns Department, but I'm worried that I'd be bowled over by all the excess compassion floating around. Here's PETA's letter to the store.
Just in case you weren't aware, you don't need to be a professional activist to make furriers in your neighborhood wish to God that they could just crawl into a hole somewhere, or maybe pick any other profession. All you need are some signs, a few good friends, and an hour or so of free time. Anyway, here are a few great pictures that some folks in Fort Lauderdale sent me from a protest they held outside AA Martin's Furs last week. Setting the animal issues aside for a moment, what the hell do you need a fur coat for in Florida?
According to Michael, who sent in these pics, the owners of the store asked them to call off the protest as they'd had a recent family crisis. Feel free to comment here, because I'll admit that there's the tiniest bit of a gray area: If your job involves paying people to raise animals in cages so small that many of them are insane by the time they're anally electrocuted, do you deserve a little bit of slack from the people who are telling you to stop it if you've had a rough week?
And in more good news for fur-bearing animals everywhere (this time from Portland), check this out.
My new favorite person in the entire world, Forest Whitaker. Forest won the Best Actor Oscar yesterday for his breathtaking portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. I've written about Forest a couple of times before, but given what this guy has accomplished in the last year, I don't think a few more plaudits are out of place. After putting together an utterly riveting performance in Last King (which he prepared for by traveling to Uganda to meet Amin's friends and family, and learning a bit of Swahili for good measure), last night he became the fourth black performer to win the Best Actor Oscar, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. And of course, he's particularly dear to our hearts here at PETA because both he and his daughter True are outspoken vegetarians and animal lovers. If you haven't seen the "veggie testimonial" Forest and True recorded for us recently, you should definitely check it out.
We've also got a little contest running at the moment, where you can win three of Forest's best-known films, so click the button below to check that out if you're itching to get caught up on the Forest oeuvre, now that he’s officially the best male performer in Hollywood. Anyway, congratulations, Forest—it's so great to see someone with such compassion and genuine kindness recognized for their achievements.
Awww, look at all the adorable rats! In other, extremely important news, KFC is really, really disgusting.
This video puts PETA in a bit of a difficult position, because we wouldn’t want to actively encourage other impressionable rats to eat at KFC—both for their own health and because of the ethical issues involved—but the restaurant does seem to be quite a favorite among rodents. Check it out:
I spent yesterday morning handing out leaflets outside the Ringling Bros. Circus, which is having its last desultory gasp in Norfolk this weekend before it bullies the elephants and other animals back into cramped boxcars and chains them up for the trip to whatever city it's going to inflict its weird, sadistic little show on next week. There are a lot of cities that give Ringling a really hard time when it comes to town, as activists all round the country rally round to get the word out about the circus's long history of animal abuse, safety violations, and the occasional child pornography scandal for good measure, but I'm fairly sure they dread the Norfolk shows more than any other stop on the tour, as the whole office takes a field trip to opening night, along with a bunch of local activists, to make sure that everyone attending the circus gets the elephants' side of the story as well. Apart from the inevitable middle finger or two, most people are really cool about it and grateful for the information—we always hear stories from people who have thrown away their tickets or vowed never to take their kids to an animal circus again. This year some prospective circusgoers even promised to come out leafleting with us on the weekend, which, well, you can't ask for more than that. Anyway, here's a video.
Jonathan Babineaux, defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, is facing felony charges in Gwinnett County Court, stemming from his alleged February 18 fatal attack on a dog. Evidently, after arguing with his girlfriend, the 286 pound lineman inflicted blunt force trauma on her dog, Kilo. According to news sources, Kilo vomited blood en route to an emergency vet clinic, and was pronounced dead there.
We're calling on the Falcons to suspend Babineaux without pay until the courts can do their thing, and if he is found guilty we have asked the Falcons to release him from the team. But as if this case isn’t disturbing enough, there have been repeated instances of animal abuse by NFL players in the past. In December, six pit bulls belonging to the Chicago Bears' Tank Johnson were said to have been the subject of public and official concern in Illinois. Leshon Johnson, who played running back for three NFL teams, faced felony charges with 21 others in 2004 stemming from their alleged involvement in a massive dogfighting ring. Former Eagles' safety Damon Moore was accused in 2001 of abandoning his puppy in a soccer field in New Jersey, and former Eagles’ running back Thomas Hamner was twice convicted of beating his dog.
Given the seeming pattern of abuse here, we’ve also written to Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, asking him to implement a strict, clear no-tolerance policy on players' abuse of animals. Surely this issue deserves as much attention from the league as any other illegal or violent player activity, which he swore to crack down on in a recent press conference.
At least there are some NFL players who get it. Check out Giants lineman Michael Strahan’s ad here.
Giant Eagle, which has more than 200 grocery stores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio, has just announced that it will no longer sell foie gras! The company's decision was prompted by nearly 250,000 e-mails and countless phone calls from customers and members of the public who expressed their concern that the store was selling a product which is made by force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers swell up, and which has been banned in the city of Chicago and the state of California—not to mention the fact that it is illegal in numerous progressive countries—because of the cruelty involved. In an e-mail to PETA just a few moments ago, a Giant Eagle representative confirmed that “Giant Eagle Market District stores have stopped the sale of foie gras.”
A huge thank you is due to everyone who took the time to contact Giant Eagle about this issue and bring about this massive victory for ducks and geese. Now that more and more major grocery chains like Giant Eagle and Whole Foods are taking a stand against the cruelty of foie gras, and given that the pope himself has spoken out against it, it won't be long before foie gras is nothing more than a nasty little piece of history. Don't hesitate to make anyone you know who still eats the stuff aware of that fact.
We all know that Holland is a pretty progressive place—you know, they ride bikes there, there's universal national health care, good stuff like that*. All cool things, in my opinion, but what I didn’t know is that there is actually a legitimate political party there called "Party For The Animals" that holds a couple of seats in parliament. And that each political party receives a certain amount of free national TV space to use as they wish. Pretty awesome.
Awesomer still is the fact that, after viewing our State of the Union Undress, which leads into Free Me, the “Partij Voor De Dieren” decided to run their own version of our Free Me video on Dutch national TV. You can check out the badass Dutch version of "Free Me" here.
*Yes, I know, pot is legal there too, and you can’t talk about The Netherlands without at least mentioning that fact. I would have included it, but you know . . . the lawyers would have yelled at me. Again.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails since I posted the Young Guns entry asking to see more of the ads that were submitted. We’re going to eventually post them all online, but until then, you just have to trust me when I say that there’s a reason we don’t show you everything that gets sent to us.
Enough said . . . ? Thought so.
I'd love to announce this as an official PETA victory, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the MLB's decision to get rid of all their wool caps in favor of a polyester blend has more to do with the suffering of sweaty baseball players in the heat than with the suffering of merino sheep in the wool industry.
Whatever their motives, though, this is a big deal for sheep like those in Australia who are horribly mutilated at the beginning of their lives and crammed onto ships to be slaughtered in countries with no animal welfare standards at the end. Whether the major league baseball players know it or not, they're doing the right thing by ditching the wool in favor of a humane alternative. So I, for one, applaud them. Except the Yankees. (Like most Orioles fans, I still haven't forgotten 1996.)
Anyway, there you have it—some great news for animals from the MLB. And now, for those of you who'd like a little more info about the issue, here's an important educational video that my friends Joel, Marta, and I made a little while ago. But please do remember, before you watch it, that you will never get those 21 seconds of your life back.
A couple of years ago, we went after P. Diddy pretty hard for for his furry ways, and to make a long story short, he wound up meeting with us about the issue. We explained how animals on fur farms are killed by anal or vaginal electrocution, how animals in the wild are often drowned, beaten to death or left to suffer in traps for days on end, we showed him video of all this, the whole nine yards.
Well, I guess it at least had some effect on him because in an interview in the new Blender magazine, he says “PETA has had an effect on me. If you look at a lot of the Sean John stuff, we have gone to faux fur.” Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Sean John, or Diddy, have gone completely fur free, but this is clearly progress. And you can't argue with progress.
I’d show you the whole interview, but alas, our Legal Department won’t let me.
The one from The Dallas Morning News is my favorite, but I must say that the NY Post gets extra credit for including a photo of the fur hag editor of Vogue Anna Wintour with pie on her face.
I really believe the tide has turned on this issue. Prada shows its first fur-free line in decades, other heavy hitters like Calvin Klein, Marc Bouwer, Betsey Johnson, Stella Mccartney, Kenneth Cole, and Ralph Lauren are all fur-free now, and huge retailers like J.Crew, Limited Brands, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and The Gap refuse to sell real fur.
It's a tough time to be a fur pimp.
The high school I went to was a small Catholic school in DC called St. Anselm's Abbey School, which was run by Benedictine monks. Although it was pretty stressful academically—and kind of traumatizing that there were no girls there—the experience was one of the best of my life, in no small part because of the powerful example of wisdom and kindness that all of the monks provided, both in their teaching and in their daily life. (I also really liked the fact that we had a ping pong table in our senior lounge, but that's a different story.) But the point here is, as those of you who have seen the huge breaking investigation on the front page of our website will have guessed, that my personal experience with the genuine compassion that's a fundamental part of the Catholic monastic tradition has made it even more difficult for me to try to comprehend the tragic blindness to horrifying cruelty that is shown by the monks at the Mepkin Abbey, who run an egg factory farm to fund their South Carolina monastery.
One of the worst parts of this video for me is when a monk compares the process of forced molting to a fast that he and his brethren practice to show their devotion to God. The difference—for the benefit of any Mepkin Abbey monks who happen to be reading this—is that a fast is a voluntary religious practice, while forced molting is an excruciating torture in which chickens who are already crammed together in cages so small that they barely have room to spread their wings are starved for up to two weeks to shock their bodies into another laying cycle.
Before I get too carried away here, the point I want to make is that, while torturing birds is particularly reprehensible when you find out that the people who are doing it should damn well know better (because, for instance, they're monks, for God's sake), the truth is that most of the horrific practices documented in our investigation are industry standard. If you're looking for something to give up this Lent, please think seriously about giving up eggs. You can always give up chocolate next year.
I’ve talked before about my friend Dan Mathews, PETA’s fancypants VP, who spends his life jetting around the world getting celebs on board with our campaigns, disrupting fashion shows, and sometimes ending up in the slammer. Every time Dan gets home from a trip, he has another amazing story to tell.
One of Dan's best qualities is that no matter how serious the issue is that he’s working on, he never lets it get him down. He always finds a way to have fun and make our campaigns accessible to everyone. Dan once told me that the way he’s been able to keep working at his crazy pace for so many years is that his first thought when he wakes up every morning is not about work or politics or animal rights or anything like that—it's “How can I have fun today?” That's some pretty solid advice for anyone, and something I should probably try and remember next time I throw my alarm clock across the room at 6:30 a.m. (I'm not quite the morning person Dan Mathews is).
Anyway, the reason for this whole love fest is that Dan just finished writing his first book, Committed: A Rabble Rouser’s Memoir. The book isn’t out until April, but the buzz is already starting, as the crazy stories in it are starting to get leaked. I just saw this one about Chrissie Hynde getting arrested for protesting The Gap right after the company offered her $100,000 to use one of her songs in a commercial and Pam Anderson shooting this ad ... while she was six months pregnant:
Don’t think she looks six months pregnant? During the shoot, Pam told Dan, "Don’t worry. Nowadays, they can airbrush out a baby as easily as a birthmark." Priceless. The book is out April 17, and I'm actually really looking forward to it. If you're interested, you can pre-order that bad boy here.
OK, so admittedly I’m not the world’s biggest fashionista, but even I know that Prada is a big deal in the fashion world. Like, the biggest deal there is. So this is just beyond incredible.
Not even 24 hours after a PETA Europe member disrupted the Prada fashion show at Milan Fashion Week, and less than a month since PETA reps showed this video to Prada execs in Milan, the mood has swung 180 degrees and founder Miuccia Prada received a bouquet of roses from PETA Europe this morning. The sudden about-face happened because, for the first time in decades—yes, I mean literally decades—there wasn’t a single fur item in Prada’s fall/winter collection. And check this: Miuccia Prada herself said that she is “bored” with real fur. It seems that Prada has finally realized what we’ve been saying for years, that designing with fur is unimaginative as hell, not to mention cruel.
Prada’s new line is called “Fake Classic”—I love it. Check out this incredible orange faux-fur coat. I guess this is what “Fake Classic” means.
Prada’s announcement is making headlines worldwide, but my favorite one so far is from a huge paper in Australia: “Animal liberationists scored a victory today when Milan's style matron, Miuccia Prada, proclaimed she was bored with fur.” Are we on a roll or what? We finished up last year with heavyweights Kenneth Cole, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and Ralph Lauren going fur free, started this year off with a bang with the Marc Bouwer show, and now this amazing news from Prada.
It all just makes Burberry seem that much more out of touch.
Check this ish out—this piece in our local paper brought a smile to my face today, since all of us here at PETA are gonna be out in the freezing cold tomorrow night protesting opening night of the Ringling Bros. Circus.
And they included this beautiful photo of some local kids at an anti-Ringling demonstration. Love it.
I'm kicking myself today because I ended up deciding not to watch the Daytona 500 this weekend after everyone I invited told me they'd rather watch paint dry. The only other person I know of here at work who's into car racing is Ingrid Newkirk, but you don't exactly call the big boss up on a Sunday morning and invite her round for a couple of sixers, some vegan bratwurst, and four hours of restrictor plate racing. Besides, Ingrid's big thing is Formula 1 (click here for more on that)—I don't know how she feels about stock cars. Anyway, it turns out that not only did I miss one of the most exciting races in NASCAR history, but a few of my colleagues actually got to go! Admittedly, they had to attend the event wearing nothing but skimpy yellow bikinis and spend the entire time holding signs and passing out faux chicken and anti-KFC leaflets to surprised NASCAR fans, but I totally would have done all that for a free ticket. OK, maybe not. Check it out though—the girls were a huge hit with everyone except the police.
Jennifer Lopez just had a screening of her new film, Bordertown, at the Berlin Film Festival, but she started crying when the crowd responded with loud boos. If Lopez wasn’t such a total fur hag, I just might feel sorry for her. But I really can’t believe just how warped her mind is—she cries because a few people boo her latest hideous movie, but she's totally unfazed by what she saw in this movie.
What I don’t understand is why the wannabe diva got so upset this time. She should certainly be used to bad reviews by now, and until she drops the fur, she may as well get used to her events not quite turning out the way she wants . . .
Man, so this year’s Oscar race for Best Actor is going to be a good one, and all of us at PETA are extra excited since two of the nominees have been active in our campaigns.
First off, we’ve got Ryan Gosling, who is nominated for his role as Dan Dunne in Half Nelson. Ryan helped us out with our KFC campaign by penning a letter urging the company to implement basic animal-welfare standards.
But I think the smart money is on Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. The experience gained while shooting this pro-vegetarian PSA may just give him the edge he needs.
While writing this entry, I started thinking about some past Oscar winners who have helped PETA with our work over the years, and the ones I came up with were:
Charlize Theron, who got her statue in 2003 for her leading role in Monster. Charlize has helped PETA in numerous ways over the years, most notably by narrating a puppy mill exposé and posing for this beautiful anti-fur ad.
Kim Basinger, who won in 1997 for her role in L.A. Confidential. Kim shot an amazing “Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ad for us a while back, and has pitched in with numerous other campaigns over the years.
And last but not least is Jack Lemmon, who won in 1955 for his role in Mister Rogers and in 1973 for Save the Tiger. Jack was against animal testing and before his death in 2001, he wrote to Congress on PETA’s behalf to protest cruel cigarette smoking experiments on animals.
I know I just said “last but not least” but my celeb-obsessed cubicle-pod-mate Stephanie just told me that four of the last eight winners for best picture starred PETA pals as well. Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love, Sexiest Vegetarian nominee Thora Birch in American Beauty, long-time PETA supporter Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator and Dominic Monaghan in Lord of the Rings.
Damn, that’s a lot, huh?
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.