Sunday, January 21, 2007

Animal rights deceivers and hidden agendas

The militant animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has done a great job of getting its agenda into the press through its front group, Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. Under the guise of improving medical care, PCRM has been pushing the PETA party line -- don't eat foods derived from animals, don't conduct medical research on animals. I take a look at this in my latest science and technology column.

I am all in favor of minimizing pain to animals, and restricting animal testing to what is needed to advance medicine. Cruelty to animals is sick. But it's not cruel to use animals to test drugs or medical procedures for safety and efficacy before trying them in humans.

Holocaust Abusers
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk and PCRM president Neal D. Barnard give favorable quotes on a Web site promoting a book by Charles Patterson, "Eternal Treblinka", comparing our use of animals to the Nazi Holocaust.

Here is the Web site's description of Chapter One:

"The focus of the chapter is the enslavement ("domestication") of animals and how it became the model and inspiration for all the oppressions that followed.
"The first part of the chapter describes the relatively recent emergence of homo sapiens as the dominant species on the planet and how the "Great Leap Forward" led to the "domestication" of sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, and horses and their exploitation for milk, flesh, hides, and labor. The section looks at the methods used by present-day herders to manage and exploit their flocks.
"The chapter then looks at how the enslavement of animals inspired and led to human slavery in the ancient Near East and later in the Americas."

And here is the Web site's description of Chapter 5, where the killing of animals and the Nazi Holocaust are explicitly likened:

"The chapter describes features which American and German killing centers have in common, whether they be a slaughterhouse or death camp. Similar features include: making the operation as speedy and efficient as possible; streamlining the final part of the operation (chute/funnel/tube) which takes the victims to their deaths; processing the old, sick, and injured; and coping with the problem of killing young victims. The chapter also discusses the role of animals in the German camps (Auschwitz had its own slaughterhouse and butcher shop; Treblinka had a "zoo") and Hitler's relationship to animals.

"The final part of the chapter looks at Nazi letters and diary entries which reveal that eating meat and hunting animals were the chief rewards granted to German death camp personnel. The letters of SS-Obersturmfuhrer Karl Kretschmer, leader of a Sonderkommando killing squad, to his wife show that eating well was the most satisfactory part of his job. Entries from the diary of Dr. Johannes Paul Kremer, an SS doctor at Auschwitz, praise the meals at the SS officers' mess and the wealth of human body parts available for his medical experiments. The chapter closes with a discussion of "humane slaughter"--the need of the killers to find ever more efficient and less stressful ways to conduct their operations."

Here are Barnard and Newkirk's reactions:

"I look forward to the publication of Charles Patterson's book. Putting the issue of animal abuse in historical perspective should clarify the issue for many people and help raise their consciousness. Please send me an advance copy so I can inform our 100,000 members about its publication."
--Dr. Neal D. Barnard, PCRM

"I am so glad you are writing the book. It is so powerful. I write books calculated to allow people to see how easy and enjoyable it is to help animals, but they are little books. Your book is big. I hope to god it stirs everything up. Your book takes me to the edge. I think it is important and wonderful. You can tell publishers we will carry it. "
--Ingrid Newkirk, President, PETA

If you ever run into Barnard, ask him if he thinks it's valid to compare our use of animals to the Holocaust. His answer should be interesting.

* * *
Mind the bias
Those supporting animal research and opposing the PETA agenda do need to be careful about who they cite as sources. Some of these sources also have their own agendas. One of these sources is Activist Cash, a Web site created by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a lobbying group for the food, restaurant and tobacco industries. In the time-hallowed nature of cynically named lobbying groups, consumer freedom has nothing to do with their agenda. Learn more about this agenda on SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy.

That's not to say the Center for Consumer Freedom's information is always wrong, but you have to read it with their agenda in mind. Don't take what they say at face value -- check it out from other sources that don't have such a big ax to grind. And along those lines, SourceWatch has its own agenda, which can be loosely identified as "liberal." It is, however, fairly careful to document its findings.

In the interest of fairness, here's how Activist Cash describes the Center for Media and Democracy:

"The Center for Media & Democracy (CMD) is a counterculture public relations effort disguised as an independent media organization. CMD isn’t really a center it would be more accurate to call it a partnership, since it is essentially a two-person operation.

"Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber operate, as do most self-anointed progressive watchdogs, from the presumption that any communication issued from a corporate headquarters must be viewed with a jaundiced eye. In their own quarterly PR Watch newsletter, they recently referred to corporate PR as a propaganda industry, misleading citizens and manipulating minds in the service of special interests. Ironically, Rampton and Stauber have elected to dip into the deep pockets of multi-million-dollar foundations with special interest agendas of their own. . ."

Where do I stand? I agree with the CMD that corporate public relations can be quite insidious, quite often using lies and deceptions to gain their goals. And I agree with the Center for Consumer Freedom that political extremists opposed to the free-market system are quite capable of using lies and deceptions to gain their goals. No one has a monopoly on truth. Except, of course, the humble scribes in the working press, who are never biased and always accurate.

(For the humor-challenged, that last statement was a rather cynical joke. PETA and PCRM depend on bamboozling ignorant reporters to perpetrate their deceptions.)

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