Feb 012009
Authors: By the Editorial Board The Lariat Baylor University

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is known for its outrageous protests, often involving throwing fake blood on people wearing fur or protesting naked en masse. Its latest actions are no less extreme, but show that PETA needs to take its mission more seriously so that other people can, too.

Earlier this month, PETA started a marketing campaign to have fish renamed “sea kittens.” The name, they said, would make people think twice about eating them and would hopefully prompt the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop its promotion of fishing.

“Knowing that the fish sticks in the school cafeteria are really made out of tortured sea kittens makes most kids want to lose their lunch,” PETA campaign co-ordinator Ashley Byrner has said.

Anyone interested in the campaign can go to PETA’s Web site and learn more about the cause and play an interactive game where you dress up a fish like a cat and sign a petition to have fish changed to sea kittens. But it’s hard to believe anyone would.

Instead of making real change for the better treatment of animals, PETA has made itself a sideshow. No one can take its mission seriously when the solutions it offers are so absurd.

Changing the name of an animal isn’t going to make it any less appealing to those who consume it. And fish and felines aren’t comparable enough for people to actually make the connection and stop eating them. Catfish is still a wildly popular entre even though it has a similar name.

The word fish has been around since the 12th century, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It’s foolish for PETA to think they could actually have a word with such old roots in our language changed with such little reason for it.

PETA has also made headlines for other equally ridiculous suggestions recently. In September, the group asked Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream to switch out the cow milk used to make their ice cream for human breast milk. They said this would benefit the health of both cows and consumers.

These stunts have gotten PETA a lot of media coverage, which was surely their aim. But they are trading press time for accomplishing their mission. Their antics may make some people aware of how some animals are being treated, but they are turning off many more who find it hard to take them seriously.

PETA is becoming the class clown of charitable organizations, and it only hurts them in the long run.

PETA hasn’t always gone strictly for the shock factor. In 2007, they negotiated for former Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick to campaign for the humane treatment of animals.

Vick had been charged with and pleaded guilty to dog fighting. After his arrest, he took a PETA class in “respect for animals” and negotiated to give a public service announcement for PETA about animal’s rights.

This was a successful example of PETA using a bad situation and turning it into good PR for their cause.

This is the kind of issue and campaign they need to tackle more often. There are much larger problems with the treatment of animals than what people call fish.

PETA should focus on raising awareness about things like puppy mills and conditions in slaughterhouses and factory farms. If they would get their message out in a serious manner and confront issues that people care about, people would be more likely to respond and help make a difference.

Not all attention is good attention. Instead of making its cause into a circus for people to laugh at, PETA needs to project a more positive serious image to accomplish its goals.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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