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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 1999 /8 Kislev, 5760

Don Feder

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Nothing ethical about PETA -- THERE'S NOTHING "ETHICAL" about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, PETA will be grabbing headlines again -- urging us to trade drumsticks for tofu and designating the day after Thanksgiving (the busiest shopping day of the year) "Fur-Free Friday."

The media usually portray Ingrid Newkirk and her critter caucus as lovable eccentrics -- perhaps a bit wacky, but fine, compassionate folks.

In reality, their agenda is so far out it would take a ton of bricks to bring them back to earth. There are no humane apologists for terrorism.

Last month, several Harvard scientists doing primate research received booby-trapped letters, with razor blades positioned to slice their fingers.

The missives, from a shadowy group called The Justice Department, warned of dire consequences if the scientists didn't cease and desist.

Right-to-lifers are quick to repudiate violence committed in their name.

Responsible environmental groups condemned the Unabomber. Newkirk's first response to the Justice Department's savagery? Oh, goody! "I hope it frightens them (the researchers) out of their careers," the PETA co-founder beamed.

"If experimenters feel afraid now, that's nothing compared with the fear, harm and death they have inflicted on their victims," the animal-rights Robespierre declared. Though she later reluctantly admitted the letters were wrong, her initial response is telling.

PETA opposes animal research for any reason, under any circumstances -- whether or not the subjects feel pain. On a talk show, a PETA spokesman confessed that even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, they would still try to stop it.

Without this research, there would have been no polio vaccine. Animal experiments may one day yield cures for cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease. Pioneering heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey charges that animal activism has slowed or stopped "research to prevent, treat and cure many of mankind's greatest killers and cripplers."

Not that PETA cares. In its inverted moral universe, a lab rat has exactly the same standing as a critically ill baby. The rodent may not be sacrificed to save the child.

This is a demented egalitarianism that contradicts a basic premise of Judeo-Christian religion -- the distinction between human and animal life.

It's one thing to say that humans have a responsibility not to inflict needless suffering on animals, and quite another to insist that the existence of a cockroach is equivalent to the life of a person.

PETA's philosophy would even be disastrous for the animals whose cause it champions. A little-publicized PETA position calls for the "liberation" of house pets.

Eventually, dogs and cats are to be set free "to pursue their own lives," in the words of PETA spokesman Marsha Kelly.

Fluffy and your miniature poodle (whose kind have been bred as pets for generations) would last in the wild a matter of days, if not hours, before being devoured by a larger, faster creature.

Only ideologues with a Bambi view of nature could see allowing pets "to pursue their own lives" in the woods as aiding them in the exercise of their inalienable rights.

Like other utopians, animal rightists have absolutely no understanding of human nature.

After the Columbine High School massacre last spring, PETA unveiled a curriculum for teaching children that animals have feelings and deserve to be treated with kindness.

Spokesman Lisa Lange assured us, "It's been proven that there's a direct link between animal abuse and violence of all kinds." PETA's hypothesis: Teach kids to be kind to animals, and, when they reach adolescence, they won't don trenchcoats and kill their classmates.

To which I have only two words -- Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer was a vegetarian (no turkey dinner for him) who loved animals, especially his two Alsatians.

This animal empathy did not stop Hitler from sending millions of human beings to the ovens of Auschwitz and other death camps -- any more than it stopped Newkirk from condoning terrorism directed at those involved in life-giving research.

PETA is funded by tender-hearted dolts who succumb to cute-kitten-suffering-horribly appeals. If donors only knew -- if the media would only tell them -- what these fanatics really are about, they wouldn't be so fast to reach for their checkbooks.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate