A well-known animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has used questionable (to say the least) tactics to promote animal rights since their founding in 1980. These include a campaign involving women stripping in public to relay the message that they would rather “go naked instead of wearing fur.” PETA’s radical efforts to publicize issues of animal cruelty and promote the kind treatment of all animals conveys an underlying philosophy that the dignity of the human person is not worthy of any respect or appreciation except insofar as it can be exploited to further PETA’s agenda.
The most recent campaign launched by PETA to spread the message of putting an end to animal cruelty is a pornography website, where highly indecent images will be juxtaposed with those of animal mistreatment and abuse. The goal of the website is to promote a vegan lifestyle and apparently to attempt to spread their message to a demographic which enjoys the exploitation of women in the form of pornography. PETA claims to “uphold the rights of individual animals.” Interestingly enough, nowhere in their philosophy is there any mention of the rights of the human person and the particular respect which every individual human being necessarily deserves and even demands.
Having been a vegan for over a year, I am particularly offended by this campaign as well as the entire organization’s belief that other species are somehow more important than our own. A large part of the reason why I decided to become vegan is the fact that I am a Catholic. In Genesis, God gave man “dominion over the earth.” I believe that this responsibility is one that needs to be taken seriously. I believe that as human beings, made in the image and likeness of our Creator and therefore being the pinnacle of all creation, we have a responsibility to the rest of creation to respect and appreciate it. My veganism does not intend to imply any sort of priority of other animals over human beings; in fact, quite the opposite. The choice that I made to stop consuming animal products is one which I believe communicates, if understood correctly, the priority of the human person over all of creation and within that prioritization, a responsibility to take advantage of the gift of other animals only in a way which is respectful of the fact that after their creation, God looked at them and saw that they were good.
The action of PETA to launch a website which exploits women’s dignity in order to communicate their misdirected and downright disordered understanding of animal rights is completely counterproductive. This website will do nothing but demonstrate their own hypocrisy. Veganism should be a choice to exercise one’s responsibility toward the rest of creation by boycotting industries which exploit and take advantage of the world which God gave us to appreciate as a gift and not to abuse. When that choice is portrayed as something which prioritizes so-called “animal rights” above the dignity of any human being, the result is that any thoughtful, caring people who would have been an asset to veganism’s true cause are turned away by the perverse message of organizations like PETA.