Normally I don’t hate on PETA; despite some very flawed campaigns, publicity stunts, and statements by Ingrid Newkirk, I still look back on PETA’s involvement in my early days of vegetarianism/veganism with a certain fondness. Before we had Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and countless other animal advocacy groups producing literature promoting animal rights, there was PETA. They were my earliest exposure to animal rights activism. I read their pamphlets, shared them with friends, and carried their wallet sized Caring Consumer guide with me when I shopped for hygiene products. They were invaluable in my formative years, fueling my urge to read books like Diet for a New America by John Robbins and to write scathing attacks on animal exploitation in my own punk fanzine, as well as, in my band’s lyrics. That being said, after all of the progress the movement has made, the following PETA article was particularly disappointing. Below the link is the comment that I left in response (it has not appeared as of yet.)
I think the logic in this article is dramatically flawed. Though most vegetarians start off their journey with a lack of understanding of animal ingredients and derivatives, through time and experience they get to know them and can systematically eliminate them. Its not about dogma, it’s about learning the basics and as time goes by removing other sources of cruelty in their lives.
When I went vegan in 1992, vegans couldn’t walk into a grocery store and buy something off the shelf that was clearly marked “Vegan,” unless it was made by some small independent health food company and sold in an equally fringe health food store. Now vegans and vegetarians can walk into just about any grocery store and buy anything from specialty foods to generic store brand products off the shelves that are clearly marked “Vegan” on the packaging. Now I can also walk into a chain restaurant like Flat Top Grill and select the vegan/allergen free cooking surface, as well as, a dozen vegan sauces that are clearly marked and they’re not alone, several other omnivore restaurants both big and small have also started offering cruelty-free entrees.
We live in this new world filled with readily accessible vegan and vegetarian options, because people have spent the past two decades tirelessly asking questions at restaurants, on consumer hotlines and via e-mail trying to get the necessary information to make an informed decision about what they were putting into their bodies and subsequently supporting.
Nothing ever changes without voicing your opinion. When vegans and vegetarians cease asking questions and pushing the boundaries for a more compassionate world, the movement loses ground. Corporations will not waste their time taking measures to accommodate animals and their vegan advocates if their advocates are silent and complacent. We are a long way from living in a compassionate world. We shouldn’t passively accept the status quo.
Never stop asking questions – ever.