Animal rights activism gone awry

I had a laugh when a fictitious animal rights activist sprayed red paint all over Samantha’s crisp white fur coat in Sex and the City. But a whole other genre of hysteria overcame me as a real activist smacked Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea in the face with a pie. Granted, there’s nothing funny about the seal hunt, but everybody loves pie.

On Jan. 25, 2010, while Gail Shea was delivering a speech at the Aquatic Life Research Facility in Burlington, Ontario, a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activist stood up from the front row, and hit the minister with a tofu cream pie for supporting the seal hunt. Is it in PETA’s rule book to create stunts that put me into these fits of laughter? While attempting to be awareness-raising, these attention-grabbing stunts prove to be highly entertaining, and they are regular occurrences for PETA activists, and it has people like me grinning as we watch the insanity play out.

While digging for more of PETA’s hilarious stunts, I decided to visit its online mother ship — PETA.org. And boy, was it easy! Complete with a “worst dressed poll,” I nearly confused the URL with that of a fashion blog. Although I can appreciate a leather jacket, I do enjoy reading PETA’s commentary on stars like Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and Rihanna as “fur hags and shrivelled has-beens who drape themselves in animal skins.” Whether or not you’ll agree, one thing was for sure: I was far from Elle.com.

PETA’s maple syrup boycott is certainly one of the organization’s quieter campaigns. They believe boycotting Canadian maple syrup will effect the seal hunt. According to PETA.org, “Canada produces 85 per cent of the world’s maple syrup [and] by pledging to boycott Canadian maple syrup, you’ll be speaking up for baby seals in Canada for whom life isn’t so sweet and telling Canada that you won’t support its product until you can support its practices.” How kind . . . but bo-ring!

What about PETA’s so-called “eyebrow- and consciousness-raising events,” like the “Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign where “lovely ladies and gorgeous guys” dress up as “Lettuce Ladies and Broccoli Boys” in opposition to the fur trade? Whatever pervy fantasy some coordinator is trying to fulfill, it seems that, contrary to PETA’s Guide to Becoming an Activist that reads, “Anyone can be an activist. It doesn’t take special skills or superhuman abilities,” it may perhaps take “special skills” — or at least the ability to get naked publicly.

Outrageous stunts like these are what has turned PETA from a small-scale organization into a household name that has naive teenagers ordering stickers and holding up cards declaring, “I am a PETA member.” I do not mean to detract from the actual success of the organization, which has helped countless animals, started grass roots animal rights movements and advocated for serious issues — most of which I’m behind. Unfortunately, the stunts they pull don’t give enough credit to the cause and only “succeed” in attracting publicity to the organization which really only further highlights the nonsensicality of many of its members.

Wasn’t it a wise man who once said, “Once you get hit in the face with a pie, clean up and continue your speech?” Regardless, according to Nancy Bishay, a spokeswoman for the minister, that’s precisely what Shea did. And that’s precisely what we all do, because once the show’s over, we go home and eat our pie. My preference? Anything but tofu.

Asma Mneina is a first-year student at the University of Manitoba.

2: ( http://www.peta.org/feat-worstdressed2010-Day4.asp)

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