April 15, 2009

Do you hate this ad?

PETA ran this ad campaign several years ago, and needless to say it was met with extreme negative reaction. You can read more about PETA and the use of Holocaust imagery over at Wikipedia.

For the record, I made a similar analogy a number of years ago.

So, what do you think? Did PETA go too far, or is it fair to compare?


Anonymous said...

The imagery is offensive if for no other reason than the Nazis characterized victims of prison camps as animals, etc., an analogy which the PETA ad unintentionally reintroduces.

Martin said...

PETA doesn't even try to hide the fact that they are bat shit crazy.

Last year their US headquarters took in 2,216 cats and dogs and put down 2,124 of them. A 96% failure rate for finding them new homes. They have a budget of $30 million a year and spend millions on idiotic advertising like this instead of taking care of the animals that they are charged with.



CyberChestnut said...

I do not think it's an unfair comparison. I won't go into why I think it is but as far as furthering PETA's cause I think it's bound to do more damage than good for animal rights. PETA is largely perceived by the general population as being extremist wackos and this ad would only contribute to the stigma.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Ludicrously unfair comparison, as a person with Polish and German ancestry (but not the kind that was en vogue at the time) I can tell you that I am sentient. I'd be curious to hear someone make the same statement about a chicken.

The Missed Call Of Cthulhu said...

Look, valuing the life of animals is wonderful. Elevating them from their present state is an admirable goal. But to compare chicken farmers, even the worst of them, to Nazis is to compare Jews to Chickens. This is inescapable. Even if you believe the comparison of the chicken farmers is justified you’d have to be exceptionally thick not to see that this would offend a great, great many people. (including me)

Of course, this was, likely as not, the point of the ad. Does that excuse it? No. At least not to me. I’ve always been the type to find the ends and means too closely tied to be easily distinguishable.

I know this isn’t enlightened, but my gut reaction to this ad is a nearly irresistible urge to go out and donate a bunch of money to any group that PETA doesn’t like.

The Missed Call Of Cthulhu said...

Just a quick note- there are parallels here to arguments creationists make, specifically that believing in evolution is to believe that human beings are ‘just animals.’ While this is technically correct, it’s more accurate to say that believing in evolution is to believe that human beings are *also* animals.

The key difference between these ads and those arguments is that the evolutionists (correctly) classifying humans as animals aren’t making a suggestion that humans are equivalent to a specific animal. To reframe this a little bit, think of this analogy, a beautiful new Porsche is a car, so is a 1984 rust covered Honda accord with a broken axel and only a half functioning engine. One has more value than the other. One has better performance than the other. Even if laws about cars effect them both equally, they are not equal.

Anonymous said...

Considering the cruelty that animals inflict on each other, I don't see our treatment of animals that we use for food as unnaturally harsh. As far as I know, we are the only animal that tries to extend any kindness to our prey.

Calling someone a Nazi is a sure way to turn off the rational parts of their brain that might listen to anything you have to say. The add strikes me as self-righteousness, not a real stance on anything.

Cai said...

I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that chickens have the capacity to think, feel and suffer that humans do. If this is the case, then the comparison is clearly a false one. I strongly believe in animal rights and am myself a vegetarian; but PETA do themselves no good by caricaturing their own position.

duayt said...

It's a very effective and creative ad, imho, and focuses on the generally poor treatment of animals kept for food (which is a valid point), as well as reminding us that animals are sentient. If you need evidence of that, just kick your dog to see if he winces and cries. Better yet, just take my word for it.

duayt said...

...okay, so a chicken is not a dog, but there are plenty of "higher" animals being treated badly before being chopped up for your lunch. Besides, those chickens are your teachers.

Nato said...

Besides the obvious and quite sufficient problem inherent in comparing Jewish humans to chickens, which several other commenters have already covered...

The meaning of "suffer" changes as cognition changes, as does essentially every morally-contentful cognitive state. Is it unethical to pull off an ant's leg? Decapitate zooplankton? Puncture the membrane of a prokaryote? All of them have a reaction to these assaults that could be regarded as a form of suffering, but so attenuated as to have extremely dubious moral relevance. This is perhaps fortunate if we're not to see baleen whales as genocidal.

As we go "up" the scale through fish, chickens and dogs, for example, the robustness of the suffering increases until everyone can agree that there's some moral relevance. Even so, rarely does even the most ardent lover of tropical fish worry whether the fish are bored with their food, or about the intellectual stunting of being always in the same tank in the way that even an average dog owner might about dry food and small apartments. Neither does anyone worry about dogs' property rights, or canine suffrage. Dogs aren't capable of several categories of psychological pain that would be acute to humans. Drawing an equivalence, then, immediately offends against intuition and indeed makes one appear to be insensible of hugely salient facts about the world. That's a terrible tactic.

As one of the anonymous posters points out, animals (and other forms of life) are generally vicious to one another and rarely seem to care about any suffering that isn't their own or at least part of their family unit. In human terms, most animals are sociopaths. Does this mean we shouldn't care about their suffering? No, because we're humans, and caring about suffering is one of the critical aspects of our humanity. Moral equivalency arguments actually undercut that unless they're carefully handled.

Enlightened one said...

I understand that PETA wants to stop cruelty to animals, and in that I agree. However PETA like so! Many others are running on an absolutist mind frame, and are not seeing the subtleties. Human beings are natural omnivores, we have both canines and molars, front facing eyes for depth perception, and not to mention meat was the main factor in how our ancestors developed their brains-and intelligence.
I also understand that we can acquire most if not all of our nutrients from vegetable sources. And it has been proven that a vegan lifestyle is a healthier one. However the premise in PETA’s argument and many vegetarians is that eating meat is unethical. I believe this stance to be extremely flawed. why only judge humans? why not other natural omnivores like bears? Or chimpanzees?

One argument to this is that bears and chimpanzees may not be able to comprehend morality, or see the harm in their actions. However I view this as a double standard. Many vegetarian will outright claim sentience for everything with a backbone, however if that same animal does something the vegetarian is against, it is just demoted back to a animal.

PETA’s concern should be better treatment for animals in farms. The abolishment of animal testing and zoos. They should not try to change people’s diets, This would only put people of their campaign.

All in all I believe that this ad displays a double standard that many vegetarians have. Humans are Nazi’s because of how we treat animals. Human beings are ourselves animals. By that fact chimpanzees, dolphins, and every other animal is equally accountable for their actions.

Lets all think of the sardines as the dolphins are herding them for a mass slaughter

Xanthippas said...

PETA were hardly the first to make the comparison. For example, here's Isaac Bashevis Singer, from "The Letter Writer":

In his thoughts, Herman spoke a eulogy for the mouse
who had shared a portion of her life with him and who,
because of him, had left this earth. "What do they
know--all these scholars, all these philosophers, all
the leaders of the world--about such as you? They have
convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor
of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other
creatures were created merely to provide him with food,
pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to
them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an
eternal Treblinka.
Of course PETA is less subtle about the comparison, but I think it's fair to analogize the treatment (if not necessarily the worthiness of the lives being destroyed.)

Athena Andreadis said...

I largely agree with Enlightened. Humans are natural omnivores and until/unless we change our metabolism in fundamental ways, we will remain so. Vegan/vegetarian is "healthier" only in First World societies that have food in surplus, or in castes like the Brahmins who had the privilege of being able to pay minute attention to their nutritional needs. Humane treatment of animals (particularly mammals) should be the goal, although there is a gradient of both sentience and noblesse oblige; otherwise we'd all have to become practicing Jainists -- which might solve our overpopulation problem.

Nato said...

I have to disagree with those who have gone past the article to remonstrating against vegetarian activism. Yes, we are 'natural omnivores,' but we are 'natural' many things that we no longer do for good reasons. It requires tremendously more resources to make a nutritional unit with meat vs with farming, and it is not really that complicated to assemble complete nutrition in the 21st century, if governments have the resources and will.

I am not quite a vegetarian, but I really wish that the price of meat reflected its real costs.

gene said...

I disagree with PETA's philosophical position represented by this ad, but I give them credit for having the guts to make it so public. Most people sleepwalk through life without worrying about things like the treatment of the animals they eat. This was an ad intended to shock -- mission accomplished.

midnightsun said...

Do you think it's weird or cruel or wrong that people in China eat dogs? Well, why is it not ok to eat a dog but it's perfectly all right to eat a pig, which is smarter than a dog?

More to the point, how could someone reading a technology blog like our first poster not realize that humans actually are animals, too? That is about 3rd grade science.

I'm a vegetarian, and I'm not a fan of PETA, although I do support their ad campaigns (it's for other reasons, as Martin outlines, that I don't think they deserve their status as the #1 animal welfare group).

"I can tell you that I am sentient. I'd be curious to hear someone make the same statement about a chicken."
"I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that chickens have the capacity to think, feel and suffer that humans do. If this is the case, then the comparison is clearly a false one."

There are studies on this, but humans prefer anecdotes, so I'll give you one.
Look up NPR's journalist Ira Glass and his appearance on David Letterman's show. He interviewed a woman who raised chickens and because of that, and noticing while he was there how the chickens had individual personalities and had formed social groups, he became a vegetarian.

Chickens aren't the only ones suffering from meat-eating by far, and it's a certainty from scientific studies that pigs are smarter than human babies. They are also much smarter than dogs. We certainly don't treat them as such, though.

Yes, human beings have both canines and molars; some human beings are also killers and rapists, but we don't just let them kill and rape at will, do we? No, we recognize that the behavior is wrong or incorrect and we try to change it, even though it could be argued that killing and raping are natural parts of human existence and have existed as long as humans have.

Please, Athena or any other commenter, tell me how eating meat is healthier than vegetarianism.

Even if you don't give a whiff about animals, it's good to encourage vegetarianism for 1.) health reasons (we would at the least have much lower rates of heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes if everyone were vegetarian) and 2.) for environmental reasons. Land for grazing cattle takes up 1/4 of the Earth's land mass-- land which can't be used for trees or food and which CERTAINLY causes people to die in countries which don't have that much farmland and see their available corn and grain go to feed cattle.

So if you don't care about an animal dying, and think that humans are far superior, it is certainly a fact that eating meat causes many human deaths both directly (heart disease) and indirectly (feeding food to cows which could be going to people).