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Debating Strategies

The threat of "overpopulation" is frequently cited to justify abortion as birth control. On a vegan diet, however, the world could easily support a population several times its present size. The world's cattle alone consume enough to feed over 8.7 billion humans.

The animal rights movement is divided on a number of issues, including the means to achieve liberation. Some activists are opposed to companion animals, because "owning" other animals as property should be as unthinkable to us as owning other humans as property. Others can accept the idea of companion animals with the understanding that we are their guardians -- they are not our property, and we are not their owners.

Some activists accept euthanasia as a humane means of ending animal suffering, and as a necessary evil to the problem of pet overpopulation. Others, such as Nathan Winograd, who has written an entire book on the subject,  Redemption, embrace a "no-kill" philosophy.

So the animal rights movement is divided on a number of issues, including euthanizing animals. PETA has taken flack from feminists within the animal rights movement, for example due to its use of supermodels and the "We'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign.

(My friend Anantarupa dasa, who took his present birth in Ireland and who came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background, let his membership in PETA lapse when they began campaigns like "We'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur.")

On a broadcast of The McLaughlin Group, several years ago, PETA was listed as having a membership of twenty million. I think three million is more accurate. MoveOn.org has eight million members, and the so-called Moral Majority at the peak of its power had five million. But you can't ignore PETA's influence on mainstream secular American society, which is the reason I'm behind it:

peta2 is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world. peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans.

Several years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers what nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a two to one margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined.

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, thirty times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and five hundred times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.

Debates over euthanasia, spaying and neutering, animal welfare versus animal rights, using sex to sell nonviolence, etc. seem trivial in comparison to the number of animals killed for food. Friends Of Animals (another animal rights organization, based in Darien, CT) sells buttons stating "Veganism is Direct Action."

I think everyone in the animal rights movement would agree on that point.

PETA carries instant name recognition. As soon as you name-drop PETA, everyone immediately knows what you're talking about: whereas if you speak about vegetarianism otherwise, they seem to think you're promoting a sectarian religious doctrine which they think doesn't apply to them.

And religion has hurt the pro-life movement. Catholics, born agains, evangelicals, fundamentalists, etc. appear to be pushing their religion upon others who don't share their views, those outside of their faith.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) , a secular organization,  is now challenging those who think they can still be "meat-eating environmentalists" to go vegan, if they really care about the planet ... and should similarly challenge "meat-eating pacifists", "meat-eating pro-lifers", "meat-eating anti-hunger activists", etc.

As for PETA appearing to be pulling publicity stunts: the media thrives on sensationalism, rather than fair and balanced debate about serious moral issues like animal rights.

I think Ingrid Newkirk (Executive Director, PETA) is of the opinion that any news is good news.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada similarly was pleased when even inimical articles about Krishna Consciousness appeared in print during the '60s and '70s, saying because Krishna's name had appeared, anyone reading, hearing or referring to Krishna's name will immediately be blessed!

Again, PETA carries instant name recognition. As soon as you name-drop PETA, everyone immediately knows what you're talking about: whereas if you speak about vegetarianism otherwise, they seem to think you're promoting a sectarian religious doctrine that doesn't apply to them. 
On the other hand, without the support of organized religion, Christians cry "MOVE"! -- as if we were talking about some lifeless, soulless thing devoid of religious inspiration.

And Ingrid Newkirk is an atheist, and I've heard she bristles with anger at the suggestion that she's created a "cult  (PETA) "! 
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510 (757) 622-PETA.

Go on to: Democrats for Life of America (DFLA)
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