Barely three months after offering a halfhearted “apology” for a publicity stunt that compared farm animals to Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has suspended its latest swan-dive onto a political third rail. PETA’s traveling “Animal Liberation” exhibit, stopped halfway through its scheduled 10-week run after vocal criticism from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), included giant photographs juxtaposing African-Americans with livestock. One garish panel, entitled “hanging,” compared a Deep-South lynching with the image of a butcher loading a bull onto a mechanical hoist. PETA seems not to care that the pictured animal was presumably dead long before it was “hung.” And, as with PETA’s offensive “Holocaust on Your Plate” project, a far less subtle point is also lost on the radical animal-rights group: People, regardless of their color or creed, are not the same thing as chickens, pigs, or cows.
The “Animal Liberation” project caught its first whiff of trouble last week in New Haven, where Connecticut NAACP chairman Scot Esdaile blasted PETA, telling The New Haven Register: “Once again, black people are being pimped. You used us. You have used us enough.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added fuel to the fire on Tuesday, publishing the comments of America’s Black Holocaust Museum founder Dr. James Cameron. “They may have treated us like animals back then,” Cameron told the SPLC, “but there is no way we should be compared to animals today.” Cameron, 91, survived the 1930 lynching depicted in PETA’s exhibit. “Dr. Cameron was supposed to have been the third man in this picture,” the museum’s executive director explained.
On Thursday, PETA’s race-baiting road show visited Washington, DC; soon afterward, the Associated Press reported outraged reactions from both the NAACP and the SPLC. “PETA operates by getting publicity any way they can,” NAACP communications director John White told an AP reporter before asking, incredulously, “They’re comparing chickens to black people?” The SPLC’s Mark Potok added: “Black people in America have had quite enough of being compared to animals without PETA joining in. This is disgusting.”
On Saturday, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk replied (on her blog) to this media firestorm. “We are all animals,” Newkirk wrote, “so get over it.”
Discovery Institute senior fellow Wesley Smith offered a more measured response in a recent column. “When [PETA] published a photograph of a human being burned alive next to one of a burning chicken,” Smith writes, “it is precisely because animal liberationists see no moral difference between incinerating a human being and a chicken.” He’s right, of course. Ingrid Newkirk once famously claimed that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” and her group has never moved away from a world-view that refuses to acknowledge the uniqueness of humanity.
But with respect to PETA’s picture of a burning chicken, the story is even more bizarre. According to its official caption, the Associated Press photo shows “a chicken with bird flu” in “a bonfire of infected chickens … in Bali, Indonesia.” Setting aside PETA’s disturbing comparison of this bird with a murdered black man, the group condemns its death along with other examples of what it calls “outrageously cruel acts” and “abominations.” Indonesians, who would otherwise be at a higher risk for contracting deadly avian influenza, might instead consider it an act of compassion. But then, they probably judge their own lives to be worth more than a chicken’s.