In the latest example of just how far off society’s fringes the animal rights movement has strayed, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has declared its objection to a cockroach-eating promotion announced last week by the Six Flags Great America theme park. The idea is simple: Eat a cockroach, get a golden ticket to the front of the roller-coaster lines for the day. PETA calls the stunt “gratuitously cruel.” Six Flags helpfully points out that the crunchy critters are “extremely low in fat and high in protein.”

Can we be serious for a moment? We’re talking about cockroaches. Besides their natural ability to turn linebackers into girly-men, these pests are among the most potent allergic triggers for asthma — especially among children. But from where PETA stands, we pesky humans must take a back seat to every other animal species, without exception.

Besides, the entire animal-rights philosophy is a well-oiled slippery slope. If the “rights” of cows and chickens supposedly extend to lowly cockroaches, what about ants? Termites? Amoebas?

Columnist Neil Steinberg hit the nail on the head in yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times:

PETA — at its essence — would like all people dead and the world run without our interference. That doesn’t go well on a poster, so it focuses on keeping chickens from being manhandled and abusing women who wear fur. Occasionally the mask slips, however, as when Six Flags Great America invited customers to eat live cockroaches to gain quick access to rides. PETA sallied to the defense of the roaches. A cockroach has the awareness of a paper clip, and you’d think PETA would take a pass on this one. But they don’t. They can’t. Zealots never can.

And this is how an entertainment writer at one Sacramento TV station neatly summed up PETA’s contributions to roach-kind:

You want to support an organization that does some good? Send your checks to your local animal shelter. You want to watch freaks in action, go to a PETA rally. Very simple.