The battle cry "for the children" might seem like an honest justification for political activism. But when campaigning for kids involves exploiting them, activists no longer seem so upstanding. For instance, a recent editorial in The Ottawa Citizen criticized tactics used by one animal rights group, outlining the schemes suggested in a letter to its members:
The group recently advocated the recruitment of children for an anti-seal hunt protest. Specifically, it called for children "dressed in black" and holding flowers to march on the offices of the federal department of fisheries. "It will draw a lot of media attention if we can get the children," said the group in an e-mail notice.
And this case is not an isolated incident. Groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) frequently target impressionable, young children with radical propaganda. At elementary schools PETA employees pass out violent cartoons, while the group’s online kids’ site encourages children to vandalize dairy machines and provides pre-written homework assignments on animal rights topics.So what impact does this political coercion have on the very demographic it aims to protect? According to Canada’s National Post, inundation with hyperbolic rhetoric from activist groups occurs so often that "education experts have apparently coined a term, ‘ecophobia,’ the dread and helplessness children feel when confronted with apocalyptic forecasts."But environmental and animal rights campaigns are not the only movements scarring youth. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that excessive social attention to food and weight –fueled by the warnings of food police — could be inciting an increase in eating disorders in adolescent girls. Researcher Allison Field of Harvard Medical School told the Associated Press: "[Nutrition articles] may be offering advice such as cutting out trans fats and soda … But the underlying messages these articles send are, ‘You should be concerned about your weight and you should be doing something.’"