When you’re an animal rights activist, you spend considerable time equating some odd animals with people. Many years ago, a Los Angeles Times reporter asked People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) what the group had to say about ant farms. The answer was “Ants are sentient beings, like we are.” Ants’ tastier fellow arthropods, lobsters, even had a PETA “lobster liberation” campaign, staffed by campaigners who would later work for the Humane Society of the United States. The lab-coat-wearing activists at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) defend rats and advocate that people not give to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (to pick one of many mainstream medical charities they tell people not to donate to) because lab animals are used in potentially lifesaving medical research there.
So it’s not surprising that when a Los Angeles Police Department internal e-mail characterizing animal rights activists as “rabbit people” leaked, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk felt the need to run her mouth. It’s also not surprising that a woman who said “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” responded thusly: “‘Rabbit people’ are the ones in cages in laboratories, and we are the ‘human people’ working to get them out.”
That’s a new rhetorical twist. Usually animal rights activists divvy things up as “human animals” and “nonhuman animals.” Now it’s “human people” and “rabbit people.”
We would be remiss, then, to ignore other oppressed “peoples”: the “dog people” and “cat people” unfortunate enough to fall into PETA’s hands. PETA’s headquarters in Virginia is an animal shelter, but the group kills the overwhelming majority (95.9% in 2011) of the dogs and cats it takes in, per state regulatory filings.
That sounds like hypocrisy of the worst sort and, in a way, it is. But in another way, it actually fits well with PETA’s anti-pet-ownership agenda. A PETA official wrote to a Florida newspaper earlier this year advocating that a Florida region adopt a “no-birth community” standard for pets, possibly putting puppies and kittens on the path of the dodo bird. Newkirk has said that if she could remake society “companion animals [pets] would be phased out.” (That sounds a lot like fellow vegan animal-rights group president Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, who once said, “I don’t want to see another cat or dog born.”)
With PETA and groups like it, the goal is not animal welfare or proper animal care. The goal is “total animal liberation” and equal treatment for invasive insects and humans. That means no pets, no lifesaving medical research, and no bacon.