Like most businesses, restaurants are usually too eager to “settle” over activist groups’ short-term demands, and seldom look past the most immediate conflict. The editorial “Game of chicken: Critics say capitulation to PETA will worsen animal rights reprisals,” July 28, page 31, marks a welcome shift in that regard.

Just last summer, [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] co-founder Ingrid Newkirk admitted that her organization is not ultimately interested in the animal welfare measures that restaurant operators have agreed to adopt. In a recent fund-raising letter, Newkirk told PETA supporters that winning a raft of concessions from fast-food chains would be “only a start.” And she told activists attending the Animal Rights 2002 convention: “If anybody wonders about, ‘What’s this with all these reforms?’ You can hear us clearly. Our goal is total animal liberation.”

In the short term, of course, PETA does its best to increase the cost of doing business. Hence the group’s demands, including more wing-flapping room, more “humane” – read: expensive – slaughter methods, and even mandatory play-toys for pigs. But those activists’ ideal endgame has nothing to do with the growing conditions of a future drumstick, T-bone, or pork chop. If every livestock animal in America were given its own apartment, limousine, and personal trainer, PETA would still argue that they have the “right” not to be eaten. That, in a nutshell, is “total animal liberation.” For executives who prefer to believe they are dealing with anything less, rude awakenings loom just beyond the horizon.