August 16th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Solzhenitsyn, towering 20th-century prophet

EDITORIAL: Australia's faltering economy: a way out

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Does Peter Costello have what it takes?

BANKING: Bendigo Bank praised by Reserve Bank governor

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Why the Doha trade round collapsed

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Plum postings for Australia's new aristocracy

RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM: Animal rights fanatics threatening our exports

INTERNET: ISP-level porn filtering moves a step closer

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Musical chairs

EDUCATION: An education system worth fighting for

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Opportunities for minor parties in WA election

UNITED KINGDOM: London transport bomb plot trial collapses

SPECIAL FEATURE: 1968 Prague Spring remembered

CINEMA: The Dark Knight - Heath Ledger's 'creepy and mesmerising' finale


BOOKS: THE GREAT ARAB CONQUESTS: How the spread of Islam changed the world we live in, by Hugh Kennedy

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Animal rights fanatics threatening our exports

by John Morrissey

News Weekly, August 16, 2008
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has championed a convicted an American bomber who has openly instructed school students on making and using fire-bombs to destroy such targets as laboratories and McDonald's restaurants. John Morrissey reports.

PETA president
Ingrid Newkirk
"Don't buy Australian wool!" was the message from PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) at a recent Paris Fashion show. Accompanied by vivid photographs of the bloodied hind-quarters of Australian lambs, this would seem to be a reasonable call to action from a group concerned at the suffering of animals.

But PETA stands for much more than this. It is an uncompromising, unscrupulous and insidious movement, the real motives of which are far removed from the noble-sounding ethical foundations promised in its name. In fact, it opposes all human use of animals, be it for food and fibre, transport, sport, hunting, entertainment, experimentation - or even as pets or guide-dogs! It recognises no ethical boundaries to the methods it employs or whom it manipulates. And it preys on children.

Surgical mulesing is a painful method used to remove the skin-folds from the areas of a lamb where urine and faecal matter tend to collect. Without this operation a species of blow-fly is attracted to lay its eggs and produce maggots which virtually eat the sheep alive.

Less painful

Animal welfare groups have pressured woolgrowers, through manufacturers and consumers, to find a less painful method of controlling fly-strike, with an agreed deadline of 2010. Progress is being made.

Anaesthetic and healing gels, selective breeding of "bare-breech" sheep, and plastic clips to retain the folds have all been developed - but PETA is not interested.

The only conclusion to be drawn from the public statements of its spokesman, Bruce Friedrich, is that it is not interested in the welfare of sheep but in the disruption of the industry.

Friedrich dismissed this progress and questioned the sincerity of Australian Wool Innovation, adding the spurious accusation that the AWI has a financial interest in the sale of plastic clips.

For PETA, no solution will be sufficiently humane, because this is not its real objective. When asked why wool rather than fur was being targeted for protests at the Paris fashion shows, a PETA spokeswoman explained that "the Mulesing Campaign is the big one at the moment".

ABC television's Landline program has followed the issue in recent weeks, with a clear description of the problem of fly-strike, the process of mulesing and the progress made in finding more humane solutions. It has also reported on the work of AWI to combat the attacks from PETA.

Not every woolgrower approves of the millions from the AWI levy fund spent on suing PETA, but it has certainly warned PETA off the local scene. Overseas, some manufacturers have rolled over under PETA's pressure, but the Italian clothing giant Benetton has defied it.

The AWI's Craig Welsh informed viewers that there is no worldwide boycott of Australian wool, and buyers have assured growers that their market will be largely unaffected, even if the 2010 deadline is not achieved.

PETA is unashamed about being "complete press sluts", in the words of its president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, and hunts sensation and headlines with little regard for either the truth or any normal concept of responsibility.

It preys especially on the sentimentality and innocence of the young. On the website, actresses endorse PETA and its policies. A graphic film-clip arouses justifiable anger against practices such as the Chinese skinning of dogs alive for their fur. False information is then propagated on anything from nutrition and disease, to justification of violent action, to incitement of urban guerrilla tactics in order to further PETA's aims. The appeals to young people from primary school through to tertiary levels are carefully structured and targeted.

In the USA, activists visit schools in colourful animal mascot costumes, distribute propaganda, enlist recruits and use popular entertainment such as the animated film Finding Nemo to turn children off eating animal products.

The website PETA2 tells children that eggs are the periods of hens, and that eating them is the same as eating human menstrual discharge, while boys are warned that drinking milk makes them impotent.

Free curriculum material is given to amenable teachers, promoting vegetarianism and animal rights, while high school students are encouraged to refuse to participate in dissection in biology classes. There is a gradual progression towards convincing students that breaking the law is acceptable in the pursuit of animal rights, and provision of tools and instructions for acts of protest, graffiti and vandalism against nominated targets.

PETA is very well-funded, receiving millions from numerous and probably well-intentioned animal charities, foundations and individuals. Donations would also be likely from cosmetic and skincare manufacturers desperate for PETA's stamp of approval.

PETA headquarters in Virginia acknowledges, among its many donors, Animal Charities of America with over $1.1m (1997-2001), the Comedy Central Network with $200,000 (2005), and the Pond Foundation with $60,000 (1998-2002). The latter openly exists to distribute funds to "activist groups".

PETA supports, in addition to its own operations, the even less scrupulous Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF), together described by America's FBI as the nation's "most serious domestic terrorism threat".

PETA justifies the hundreds of crimes and untold millions in damage caused by the ELF and ALF, including a $50m arson attack on a condominium project in San Diego. President Newkirk and her lieutenant Friedrich provided financial support for ALF bomber Rodney Coronado, who received a 57-month prison-term for arson at Michigan State University.

After his release, Coronado became a PETA celebrity, openly instructing students on making and using fire-bombs to destroy such targets as laboratories and McDonald's restaurants. Newkirk expresses her gratitude towards ALF for its actions and the stolen documents which it has provided for her sensational disclosures at media conferences.

PETA has only one fundamental aim, which is to end all use of animals by humans, irrespective of whether treatment is humane or otherwise. The end justifies the means. PETA is even reported to invest in restaurants and firms which process animal products, in order to pass resolutions at board meetings, the implementation of which would cripple the business concerned.

Its basic premise is that humans are just another animal species with no more right than any other creature, and that the harm which they do to other creatures justifies any action against them.

It allows them to shrug off atrocities like the Holocaust as no different from the fate of six billion broiler chickens in the USA each year, and to focus on New York's orphaned and traumatised animals resulting from the 9/11 attack in 2001 rather than the human victims.

PETA's stance is flatly opposed to the commonly accepted concept of the dignity of the human person. A current understanding of Judeo-Christian principles sees human beings as having been given mastery of the Earth as described in Genesis, but with a responsibility towards the planet and its creatures, best described as stewardship.

This tradition is well developed in Christian social teaching, for example, in Pope John Paul II's Solicitudo Rei Socialis (1987). Regarding the raising of animals for meat, British moral philosopher and Anglican, Roger Scruton, puts it very well in lay terms in his book, Animal Rights and Wrongs (1996):

"I find myself driven by my love of animals to favour eating them. Most of the animals which graze in our fields are there because we eat them. Sheep and beef cattle are, in the conditions which prevail in English pastures, well-fed, comfortable and protected....

"It seems to me therefore that it is not just permissible, but positively right, to eat these animals whose comforts depend upon us doing so."

He seriously questions the raising of chickens and pigs in cages, but defends farmers against their critics:

"A good farmer, rearing sheep and cattle on pasture, keeping dogs, cats and horses as domestic animals, and free-range chickens for eggs, contributes more to the sum of animal welfare than a thousand suburban dreamers, stirred into emotion by a documentary on television."

Emotive arguments

So let's keep a sense of balance when confronted with the emotive arguments of organisations like PETA - which, by the way, is reputed to have "put down" 97 per cent of the dogs committed to its US shelters.

Especially, let's ensure that children are not ensnared by PETA's seductive calls. Let's recognise the hypocrisy of a movement which grabs headlines by pursuing soft targets among sentimental Western populations, while dodging action on hard issues like China's fur industry.

- John Morrissey.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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