Veterinary fish flak, presidential fly swatting, and PETA
PETA’s at it again. Though I’ve tried desperately to ignore the subject, forgoing posts on the Presidential fly-swatting fiasco and the Seattle fish market kerfuffle, I finally broke down and the result is this...
PETA has a point. There. I said it.
For once I’m finding myself thinking PETA’s on the right side of an issue. Though let me be clear: If nothing else, PETA has a knack for working hard to earn the ridicule of the vast majority of the American people––ridicule it mostly deserves, if not for the message then for its delivery.
Here’s the background:
Seattle’s Pike Place Market is well-known for its 100 year-old tradition of flinging fish. Though traditionally a practical affair (by way of moving fish efficiently for speedy sale), it’s now a tourist attraction. Gawkers come from far and wide to marvel at the spectacle. The fishmongers have consequently adopted more dramatic, gratuitous styles of tossing the fish to appeal to their audience.
Let’s just say this evolution in fish handling as performance art is not to PETA’s liking. It trivializes the animals. It exploits the animals––dead though they may be. And more to my point of view, it devalues the importance of all this fish protein. In short, it’s disrespectful of the animals––not to mention the oceans––that die to feed us. I get PETA on this one.
As the AVMA hosts its annual conference in Seattle next month, this fish toss will be showcased as a fun sideline meant to entertain us veterinarians. It’s a simple diversion geared to bring what the city has to offer to vets exhausted after the conference’s endless lecture circuit.
PETA says veterinarians should know better. Of all people, we should be able to muster up some respect:
Fish are intelligent, sensitive animals who deserve better than to be torn from their ocean homes, only to have their corpses used as toys at a convention of veterinarians––the very people who are charged with helping and protecting animals.
That’s when the AVMA took a step back, conferred with its animal welfare and scientific community, and claims it reached a consensus: The fish toss is back on. This is not a "kitten toss," after all. These are dead fish and it's a traditional event (though I'd counter there's nothing traditional about tossing a fish in a perfect, spiral football pass).
Then came the Obama gaffe: Dare I swat a fly? Yes, he did dare...with a presidential fluorish, to boot. Much has been made of the Ninja-like stealth and the “grasshopper”-chopstick skills of perhaps our most nimble President in recent memory, but PETA was having none of it.
As televised on CNBC, his deadpan, post-swat commentary is probably what did him in: “Got the sucker.”
Gratuitous fly killing and then...the apparent reveling in the kill itself. Asking the CNBC camera to focus in on the dead body was perhaps too much for PETA’s professed “no-kill” philosophy (which, unfortunately, the organization does not consistently apply, as evidenced by the 96% kill rate at the shelters it manages).
So crticize, it did. Though, to be fair, PETA issued a statement only when asked why they sent the Prez a humane bug catching device: "He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."
PETA’s often kooky, counter-cultural utterances notwithstanding, the point was clear: Killing any animal with gleeful abandon is just not right––even if it’s just a fly. And, somehow, I'm realizing that I don't completely disagree. But then, I grew up in a household where we used no insecticides and even Florida's giant cockroaches were often trapped and released (go figure).
Nonetheless, the fly-killing commentary is a perfect example showcasing why PETA needs to keep its trap shut. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing PETA members don masks, sieves and brooms as part of PETA's newest campaign to protect insect-kind. So do you blame the anti-PETA press for asking what’s next? Perhaps a campaign against antibiotics?
Oh PETA, when will you ever learn? How hard is it to pick your battles wisely? Perhaps someone should inform PETA that not all press is good press. That much though it may have a point, it too often invalidates it by pushing society’s buttons as gleefully as the President killed that fly...squashing its own political capital rather than bringing it to bear where it really counts.