This week, PETA reached an all-time low by recommending that James Holmes, the accused Aurora theatre shooter, switch to a vegetarian diet to “stop the cruelty.” I…I’m just…Ugh.
The vegan non-profit has never been shy about their sometimes-shady, often offensive tactics for drumming up free press and attention. Which is why I thought twice about even writing about this…but then I was so disgusted and offended, I had to.
According to Denver Westward blog, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk sent a letter to the Arapahoe County Sheriff, asking that Holmes (and other inmates) be placed on an all-vegetarian diet while he awaits trial for the murder of 12 people and the injury of 58 others. Because, Newkirk explained, “PETA is urging everyone to take the first step toward making the world less violent simply by choosing meat-free meals.” There’s also a blog post about it on their site which, fair warning, has a picture of some dead, bloody pigs. From the post:
Although the extreme violence inflicted on them rarely makes the news, animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses endure senseless acts of aggression and bloodshed every hour of every day, and their fear and pain are as palpable and real as anyone else’s. Also, extreme cruelty to animals is inextricably linked to acts of violence against human beings.
Yes. PETA has likened eating meat to one of the grisliest mass murders in decades. For no apparent reason other than garnering media attention (again, we had to think twice before publishing this).
Why James Holmes? Why not any of the other criminals in jails across the country? Why not work with lobbyists to urge that all prisoners go vegetarian (which isn’t a terrible idea because it could give them an opportunity to become more sustainable)? Because, of course, suggesting anything else would be less offensive, less shocking, and less, well, PETA-style.
But this is so hugely hurtful to the victims and their families, who have now basically become pawns in PETA’s PR game. It’s hurtful to anyone who’s ever been a victim of violent crimes. And frankly, it’s hurtful to PETA’s cause.
I get that PETA has a shoestring budget, and these kinds of moves work for them, sometimes. I get that they have absolutely no standards regarding what’s too far. Domestic violence? Fair game for PETA. The OJ Simpson trial? A perfect way to get people to stop eating meat. But seriously, this new move is just so unbelievably disrespectful and low. And it’s the kind of thing that, for a long time, made me nervous to even use the term “vegetarian.” Because it conjures up images of people who liken senseless, random violence to hamburgers.
I know that there will be vegetarians and vegans who defend this move because, yes, slaughterhouses are violent places. And yes, the meat industry is pretty cruel to animals. But there’s a time to be an activist, and there’s a time to shut up and be a person who lets other people mourn without putting your agenda on their personal tragedy.
PETA, it’s time for you to stop the cruelty, by stopping your exploitation of other people’s pain.
Image: James Holmes’ booking photo, via the Arapahoe Co. Sheriff’s Office