Meat is not murder

Note: I originally posted this on July 29, 2008

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently scolded singer Jessica Simpson for wearing the shirt to the right, as a PETA spokesperson proclaimed “Jessica Simpson might have a right to wear what she wants, but she doesn’t have a right to eat what she wants – eating meat is about suffering and death.” PETA supporter and actress Pamela Anderson displayed how tolerant she is of opposing views by calling Simpson obscene names.

I really do not care about what celebrities are doing from moment to moment, but the Simpson/PETA dustup created an interesting window into what the “animal rights” organization believes. By proclaiming that Simpson “doesn’t have a right to eat what she wants”, is PETA saying that eating meat should be illegal? I sent PETA an email on Sunday with a straightforward question: “Does PETA support criminalizing meat?”

The position that “meat is murder” was the reasoning behind a recent protest on the Indiana University campus, where two women, wearing nothing from the waist up and wearing only briefs from the waist down, posed on two huge Styrofoam trays and were covered with plastic wrap and fake blood. This was meant to illustrate that eating animals is, morally speaking, no different that cannibalism. But is it?

PETA believes that human beings are no more special than other mammals, and that animals should have the same rights as human beings. Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA, once famously said, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” But anyone with the most basic knowledge of nature knows that animals eat other animals. Some animals, like lions or wolves, instinctively hunt for prey, catching, killing and eating animals that are unable to escape being a meal.

This leads to an obvious question: Is it immoral for a lion to kill and eat another animal? If the answer is “no”, the follow-up question is also obvious: Why is it moral for a lion to eat other animals, but it is not immoral for human beings to do the same thing? There are only two possible answers to those two questions. Either it is just as immoral for animals in the wild to kill and eat other animals as it is for humans to do the same thing, or human beings hold a special status in nature that puts us on a higher moral plane than the animal kingdom. The second option is in direct conflict with the stated beliefs of PETA.

Either man is on the same moral level as animals or he is not. It is just that simple. If man is on the same level as animals, then eating meat is not immoral. As a Christian, I believe that man is a special creature, created in the image of God as described in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 9:6. I also believe that we are to be good stewards of what God has given to us, and cruelty to animals is therefore wrong. PETA also (disingenuously) appeals to Christian doctrine, but does so with the blasphemous lie that Jesus was a vegetarian.

PETA does some good things, especially as it relates to exposing the cruelty that takes place in bringing fur to the market. PETA does a public service by bringing to mind images that society often finds uncomfortable. But that good things PETA does are negated by the extremist stances they take, such as the logically unsound position that eating meat is immoral or their opposition to life-saving biomedical research. PETA has even defended eco-terrorists such as the Animal Liberation front, which famously firebombed Sims Poultry in Bloomington. This kind of fanaticism destroys PETA’s credibility as a legitimate animal “rights” organization.

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