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Thursday, May 12, 2011 06:04 pm

PETA: Is there anything they won’t say?

As Illinois does the annual legislative dance this time of year, all sorts of ideas get tossed around, ranging from the austere to the ridiculous. Sen. Shane Cultra, a Republican from Onarga, tossed out an idea in the latter category this week when he said that parents of obese children should lose their tax deductions for those kids. It was said in the context of a bill to tax sugary beverages in hopes of curtailing childhood obesity. Cultra later said he was just joking, though not everyone believes him.

The idea is obviously a dud; trying to work out a mechanism for enforcement would be a bureaucratic nightmare. I think a lot of people realized that, including Cultra himself, and so it got a little bit of press coverage and probably should have died there.

But some people can’t leave well enough alone. We’ve all had the experience of being in a conversation with one person when a third person comes along and injects some random thought that apparently came from the farthest regions of left field. When that happens, everyone else just stands there in awkward silence for awhile.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the eyeroll-inducing anti-meat group, dutifully took up the role of conversation killer following Cultra’s statement today when the group announced it was planning to erect a billboard in Springfield that says “Feeding Kids Meat Is Child Abuse.”

childabuseBB72.jpg

Now, I’m a vegetarian myself. I stopped eating meat about two years ago because of health concerns and moral convictions. And I tend to agree with PETA that eating vegetarian/vegan is healthier overall. (I lost 20 pounds when I stopped eating meat, and I have more energy and a more positive outlook now.)

But PETA’s announcement (PDF) was so outlandish, graceless and completely out of context that I could only do this: facepalm1.jpg

Until PETA injected their entirely unsolicited opinion and hijacked the conversation, meat wasn’t even part of the discussion, nor was child abuse.

And let’s put this in perspective. If feeding children meat is child abuse, so is letting them ride a bike or go swimming. The chances of a child getting hit by a car or drowning in the pool are low enough that a reasonable parent can accept the risk. Likewise, the chances of a child becoming obese simply from eating meat are pretty slim. (That pun wasn’t intentional, but I’ll take any laugh I can get.) There are a plethora of more influential causes of childhood obesity, and pretending like meat is the worst among them is disingenuous at best.

Ultimately, PETA’s hyperbole does more to alienate people than it does to convince them to try skipping the meat. Apparently, the virulently anti-meat loudmouths have never heard the adage that “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Maybe if they stuck with extolling the virtues of the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, other people might see their ads as informative instead of inflammatory.

Their billboard announcement brings to mind one of my favorite jokes:

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Vegan.”

“Vegan who?”

“I’m better than you!”

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