Look behind the mnemonic
FEW COUNTRY LIFE readers will be supporters of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the animal-rights organisation. However, I could only admire its flair for publicity in commandeering the village of Wool for its recent vegan campaign. It garnered headlines in every newspaper and gave the issue the widest of coverage. Not since those five famous supermodels posed naked rather than wear furs has PETA scored such a PR hit, putting it to the front of everyone’s mind with a vengeance.
However, now the publicity has run its course and Wool has returned to its usual quiet existence, I think it’s time we took the pretentious America-based organisation and its falsehoods head on. Unlike Compassion in World Farming, and even the RSPCA, this is not an organisation dedicated to animal welfare and the abolition of cruelty. Instead, I believe it is pursuing aims that are thoroughly antagonistic to the countryside and damaging to the wider welfare of Britain.
We can usefully take the group’s initials as a mnemonic. P is for people whose interests PETA appears totally to ignore, so fixated is it upon animals that it doesn’t acknowledge any role for human beings in husbandry. Although it uses incidents of cruelty to add weight to its campaigns, it’s not the cruelty that counts, it’s the fact that we ‘use’ animals at all that angers the organisation. Thus, the wool from the most petted of sheep is to be condemned in favour of manmade fibres, hemp or cotton.
There’s no acknowledgement that sheep are on the hills only because generations of people have cared for them in order to shear their wool and eat their meat. Take that away and we will have no sheep—and no cows, pigs or chickens. The entire PETA philosophy denigrates people, but, were it implemented, it would be animals that would suffer almost to extinction.
Then there’s E, for the environment. PETA seems to have no use for the environment. Its attitude to farming would leave much of our most beautiful uplands untended and their green swathes would become bramble-ridden thickets. No animals means no grazing, which means the landscape that centuries of farming has created would be changed beyond recognition—yet the damage doesn’t stop there.
As today’s monoculture has shown, without animals, the fertility of arable land is seriously reduced and the move back to mixed farming is increasingly necessary to nourish the plants upon which PETA’S members rely. What’s more, its enthusiasm for manmade fibres entirely ignores the damage being done to fish, seabirds and probably to human beings by the vast quantities of microfibres that washing these clothes sends into our rivers and oceans.
T is for twaddle—the nonsense that PETA spouts. It’s not only that a vegan world devoid of livestock harms the environment and soil and leaves no place for pigs and cows and sheep, it also could be bad for human health. Of course, we eat too much meat and, of course, we’re producing too much bad meat, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat meat, drink milk or consume eggs. Less and better should be our watchwords. Human beings are omnivores. We are constitutionally created to eat meat and our health can suffer if we don’t.
Last, we should think of the A—that’s for animals. They’re what the whole business is supposed to be about, yet it’s the animals that would suffer most were PETA to be a success. Its entirely sentimental approach would have the opposite effect that it intends. Fewer animals, no husbandry and a miserable diet: what a prospect! PETA deserves and should get our full-hearted opposition.
PETA is pursuing aims that are antagonistic and damaging