“Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle…”
I oppose Ingrid Newkirk because under her direction, PETA employees seek out and either kill or cause to be killed thousands of animals every year, including healthy puppies and kittens. This is not only immoral, it is cruel. I oppose Donald Trump & Co. because not only are his policies cruel to his family and to other people, they are also cruel to animals. Neither of those two people, or those with whom they are associated, want to live in the same kind of world that I want to live in—a world where kindness, compassion, empathy, respect for the rule of law, and the rights of other living beings are sacrosanct.
Nonetheless, I was recently caught in the middle of an argument between the two camps over the killing of animals. PETA/Newkirk (rightly) went after Donald Trump, Jr. because he takes pleasure in killing animals through hunting (and because of his father’s policies which are also cruel to animals). Trump, Jr. (rightly) responded by going after PETA/Newkirk because they also take a perverse pleasure in killing animals by causing the death of roughly 99% of animals they seek out and by encouraging others to do the same. The problem is that Trump, Jr. cited my HuffPost exposé about PETA’s mass killing to do so and Newkirk defended herself by lying about the practices I uncovered and her motivations for doing so.
Although I have voted in every election since turning 18, I am not registered as either a Democrat or Republican. I have worked with both parties to pass animal protection legislation. And I choose candidates and issues that I believe advance the cause of human and animal dignity without regard to party affiliation. My true North is and has always been the Enlightenment values we have inherited and are ethically bound to nurture and give voice to: that all are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, chief among these being the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These values are under attack by Newkirk and PETA when it comes to animals and the people who love them. They are also more broadly under attack by Trump and his acolytes.
In terms of Newkirk & PETA: As an ethical vegan and an animal rights advocate, I do not challenge PETA because they seek to defend animals against those who would exploit them. If they actually did what they (now only falsely) claim is their mission, I would actively support them. As a former PETA volunteer, I actually did once until I learned the truth. Instead, I challenge them precisely because they use the cover of defending animals to cause them harm: rounding up and even stealing animals in order to inject them with poison. In fact, Why PETA Kills, my book about this very topic, sheds light on these issues. (It is the book PETA does not want anyone to read, and why they have issued a subpoena demanding I turn over the names of the PETA employees who were the sources for it.)
In terms of Trump & Co: It has pained me to see the girders underlying our democracy and system of government, the very tools used so successfully by prior movements for greater justice—our free press, our civil liberties, the rule of law, the equal application of justice, and the very American belief that a better tomorrow for everyone is both desirable and obtainable—under siege at and by the highest levels of our government. The tools of our democracy have allowed us, though admittedly in fits and starts and never with perfection, to work together to form a more perfect union. That we should devolve so openly into championing cruelty because of this Administration is a terrible setback, not only because of the ugly, even dangerous consequences for people who do not meet the narrow and jingoistic litmus test of worthiness espoused by Trump and his acolytes, but because they come at a time when it seemed that we could have ridden the momentum of other causes which have made our world a better place, to further the rights and welfare of non-human animals as never before.
My work, which is focused on protecting animals—regardless of whether the danger comes from the end of a gun (Trump, Jr.), government policy (Trump, Sr.), or a poisoned syringe (Newkirk & PETA)—has no place in their argument over which of them is more or less cruel to animals. They are both cruel. They are both reprehensible. And they both deserve unequivocal condemnation because of it.
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