Why PETA’s lawsuit against a wildlife photographer harms animal rights activists, the animal rights movement, and ultimately, the animals themselves
Read my article in the Huffington Post by clicking here.
To worldwide press coverage, PETA recently filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against David Slater, a wildlife photographer, over photos taken in Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, of a macaque monkey. The photos are popular and world renown “selfie” photographs taken when Slater traveled to the island, set up the camera, took some photos, and then allowed the macaque to press the shutter and take photos of himself.
In Wildlife Personalities, the photobook containing the famous macaque selfie at the heart of PETA’s lawsuit, and other equally beautiful and arresting photographs of animals, Slater asks us look at animals as individuals, often as “intelligent as a human child with the same feelings,” having unique personalities who share important traits with humans and who are deserving of “the dignity we afford ourselves.” “What do we share with wildlife?” he asks. The answer, in his words and photography, is our humanity. In a word, everything.
Let us embrace empathy for animals, he says. Let us cease persecuting them, he asks. We must recognize “that animals have personality and should be granted rights,” he pleads to us while across the world, macaques and other primates are being exploited and harmed by humans: as mother macaques are shot so that their babies can be shackled by the neck and used to pick coconuts, as primates are imprisoned for entertainment or tortured in laboratories. With photographs that speak a thousand words in their defense, David Slater is asking us–showing us–why these things must stop; demanding that macaques and other animals be afforded the dignity they deserve and the freedom from exploitation that is their birthright as members of “Earth’s greater family.”
Isn’t his an effort worthy of celebrating, rather than undermining? Doesn’t the promotion of animal rights in the most parsimoniously eloquent and universally understood language there is–photography–embody the very ethos so many people mistakenly believe PETA exists to promote?
For those of us who have been laboring for years to save thousands of animals annually from PETA’s death squads, who have struggled to reform abusive shelters or pass animal protection laws and have been actively opposed by PETA, and who believe that the suffering and killing of non-human animals is far too urgent and serious an issue to warrant PETA’s often superficial and puerile tactics, we know too well that their answer to that question is “no.” Now added to our ranks is yet another dedicated animal lover–having reported to the Associated Press that he was “very saddened” by PETA’s lawsuit because he considers himself an advocate for animal rights–who is learning the hard way that when it comes to PETA, no good deed for animals goes unpunished.
The full article is here by clicking here.
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