Saturday, October 11, 2008

PETA’s complaints to ice cream company an embarassment

The Badger Herald - Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Ice cream is the quintessential summer treat and the best late-night binge. Smooth, sugary and… made from human breast milk?

Or so People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urges Ben & Jerry’s.

I don’t think so, PETA. If you’re ready to eat ice cream made from milk of the lactating teats of pregnant women, you can form your own commune to churn your mammary cream and make your idealistic sundaes elsewhere because no one’s going to market frozen breast milk as a dessert here.

The ice cream controversy began with a new PETA campaign that took the form of a letter to Ben & Jerry’s, imploring them to stop using dairy in their ice cream. They cited animal rights and health reasons to support their ridiculous request and drew inspiration from a Swiss restaurant that uses donated breast milk in their soups, stews and sauces.

I’m a vegan myself, and I don’t get it. Sure, the motives are clear, but why not suggest something less… human excrement-filled? Perhaps soy ice cream, which is just as delicious and a whole lot more appetizing than human breast milk, unless you’re under the age of 12 months.

By urging Ben and Jerry’s to switch their ice cream production into a lactation station and processing plant, PETA made their organization look absolutely dimwitted. It’s embarrassing for many vegans to be associated with such dolts and supposed animal rights advocates.

PETA’s version of ice cream simply wouldn’t sell, unless there was some sort of “buy one, get one free” deal for mothers. Ben & Jerry’s knows this, as does PETA. Such a proposal probably wouldn’t even make it past bathroom humor among co-workers. PETA most likely sent their letter as a rhetorical request, whose premise was flawed ad absurdum and ad nauseum. They created an analogy that made drinking another animal’s milk equal in displeasure to the milk of the breasts of a plethora of pregnant women. Most people, however, are too busy laughing in derision at the idea to see any logic in it.

In fairness to them, PETA had several valid reasons for their request, though it was disguised behind a “Fear Factor”-type challenge that involved drinking human excrement.

Their motives were completely right - drinking milk supports a harmful practice. Cows are sucked dry in dairy plants; for cows to be able to produce milk, they are artificially inseminated and their young are deported to be tortured as veal, Holocaust-style, while they produce 10 times the amount of milk that is natural for them. Humans are also the only mammals that drink milk past infancy, which is why some people have lactose intolerance. What makes cow’s milk so covetous? What about horse milk? Or bobcat milk?

But then again PETA is right - what about breast milk? We drank it when we were young. It makes some sense. The reason why the idea of breast milk in normal dessert consumption is so disgusting is just because of our societal eating patterns. People eat gross stuff like hot dogs all the time, but everyone’s used to it.

I think I’ve milked this for what it’s worth, so vegan morality aside, PETA made the wrong move once again. They only furthered their reputation as a radical terrorist group that propagates unrealistic measures for real moral issues. And they do it with a blithe unawareness that makes them look absolutely foolish.

Take, for example, PETA’s 2001 “Eat the Whales” Campaign, which solicited meat-eaters to eat whales instead of conventional animals like chickens or cows. The idea was that one whale could be slaughtered instead of the thousands of smaller animals which were raised in factory farms. In this case, the logic is completely sound: There would be thousands fewer animals in crammed factory farms because the whale can swim the expanse of the ocean, and everyone is fed. What’s irrational about the campaign is that it gives meat-eaters the opportunity to mock animal rights advocates as freaks. And no one likes to eat whale, even if it is a mammal.

PETA just gives being vegan a bad name. The organization itself isn’t inherently evil, but its practices are often out of touch with its motives. The leader of PETA has single-handedly done a great deal for animal rights, but when some vegans get together, being more radical supposedly means they care for the animals more. The organization’s work doesn’t make anyone more sensitive to animal rights because of how detached their requests are from reality. When PETA makes proposals such as this, it distracts the everyday omnivore from any sort of compassion regarding the issue at hand. And because of this detachment, no one is willing to put down a hamburger to hear what PETA says anymore.

Patrick Johnson ( is a freshman majoring in English and journalism.

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PETA’s complaints to ice cream company an embarassment

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