Jewish World Review June 10, 2005 / 3 Sivan 5765
Lewis A. Fein
Extremism at Home: PETA Declares War
Of the many extremist groups that embarrass themselves while threatening the public's welfare, few are as infamous as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The organization routinely uses inflammatory rhetoric that defies common sense and insults decent people. (I need not recite PETA's sordid tendency to conflate fascism with the alleged mistreatment of animals. But behavior of this kind, which naturally shocks even the most morally quiescent citizen, should end a conversation between a reasonable individual and this extremist group.) Its opposition to the kind of necessary scientific research -- inquiry that may save lives and uncover the mystery of cancer or Alzheimer's -- is beyond foolish; it is willfully destructive. And therein lies PETA's agenda: It seeks to stop science and reason, the twin lights of ethics -- a word badly misappropriated by PETA itself -- that give us better, safer medicine and unrivaled excellence. Its conspiratorial mindset and invasive policies are now a national danger.
Nowhere is there a better example of this worldview than the intimidation and wrongful protests lodged against Covance, one of the world's foremost research laboratories and centers for scientific research. Based in Princeton, New Jersey, Covance is the victim of a sustained a campaign against its very existence. (Its facility in northern Virginia bears the scars of PETA's belief system, a philosophy that is as extremely strident.) A place dedicated to medical advancement, which may produce a vaccine for AIDS or a cure for other terminal illnesses, is now a target for destruction. But Covance will not accept PETA's bullying, and will stop -- a lawsuit is already underway -- the group's malicious activity, including its infilitration of the laboratory's most vital areas.
PETA has a cause, a viewpoint that condemns compromise and views cooperation as a form of capitulation. Rather than concede the obvious -- that Covance works on behalf of the public good -- we get crazed rhetoric and warped analogies. Any act of deliberate cruelty toward animals deserves condemnation, but stalking, vandalism and threatening people with violence are hardly a solution to any problem. Never mind science's commitment to ethics and professional research; the extremists want their scapegoat, and they will mercilessly wage war against the innocent. For this effort is really about attacking science and discrediting individuals.
Yet, why should any reasonable person seriously entertain arguments from a group that employs scare tactics and warrants special attention from law enforcement? No decent citizen would accept intimidation as a substitute for debate, and no sane individual should legitimate PETA's outlandish ideas. If an extremist is, rightly, an outcast then this particularly zealous organization also deserves some space on the island of lunacy or dogmatic belief. Anything short of banishment from the center of serious discussion would be too lenient a punishment. I do not advocate censorship, but I do encourage outrage before this brand of nonsense.
Science is about inquiry, theories, research, ethics and simple standards of right versus wrong. PETA mistakes science for heresy -- and will condemn the other side. We deserve scientists who can work without fear or the threat of violence. We need facts to prevail here, and we should all lead the charge on behalf science. Most importantly, patients with cancer, AIDS or Alzheimer's require our help; they rely upon Covance's research, not PETA's propaganda. We have lives to save.
JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Lewis A. Fein