PETA "Sea Kitten" - Part 2 (revised) - my response to their response (EASIER TO READ)

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on January 30, 2009 at 12:19:04:

I didn't clearly mark the comments that were PETA's in the first version. I've done so here.
PETA actually sent me a reply to my initial rant within about two hours of my e-mailing them. At first I thought this was an actual reply but I came to learn later it's a form letter.

However, the fact that this letter even exists indicates they must be catching a lot of flack becausre they have a need to have a canned response. So - once again - I urge you to write them if you agree that the whole "Sea Kittens" thing is insipid.

Anyhow, for those interested, here's my rant #2:

Dear PETA staff,

Thanks for your anonymous response to my note. (Well, seriously, thanks for a prompt response.) But at least I put my name on what I write. It would be nice to know who's speaking for PETA.

< Thank you for contacting PETA about our lighthearted campaign to get people to think of fish as “sea kittens.” >

You're way over the line on this one. I'm beginning to think PETA stands for "People for the Eradication of Thoughtful Analysis".

< The goal of this campaign is to help people of all ages recognize that fish are living beings capable of feeling pain and distress—just as kittens are—and that it is no more acceptable to inflict pain and suffering on fish than it is to hurt a kitten or any other animal. >

Why can't you just love an animal for being that animal? I happen to really like fish - and not to eat. I swim with them all the time. I don't eat fish mainly because I just never developed a taste for it, and only partly because I might feel like I was eating my pets. (But just for the record, I am a carnivore.) Fish are cute, adorable, interesting, and definitely deserve consideration. Here's a whole page of cute fish: http://www.reefseekers.com/PIXPAGES/Indonesia%20(general)/Indonesia%20-%20Bunaken%20&%20Lembeh.htm .

But they don't need to be made into kittens. And certainly not when you think of what a kitten (or cat's) favorite food is likely to be: FISH!!!

< PETA’s purpose is to stop animal suffering, and we use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages. >

Really? Let's stay with the fish theme here. One of the most brutal things humans do to fish is done to sharks. It's known as shark finning. Are you aware of what that is? That's when a shark is caught, hauled on to the deck of a boat, and - while the shark is alive - it's fins are sliced off and saved to be made into soup. The still-living shark is then tossed overboard, left to drown now that it lacks the ability to swim.

I would contend that this is a hell of a lot more brutal and a more traumatic death for the animal than anything you're talking about. Yet, when I just did a search on the PETA website, I can't find that you have taken any stance on this atrocity being committed daily against these top predators. How can you be so hypocritical? How can you decry fish consumption - no matter how lighthearted you claim it to be - and yet ignore this very real problem worldwide, that's contributed to a 90% eradication in shark species by some estimates. There are a couple of mention in your blogs but where's the official outrage from PETA?

< Part of our job is to grab people’s attention and initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action. >

Trust me when I tell you I'll be doing everything in my power to help you get that attention. It just may not be the type of attention you seek.

< The situation is critical for billions of animals, and our goal is to make the public think about the issues. >

Then address the issues. Let's continue just with the sharks.

Anytime you support the wholesale slaughter of apex predators (and I'm sure you'd agree - using your own rhetorical standards - that by your silence, your inaction supports this barbaric practice) you upset the entire balance of the ecosystem. Species that were held in check by the sharks are now able to survive in greater numbers and the balance shifts considerably.

But as long as you can get people to eat their vegetables, I guess you can turn a blind eye to this critical issue.

< We cannot dismiss the fact that it’s wrong to hurt fish simply because we perceive them to be less intelligent than humans. >

Who ever said that fish are less intelligent than humans? I read a LOT of stuff about fish and I've never seen that anywhere. Can you quote me a source? I believe your prejudice is showing. I've run into some very clever fish over the years. In fact, one of the things I do every week is serve as a volunteer at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and I describe my job there as to be constantly outwitted by the fish. It's very humbling, actually. Fish are a lot smarter than you're giving them credit for. That's wrong on your part.

In fact, there's a whole school of thought that it's the DUMB ones that get caught and the smart ones are left to breed. That makes the species smarter over time. Darwinism in its finest and simplest form.

< Superior intelligence does not entitle humans to abuse other humans . . . >

Humans do some pretty stupid things ("Sea Kittens" not even being my prime example) so I wouldn't exactly hang my hat on that "superior intelligence" theme.

< . . . so why should it entitle humans to abuse beings other than humans?>

Besides, you at PETA do seem to feel entitled to abuse humans when - as I pointed out previously - your position absolutely denigrates the work of those of us who take marine conservation seriously and realize it involves more than just saying "Don't eat fish." You feel it's wrong to put a hook through the mouth of a fish yet you feel it's absolutely fine to drive a stake through the heart of those of us who love the ocean and fight to protect it on a daily basis. Shame on you.

< No one would consider doing to other animals what some so casually do to fish—trick them into impaling themselves in the mouth . . .>

But tricking CHILDREN into thinking of fish as kittens . . . that's OK????? What is wrong with you? Where is your sense of ethics? Don't you know it's harder to un-teach something than it is to teach it? If you feel so strongly about this (1) DON'T target children with your propaganda and (2) Teach them right the first time. Then you don't have to have the fish-aren't-really-kittens speech down the road.

< . . . and pull them into an environment where they can’t breathe.>

Uh, I hate to break this to you, but fish don't breathe. They extract oxygen from the water by passing it over their gills. A fish out of water can survive a heck of a lot longer than a human underwater. If you're not clear about this "breathing" thing, you might check out this website: http://www.geocities.com/aquarium_fish/how_fish_breathe.htm . (I have this "thing" about trying to be factual and accurate. You should give it a try sometime.)

< But whether they are bass or basset hounds, catfish or cats, all animals treasure their lives and feel pain. >

But it's OK to rip living vegetables out of the ground and eat them. Hmmm . . . interesting double-standard. And before you argue that vegetables don't feel pain since they lack brains or nerves, I'll point out that a jellyfish lacks a brain and centralized nervous system. It can't feel pain, certainly not in any way that we can fathom. So is it then OK to eat jellyfish the same way it might be OK to eat vegetables?

Of course this ignores totally the thought that not everyone agrees with PETA about fish feeling pain. Dr. James Rose of the University of Wyoming comes to mind. And it brings up another interesting question.

Do you allow your real kittens (the feline kind, not the fake kind) to catch mice? Do you think the mouse feels pain when they are toyed with and then eaten by a cat? Is this fair to the mouse? Is PETA taking any steps to stop THIS barbaric practice???? Because if you're going to use the "feels pain" thing as a standard for behavior, shouldn't the behavior we expect of ourselves extend to our animals as well?

< We also want people to know that eating fish flesh can be hazardous to their health. Fish can accumulate extremely high levels of chemical residues—as much as 9 million times higher than the levels of the water in which they live. Fish flesh may store contaminants such as PCBs, >

And where exactly do you think a lot of this unhealthy stuff comes from? It comes from runoff produced by . . . the agriculture industry. The very same folks who are producing the vegetables that you claim to be the savior of the fish if only more people would eat veggies instead of fish, could be the very thing that's helping to poison the fish.

How interesting when I once again search the PETA website, I can find no call from you to eliminate dangerous vegetable-growing practices that can be harming marine ecosystems through the runoffs they produce that contain chemicals used in agri-business.

Like I said earlier, it's not as simple as "Don't eat fish."

< Unfortunately, getting the message to the public is not always easy and straightforward. >

Actually, it is. People may not be as dumb as you think. What you may perceive as not hearing your message, may simply be people not agreeing with your message. It's like when someone asks, "Does God answers all prayers?" The correct response is, "Yes, but sometimes the answer is No."

< We often use stunts and controversial ad campaigns to get the word out about animal abuse, because sadly, the media usually do not consider the facts alone “interesting” enough to cover. >

Don't blame the media. That's a copout for those who fail to cogently frame their argument and present their case. Read Ken Weiss' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Altered Oceans" series and then tell me that facts aren't "interesting". Blaming the media is the last refuge of those who seek a copout for the failure of their message.

I've got no problem with stunts and PR gimmicks. I have problems with lies, telling half-truths, and the like. I have a problem with you ignoring the larger problem and only focusing on part of it. By that I mean if everyone stopped eating fish worldwide right now, the health of our oceans would not improve. Marine conservation is not some one-trick-pony as you would have people believe. If you really want to do something for the fish, attack the entire problem. You do a disservice to marine conservation by giving the impression that if we stop eating fish, everything will be all right. It will not.

< Our efforts and campaigns have been very successful in educating the public about the abuses that animals endure every day . . .>

If you're correct, then why do these abuses still occur?

< . . . and your message is proof that people are reading and talking about PETA and animal rights. >

Well, sort of. What people are saying is "What a bunch of morons" and they're not listening to your message. I can't tell you how many people wrote me to say when they first heard of the "Sea Kitten" campaign that they thought it was a Saturday Night Live skit or something from The Onion. Maybe you're just too clever for your own good.

< Thanks again for writing and for sharing your thoughts with us. >

You probably haven't heard the last of me yet. If you truly want to help improve the marine environment, let's talk about how that can be done and how PETA can be their resources to use to improve the health of the oceans, bearing in mind that water covers 75% of this planet and that when the oceans are healthy, the Earth is healthy.

But if all you want to do is posture and obfuscate, I've got an issue with that. Trying to convince the public (and let's face it- you've admitted you're really targeting impressionable children) with this Sea Kitten charade is somewhat akin to the attempt by the Reagan administration in the early 80s to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable to skirt around nutrition issues.

Ketchup's not a vegetable. Fish aren't kittens. Stop this campaign of misinformation.

- Ken

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