Union-BulletinMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 17, 2009 - One would think that the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have almost unanimous support from the public. After all, who does not abhor animal cruelty and believe animals should be treated humanely?
Yet, PETA is seen as being out of touch with mainstream views and, frankly, reality.
While the group does do some good in protecting animals, it also can be quick to find abuse in places where it simply doesn't exist and it makes over-the-top claims. Six years ago, for example, PETA compared chickens in factory farms to Holocaust victims.
In most cases its overzealous claims are dismissed with a raised eyebrow.
But last week's effort to vilify Seattle's Pike Place Market because of the way fishmongers do their work was too much. PETA's claim that the tossing of dead fish is a "celebration of cruelty to marine animals" is more than absurd, it's laughable.
Pike Place Market is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Seattle. The giant open-air market above the waterfront has just about every kind of fresh food imaginable for sale. But what really makes the market special is its seafood -- and the way that seafood is handled.
The dead fish are tossed through the air by those who have prepared them to sell. It's a spectacle that's been a must-see attraction for visitors to Seattle for decades. It's been happening without complaint -- until now. Why? A convention of veterinarians is coming to Seattle. The vets are scheduled to take in the flying fish so PETA is using that as an opportunity to protest.
PETA wants to see the practice of tossing fish stopped, noting that tourists would not be as eager to snap photos of dead kittens or gutted lambs sailing over their heads.
"Killing animals so you can toss their bodies around for amusement is just twisted," said Ashley Byrne of PETA. "And it particularly sends a terrible message to the public when vets call it fun to toss around the corpses of animals. If anyone should be promoting compassion and not callousness toward animals, it should be vets."
That statement is nonsense.
The fish are not killed for amusement. They are killed so they can be sold for food. The tossing of the fish -- while admittedly a spectacle -- began a long time ago as a way to efficiently get the fish to the customers.
Jeremy Ridgeway, a manager at the market, said that the fishmongers are puzzled by the complaints and disagree that tossing the fish is a lack of reverence for a creature that is at the center of their livelihood.
"I mean, the fish are dead," Ridgeway said. "The thing is we're not laughing and making fun of them. ... It's just Point A to Point B. That's why we do it."
Makes sense. But PETA refuses to accept reason. As a result, the organization's image becomes even more tarnished. And that will make it far more difficult to protect animals that actually do need protection.
To see more of the Union-Bulletin or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.union-bulletin.com/.
Copyright (c) 2009, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.