PETA vs. 'Nutcracker' Kids

Telling someone you're a vegan tends to have precisely one effect: Your listener will immediately turn defensive. If the topic comes up over a meal, say at a restaurant, a pall descends, as if you'd just broken it to someone who had her heart set on a bottle of wine that you don't drink. Whether you're a vegan or a teetotaler, people often assume that your decision to opt out is an indictment of everyone who doesn't do the same.

That's one of the reasons I tend not to mention, unless I have to, that I'm a vegan -- have been for 20 years. All of my credentials are in order: soy yogurt in the fridge, lentil soup on the stove, non-leather boots on my feet, vegan makeup on my face, requisite cat standing by. (Well, technically, he's sleeping.) I'm a vegan for ethical reasons, but that choice is mine. I'll talk about it if asked, but I don't proselytize. It only alienates people.

So why bring it up now, given that no one is asking? Because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- which by all rights should be one of my favorite organizations -- is driving me batty, again. PETA is as vegan as can be, but it's also a case of arrested development: a perpetually furious adolescent that sees no damage to its cause in making little kids cry or ruining families' holiday outing. Which is exactly what's going to happen Saturday if, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, members hand out anti-fur leaflets and stickers to children on their way to see the Pennsylvania Ballet's "Nutcracker" at the Academy of Music:

Why kids? "Children have a natural affinity for animals," says PETA's Dan Mathews in a statement. "Once they learn how animals are killed to make jackets, boots, and bags, we expect that they'll be reaching for stickers before you can say 'Sugar Plum Fairy.' "

That's just plain mean. Yes, kids have an affinity for animals, and young people are more likely to go vegetarian for ethical reasons than are their elders. But is there, perhaps, a better, kinder time to try to teach children about the connection between animals, leather and fur? Not according to PETA, which apparently staged a similar event last Saturday at the Detroit Opera House. WDIV, that city's NBC affiliate, explained: "PETA feels this is an outlet for kids to 'stick it' to their parents or anyone else they know who wear animal skins or fur."

There's the holiday spirit: Encourage children to stick it to Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Stephen -- whoever was evil enough to take them to the ballet. And if the little ones should notice the leather on their own feet and shed their shoes in a snowbank? Too bad about their frostbitten toes, but it couldn't be helped.

Especially because, in keeping with its black-and-white adolescent outrage, PETA views ballet and opera audiences as uniquely deserving of aggressive tactics. In a leafleting alert, it declaims:

With the holiday season upon us, the temperatures are dropping, and cold-hearted fur hags everywhere are coming out in full force. No matter where you reside, you can be sure that a local fur hag is dusting off an animal carcass disguised as a coat, hat, or scarf for a night out at the ballet or opera.

What better place to educate the public about the cruelty of the fur industry than at a classic holiday ballet, such as The Nutcracker, where fur-wearers are sure to congregate and show off their expensive cadavers?

The irony, for me, is that I agree with PETA about cruelty to animals, and about the necessity of much of its work. But there are effective ways and self-defeating ways of getting a message across. This little campaign is one of its nastier efforts.
December 9, 2009 1:23 PM | | Comments (7)


I know this is an old blog entry but the opening line - "Telling someone you're a vegan tends to have precisely one effect: Your listener will immediately turn defensive." struck me as being so true. It is something that myself and my partner (boht vegan) have often commented and laughed about. We have always put it down to a sense that deep down they know that eating animals is actually wrong but they have repressed this feeling and that by mentioning that you are vegan you are somehow bringing it to the surface again. The most often heard line one hears in reply to tellign someone that you're vegan.. (other than "what do you eat then?") is, in our experience, "We don't eat much meat ourselves" which seems to be another way of them trying to distance themselves from the cruelty that they know exists in farming but which they have managed to avoid thinking about too much.

Wow! Thanks for this. We are going to the Nutcracker on Saturday! I am taking my 4 year old daughter who has been dreaming of this for almost a year. I had gotten an email and phone call from the PA ballet saying that the protesters would be there and they do not reflect the opinions of the PA ballet. I was shocked! We have been very strict vegetarian for almost 2 decades and my family has never worn an animal product and this is an issue close to my heart. But the nutcracker?! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and getting me ready for what to expect tomorrow. My poor 4 year old might get very confused. We have spent her whole life trying to teach a respectful view of animal rights and leading by example in our lifestyle and for that we might be harassed on our way to a special outing.

Thank you for this column. I am with you on this one.

You know, I haven't seen a fur coat at The Nutcracker in years. The PETA people are not only going after the wrong crowd, they are likely to alienate some of their potential allies.

Frankly, I wish they would hand out their leaflets at some big box store where those indifferent to the fate of animals are more likely to shop.

To me, this is like Fred Phelps and his horrid mob picketing the funerals of dead soldiers. Tasteless, and a cheap publicity stunt.

Right on! Great column. I think, given the targets, these are--as you say--adolescents fighting against a phantom "mommy" and "daddy." And, one might also ask where these PETA people live? In houses/apartments built on land that wildlife used to enjoy? What about the concrete that their cars demand? Doesn't the runoff ruin streams and rivers now that there's no ground to catch it? And, for goodness sakes, I sure hope they don't fly anywhere--. OTOH, it's nice to have a retro voice or two out there--reminds me of the good old days.

A Holiday Thought...

Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

That is the jillion-dollar question. Dressing for warmth sans animal products is a seasonal nightmare — but there's some progress being made by young designers like Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture in Chicago.

So what is the greenie, enviro thing to wear in freezing weather, given wool is sheep exploitation (except perhaps with old breeds which slough their fleece naturally), synthetics are all ultimately unsustainable petro-derivatives, and cotton isn't warm?


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This page contains a single entry by Critical Difference published on December 9, 2009 1:23 PM.

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