PETA fish protest has dangerous hidden agenda
It’s pretty easy to trash People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a collection of overreaching, attention-hungry media hounds who personify the old show-biz adage that any publicity is good publicity.
Witness the recent protest PETA launched against the Americ
an Veterinary Medical Association, whose members have the option to enjoy a “fish tossing demonstration” put on by the fish mongers from downtown Seattle’s landmark Pike Street Market. For the uninitiated, fish tossing is a tourist-only sideshow during which vendors at the Pike Street Fish Market sling around whole salmon, the “eye candy” in the c
old case that draws crowds to their seafood stand.
The century-old Market itself is a charming mix of shambling wooden stalls and staircases, an indoor boardwalk filled with restaurants overlooking nearby Pu
get Sound, eclectic little trinket shops and countless street hawkers hustling everything from kitschy Americana to fresh produce to overpriced souvenirs of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.
The fish tossing is of much more recent origins, and the King and Chinook salmon getting slung around these days are no longer pulled from Puget Sound, but instead are shipped in from Alaska (mostly) or flown in from Iceland, Norway and points even further east.
No doubt tourists have come from equally distant places, in large part to witness the Pike Street boys and their flying fish. As a result, the seafood vendor has created a motivational skit to inspire business audiences at conferences—such as the AVMA’s meeti
ng next month—to “take the challenge” of catching a slippery 30-pound salmon (thankfully cleaned and gutted) as a metaphor for succeeding at the equally challenging game of customer service.
Or public persuasion, in the case of PETA. In fact, I don’t doubt their staff has seen or even attended one of the Pike Street Fish Market’s presentations and came away with a different inspiration: Here’s a new way to guilt trip even the enlightened souls who’ve switched from bloody red meat to healthy fresh fish. As PETA’s letter to the AVMA stated, “People who care about animals are appalled that a veterinary organization would promote an event in which animals are treated so disrespectfully and are handled as if th
ey were toys.”
Except . . . they’re dead. Which would make a protest over humane treatment moot, one would presume.
Only PETA doesn’t want the Pike Street boys to cease and desist tossing their wares around the stall. As the national media coverage has connected their phony outrage with a fish tossing stunt most Americans never even knew about, it becomes a wonderful emotional trigger to remind people of the many causes—and the endless fund-raising opportunities—PETA continually conducts. On behalf of poor, defenseless animals, of course. Dead or alive.
Predictably, most folks in Seattle have reacted with a fond invitation for PETA to drop dead, like the salmon at the center of their protest. “PETA is a joke and a farce, as usual,” one letter to the editor stated. “They never cease to amaze me at how stupid they are,” another read. Another asked, “Why don’t they take up a real cause, like saving the whales or protecting other endangered species?”
Even The Seattle Times opined that calls for the Pike Place Fish mongers to substitute rubber fish in their presentation were misguided. “Do the presentation as is—with all its slimy charm,” the editors wrote. “Let this hissy fit about absolutely nothing run out of steam.”
That’s probably the attitude of most industry folks, as well. Let the idiots at PETA spout off about mistreating dead fish. Who cares? Most people reject such an idea out of hand.
True enough, but the danger here isn’t that PETA will soak up another 15 minutes of media attention for yet another ridiculous protest 99% of Americans find absurd. PETA isn’t interested in “awareness” about animal issues, as their legions of apologists always insist. Bemoaning the
tossing of dead fish isn’t about publicity, or even awareness. It’s about credibility.
That’s why these tactics are so insidious. Publicity is one thing; credibility is quite another. PETA’s ultimate objective isn’t visibility, it’s coronation by the mainstream media as the go-to group on the animal rights debate.
So rather than merely chuckling at the absurdity of a protest over dead fi
sh, those who work for, believe in or who wish to continue patronizing the meat and seafood industries ought to take a moment to share their thoughts about whether PETA deserves its self-anointed status as standard-setters on animal welfare.
If you believe campaigns to protest somebody tossing dead fish are ridiculous, imagine if they were in charge of writing the regs on animal rights.