Last week The Jewish Press published “PETA’s Position,” a letter to the editor authored by Benjamin Goldsmith, campaign coordinator for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), based in Norfolk, VA. The letter vividly illustrated why further debate with the radical animal rights group is not only impossible, but also grossly irresponsible.
It is certainly not an easy position to take when one suggests that an open marketplace of ideas cannot and should not take place on any issue. But PETA has long ago crossed the line of earning the right of being debated, as any fair-minded person with knowledge of the facts would conclude. The letter itself illustrates just how deceptive PETA is. It is an example of “spin” that is enmeshed in lies, distortions, disinformation, and, worst of all, harmful conjectures.
Goldsmith’s letter – in an Orthodox publication, bear in mind – begins by lauding the position on shechita (only that portion with which he agrees) of Rabbi Menachem Genack, rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union, but quickly introduces into evidence the criticism of shechita at AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa, by leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements. When did they become experts on standards for glatt kosher shechita? When did their movements even recognize the validity of glatt kosher? Who among their rabbis and constituents is eating glatt kosher anyway?
But that deception and mixing of rabbis and standards into one bowl to make it appear that they have the backing of “rabbis” is only the beginning of the deception. From the day PETA released the video it surreptitiously filmed at Agri, the organization practiced deplorable libelous and slanderous spin. Haifa Chief Rabbi Shar Yoshuv Cohen, for example, was never told the real background or context of the video. He, in fact, later demanded that PETA remove from its website his initial comment to a PETA leader who had deceived him into believing he was a baal teshuva interested in shechita. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate was duped into equating its position – not to make an immediate second cut so as not to make it appear that two Jewish shochtim performed the shechita – with a condemnation of second-cut practices at Agri performed by a non-Jew. And so it went.
Never mind that PETA regularly uses Jewish spokesmen who have to this day refused to repudiate the organization’s equation of slaughter of animals to the Holocaust. Could there be a bigger insult to our six million martyrs than to have Jews speak in the name of an organization that compares their death al kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the Lord’s name) to that of the slaughter of animals? How grotesque.
Never mind that PETA is mum about its letter to Yasir Arafat protesting the use of a donkey to blow up Jews. In other words, it would seem that as long as an animal is not used, it is permissible to kill Jews. For this alone, no Jewish publication should allow PETA a voice.
The viciousness of the PETA campaign is perhaps best recognized in that they refuse to accept that Agri itself has vowed to continue to upgrade its humane standards, not because the animals were ever mishandled or that they endured pain (as Rabbi Dr. I.M. Levinger, internationally recognized veterinary surgeon and animal welfare expert, pointed out following his visit to Agri) but because it wants to remove even the slightest perception that any animal is not treated humanely.
The USDA, which monitors humane practices at the plant, never closed Agri for even one minute, as it would surely do for any infraction. Rather than acknowledge the plant’s reaffirmation of its policy of improving conditions when even the slightest concern is raised, PETA continues its vicious campaign – because its motive, as everyone knows by now, is not only to end shechita as we know it in the U.S., but to put the kibosh on all slaughter of animals in this country (and, of late, fishing as well).