On PETA

Who would have thought that PETA would be such a strong advocate for the use of oil-based products?

PETA is an organisation that stands for the following: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”. They are a strong voice and advocate for a Vegan lifestyle.

P: People, E: Ethical, Do onto others as you would have them do onto you, T (as above), and A: we are all Animals. All, meaning I guess, animals.

“Do onto others…” is a saying of the founder of Christianity, who purportedly not only emptied half the fish of the Galilee sea into fishermen’s nets, but fed a multitude with loaves and fishes. He also spoke alot about shepherds: those who cared for sheep destined for either eating and/or wool production. I’m sure there were shepherds at his birth for that matter. There is no proposition anywhere within Christianity that animals have any intrinsic rights of equality or even for “humane” treatment, in fact quite the reverse, it is explicitly stated that they are there for us to use. Animals do not have souls, are not “touched” by original sin, and so are not on the “same level” as human beings. They are not saved. This is a central, irrevocable doctrine of Christianity. They aren’t human, not even close. So, this seems rather perverse that this foundational statement of Christian ethics would be used as the primary definition of ethical standards for a Vegan ideology.

PETA’s terms do not include the use of animals in what we might call traditional uses, such as farming (bullocks involvement in the cultivation of rice), as pack animals, as transport. You will notice that, with regards to use, that is restricted to “entertainment”. Much of human economy, including many foods that are considered suitable for Vegan consumption, still rely on the active use, “exploitation”, of animals for the benefit of human consumption and economic activity. These indirect uses, of which honey bees are one such example, are indicative of the inconsistent, one could say hypocritical, principles applied.

On Supporting Oil-based products
On PETA’s website there is a feature describing the appropriate materials that can be used for clothing. Here are some screen shots for the product categories:

source: “http://features.peta.org/how-to-wear-vegan/default.aspx”
source: “http://features.peta.org/how-to-wear-vegan/default.aspx”
source: “http://features.peta.org/how-to-wear-vegan/default.aspx”

Lets have a closer look at these recommended materials:

Natural
Tencel (wood), cotton, hemp, bamboo, viscose (chemically extracted from trees), linen, biofabricated leather (leather grown from DNA, it is cow leather, just not using cows to “grow it”), cotton, Rayon, Cupro, Modal, pineapple leather, cork, paper leather, mushroom leather

Oil
Faux Leather, All synthetic materials, man-made materials, polyurethane, Microfibre, polyester fleece, polyester, rPET (recycled plastic), acrylic, Primaloft, Thinsulate, waxed canvas (the wax is a petroleum product, bees wax not permitted), mock cork, fake snake, ultrasuede, microsuede, faux suede, synthetic down, faux fur, Polartec wind pro, satin.

The fabrics not to use are listed on the site, but are not of interest to us here. Satin is listed as a valid product, but it is made from silk. Sateen is from cotton, and some satin is now made from oil-products, so I’ve listed it in the oil category.

As you can see, PETA advocates a very large variety and usage of petroleum based products, a fact we have discussed in more detail elsewhere.

Let us put this usage and advocacy into some perspective. According to National Geographic, 91% of all plastic used is not recycled. Of the plastic that is recycled, it has limited use; it is not a material that recycles well (unlike aluminium or glass). Part of the problem of recycling plastics arises because it is mixed in with other materials. So, for instance, the plastic-paper cups so used by the various coffee chains are very difficult to recycle, as you need to separate the plastic lining from the paper. These cups have only recently begun to be sparsely recycled, by a UK company, despite the fact that for over 30 years it is US coffee chains that have popularised their use. So, for many of these materials above, their complex fabrication process means they will not be recycled.

They will sit in landfill. They will leach, slowly into the environment. They do not bio-degrade. They will go into the sea and make their way into the food chain, fish eating fish eating plastics. We are not talking about the human food chain here, just that of marine animals.

If the world suddenly turned to the Vegan based clothing, so much plastic, oil-based products would need to be produced, that the oil industry would grow exponentially overnight.

If our current use of plastics continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. According to this article as well, only 5% of plastics are effectively recycled, 40% end up in landfill, 33% in fragile eco-systems (the sea amongst other places), the remainder (about 22%) are burnt, contributing to anthropogenic climate change.

This kind of discrepancy (5% v 9%) is common as it is essentially impossible to truly understand the exact figures and uses so estimates are made that depend on various assumptions, etc.. Still the basic trend is there and indisputable. So, let us re-imagine the PETA clothing recommendations, not covered in a green background, as if this is an environmentally responsible recommendation, but in a red background, to express this lack of environmental credibility.

modified image from source: “http://features.peta.org/how-to-wear-vegan/default.aspx”. How green does it look now?

Imagine, going to an oil-industry advocacy website, the websites and organisations that have been the home of climate-change deniers, of removing environmental standards and controls, of going to these sites to get guidance on the sort of fabrics I should use for my clothing. To be a what? An environmentally conscious consumer? An environmental activist, an advocate of ethical, traceable, accountable sourcing of products. The oil industry???

This is yet another aspect of the problem, that by taking a “deny, do not use” policy, Vegans are not involved in ethical standards beyond “do not use animals”. Are they really applying, or even demanding such standards from their own community, from their own sources, from the oil-industry? All of the products that use oil have no such process, no such sourcing and will likely never introduce them. And the oil products in the list above, these are the vast majority of alternatives: we all use cotton, vegan or no.

Again, the question is not even about demonising the plastics industry, or even suggesting that plastics are not a feasible and useful product where appropriately used. These synthetic products are being recommended instead of products that are, or can be, ethically sourced, sustainably managed, bio-degradable; wool amongst other natural fibres. And all because of an ideology against what? against using animals in as responsible manner as they are used to farm rice, transport people and goods?

And as a final point of irony in all of this: advocating mock crok, fake snake, faux fur (ok, perhaps purple “fur” is not really an imitation!!!)… Lets just think about this. You are saying it is ok for a vegan to look like they are wearing the skins of dead animals, as long as those skins are not really from animals, but are fabricated using oil-products?

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is it not a duck?

Return to: Veganism, An Unnatural Ideology

4 Replies to “On PETA”

  1. In an interesting moment of synchronicity, a day or so after finishing this, I was out to dinner and met a Vegan couple on the next table: a bit like the joke, how do you know someone is Vegan? they will tell you soon enough! In any case, we exchanged cards as I departed: my card is a non-bleached, paper card, completely recyclable. His, plastic…

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