Sunday, October 5

CDP Top 30 Of All-Time ('06-'08) - #26.

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#26 - "The CDP vs. PETA."
(Originally Published February 6, 2008.)

...Not Really. They're Good People.

You probably already know this about me, but I'm a vegetarian. I've been meatless for many years now, for a plethora of different reasons pertaining to moral values, health and the advocating of animal rights. I'm proud of the decision I made, and I personally believe it's the right one.

The distinction I like to make, however, is that I'm not one of those vegetarians. I won't get in your face if you choose to eat meat, I won't preach if you choose to hunt, and I won't destroy your carnivorous arguments, regardless of how narrow your mindset happens to be. It's not in my nature, and furthermore, it doesn't win friends or convert people. I've known this for a long time now. Bitch to a meat-eater about eating meat, and they'll just want to eat more meat to shut you up. You'll probably deserve it, too. No sense in trying to change someone like that.

Here's how I look at it. I'm pro-choice on the abortion issue; mainly because I feel that my opinion should carry absolutely no weight when it comes to the choices a female wishes to make with her body and her potential offspring. My take on the issue is about as important as Paris Hilton's take on penile cancer. She doesn't deserve to speak on the issue; nor should I. Unless my sperm was involved somehow, my opinion is worth nothing, and rightfully so.

So, when I travel back to my hometown and view a radical pro-life protest in the parking lot of the Catholic church I was baptized in, it doesn't do much for my biased attitude when I see billboard-sized photographs of aborted fetuses. It just reminds me of a robotic, annoying band of exploitative assholes that I wish not to associate myself with. The argument they were trying to make is lost in the presentation. Had they hit me non-intrusively with a few facts, literature and business cards, perhaps I would have taken them a little more seriously. Or better yet, they could have just assumed that human beings were capable of making their own educated decisions without the further distraction of their guilt and shame-driven racket.

Back to vegetarianism.

It is this humble, somewhat-humanistic and non-confrontational attitude that has kept me opposed to the tactics and ad campaigns produced by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Don't get me wrong, PETA is a respected and well-known organization that gets the word out about the healthy and environmental benefits of a meatless lifestyle, along with the typically unseen horrors of the meat processing trade. What frustrates me is their standard method of gaining publicity. Shock tactics, upside-the-head brutality and public demonstrations that remind me all-too-well of the pro-life demonstrations that irk me so.

The comparison may be slightly unfair and on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but be reminded that PETA is also an organization that modeled an ad campaign after the Holocaust. Yikes. When you have a minute, do a Google Image Search for 'PETA,' just make sure you don't do it while at the office. To say that the message is lost at times is a serious understatement.

So, I'm torn. I want so badly to be a proud PETA member, but at the same time, I get embarrassed each time I turn on the news to see another publicity stunt garnering negative attention (not all attention is good, especially when you're trying to change minds through information and education). This conflict came out during my most recent interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. It reads as follows:

CDP: There have been a couple of times when I've been political or talked about pop culture where people react. I remember awhile ago I did something about vegetarianism.

WSJ: And you are a vegetarian.

CDP: Yes, I am a vegetarian. I think it's important but I don't think it's mandatory. I'm not one of those guys. I don't support PETA since I think they have a good message but their marketing is incorrect. I think they need to find a better way to convert people than these shock tactics.

WSJ: So having naked women posing with signs down on State Street is not your thing?

CDP: Well, it's just not going to convert people. It's converting people to naked women, not vegetarianism. That's not the image you want to portray. So I explained it simply to people who were thinking about it. When I first went vegetarian I had a lot of questions, I thought I'd die, I didn't think I'd survive. After awhile it made sense. I'm just an average guy, I don't work out a lot; So I just wanted to put something out there that was just an average person's guide to going meatless. I got a lot of wonderful emails.

As you can see, I didn't waver on my stance. The point that I made was the one that I always make, being that I believe PETA has a good message, but their marketing is incorrect and alienating not only potential meatless converts, but also loyal and unobtrusive vegetarians like myself. Fair enough, right?

Well, what I forgot was that the WSJ article ran nationwide, and eventually grabbed the interest of PETA; specifically one of the campaign managers. I received this e-mail a few days ago; the name has been withheld because I'm not in the business of getting sued:

Dear Mr. Zeinert,

We at PETA were thrilled to read in the Wisconsin State Journal that you’re a vegetarian and have written about 'going meatless' on your blog. However, as someone who has organized and participated in several 'naked' PETA protests, I would like to share our reasons for using 'shock tactics' in our efforts to raise awareness of animal suffering.

Before people will stop buying, for example, fur coats, they must be aware of the industry’s cruelty to animals. Getting the news out in the media therefore, is vital. Unlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy corporations, we cannot afford costly ad campaigns, and thus have to rely on getting free 'advertising' through media coverage. We will do just about anything to get the word out, even to the point of using 'shock tactics' because we have learned from past experience that the media, sadly, thrives on such shenanigans.

If I can help call attention to the animals’ side of the story in a 'naked' protest, that's a choice I’ll gladly make. We hope that you will consider supporting PETA’s efforts to end animal suffering.

It was an informative and professional letter, and I appreciate that they took the time to send it to me. It does, however, verify a few things concerning PETA and their marketing. Mainly, that they participate in shock tactics and generating confrontational images because it works and gets people talking. Furthermore, they're happy with the press attention they receive, and will do whatever is necessary to gain more.

I honestly can't argue with that. It got me talking, didn't it? At the very least, I'm glad that they actually admitted to doing what they do for the media exposure, and not as much for the intended audience. It still doesn't make sense to me from a marketing standpoint (the audience is more important than the media; regardless of all the exposure you get from these campaigns), but they were straight with me, and I appreciate that.

This was the e-mail that I wrote back to PETA shortly thereafter:

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to write me; I greatly appreciate it. I also want to thank you for explaining and defending the ad campaigns and methods used by PETA to get the word out concerning animal abuse and cruelty.

As mentioned in my interview, I've been a vegetarian and strong supporter of animal rights for many years now. The main point I was trying to make in the interview was that certain shock tactics, while attracting of a large audience, also have the polarizing power to turn like-minded people off to the message. I understand that the main goal is to be seen and heard by as many people as possible with the limited funds raised by PETA, however, certain theatrics tend to distort the overall message at times. When I said "I support their message, but I believe that their marketing is incorrect," that was specifically what I was referring to.

I, myself have brainstormed many ways to positively, intelligently and unabashedly get the word out about the detriment to our planet and bodies that a meat-fueled lifestyle entails. I know it's a difficult path, as ignorance and apathy cannot be easily reversed through a poster or commercial. Conclusively, I think that any group that makes it their goal to educate citizens on the multiple positive values of a meatless lifestyle is doing a service to our nation, polarizing ad campaigns or otherwise.

With that in mind, please accept my $25 donation to PETA (I just donated online), with my best wishes of further success to your organization.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact me,

-Ryan J. Zeinert

I believe I did the right thing. I stood my ground (still do), but made a point to recognize the work that these people do behind the imagery and struggle for media attention. I also wanted to subtly make the point that by reasoning with people on the topics at hand (ie: me), you could change the minds of those that you're overlooking with your dragnet publicity tactics. Nude protesters in a cage didn't change my mind, but personality, honesty and logic did the job just fine.

Or maybe, just maybe, it shows that I'll do anything I can to be voted the Sexiest Vegetarian in Wisconsin for 2008.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

I am sure you heard about PETA wanting Ben and Jerry's to convert to human breast milk for their ice cream. Does this mean we need to create large scale breast pumps like those that are used for milking cows? I think I am going to see what I can learn about a logistical plan on this one.
Correct, we'll file the women in like cattle, inject them with tons of hormones, and send them off to slaughter when their production starts to dip.

I'm an animal rights guy and all, but PETA has their head way up their ass about 99.993 percent of the time.

Hey Hilbelink, how did the contest go?
I talked the hell out of that contest and won a tiny trophy. I am competing at the next level Oct. 25.

And when I did a PETA image search, all the photos that came up were naked ladies. I thought that was ironic considering I had just been discussing breast milk.
That is PETA's only redeeming quality: famous beautiful women get nekkid for them.

Oddly enough, not one of my redeeming qualities...what a shame.
I'm not famous but I'd get nekkid for you, JT! Of course, now that I'm a married woman I suppose it would have to be a cause that my husband supported, too, so he might be naked with me. I hope that does't ruin things ...
JT-You could always go for unknown ugly naked women. Then you would be almost as good as PETA.
Not to be the serious one, but do the morons at PETA understand the logistics (and expense) involved with using human breast milk as a food source? Considering what can be passed from human milk just as easily as through cow's milk (diseases, toxins, pharmaceuticals, etc.), any and all breast milk would have to be tested and screened. And production is a fraction of what cows have been bred to deliver (with the help of hormone treatments). Does human milk have to be pasteurized? And I don't think it tastes the same or has the same properties (i.e., creamy density) as cow's milk. It's just a ridiculous concept, and PETA officially lost any legitimacy they may have in my opinion. They should go back to throwing paint on fur-wearing celebrities.

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