Published May 18, 2005
Radical animal-rights activists may be the last people you'd think would be planning school lessons for your children. Well, think again.
Through its innocuous-sounding "educational" programming arm known as TeachKind, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has found a way to reach school children starting as young as kindergarten with its extremist agenda. The opportunity for PETA (search) to gets its message into the classroom has been paved, at least in part, by various laws on the books in at least 12 states mandating humane education in public schools — thus creating a demand for curricula centered on teaching children about the humane treatment of animals.
Naturally, PETA is only too happy to provide ready-made lesson plans, videos and handouts to already overworked teachers.
"Kids who hurt animals may be on a dangerous path that will only get worse if it is not corrected. Psychiatrists, FBI profilers and law enforcement officials have repeatedly documented that kids who abuse animals rarely stop there," TeachKind warns.
Its fact sheet, entitled "Animal Abuse and Human Abuse: Partners in Crime," points out that "violent acts toward animals have long been recognized as indicators of a dangerous psychopathy that does not confine itself to animals," and goes on to detail how many notorious school shooters, including Columbine's Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were known to mutilate animals prior to their attacks on humans.
Indeed, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (search) (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association, participation in animal torture is one of the early warning signs of a severe emotional disturbance in a child, ranking alongside fire-setting as a strong indicator of future criminal behavior as well as the likelihood of psychopathy in adulthood.
While there's no question that the small number of children who torture animals are quite disturbed and that all children should be taught how wrong such behavior is, it's quite another matter for PETA to capitalize on this issue as an opportunity to indoctrinate children with PETA's own radical, catch-all definition of what constitutes "animal cruelty." And that's precisely what PETA is doing through TeachKind.
As its Web site prominently touts the animal cruelty-psychopathy connection with quotes from FBI criminalists and others, a closer inspection reveals that the bulk of TeachKind's educational efforts are actually crafted so as to make children believe that everyday behaviors, such as eating a diet that contains meat or animal products, are unmistakably, unequivocally acts of animal cruelty.
PETA's frightening of young children by equating, or even associating, truly disturbed behavior such as mutilation of a family pet with common everyday practices such as eating hamburgers amounts to nothing less than ideological child abuse.
PETA even accuses schools across America of being major perpetrators of animal cruelty. They oppose basic learning methods widely practiced throughout our educational system such as insect collection, field trips to zoos or aquariums, and dissection in the classroom.
"Hearing a lot about violence in schools? You can do something to help. Cut out dissection!" announces their Web-based anti-dissection campaign, which even mentions how a young Jeffrey Dahmer "became fascinated with blood and guts" as a result of participating in a biology assignment involving dissection. With this assertion, PETA is inviting impressionable young minds to believe that all it takes is one experience with a dissection assignment to walk away a psychopathic serial killer.
In addition to encouraging kids to refuse to participate in dissection assignments, the campaign even coaches kids on the exact wording to use in their formal written objections so as to "provide the basis for a possible legal case."
A significant portion of TeachKind's curriculum is devoted to persuading children to adopt a vegetarian diet as a way to avoid participating in "animal cruelty." PETA's Web-based materials provide the warped logic that if farmers treated a cat or a dog the way they treat livestock, they would "be prosecuted for animal cruelty and locked up" — once again stressing the theme of hypothetical criminality for those who eat meat.
PETA even tries to scare kids away from drinking milk, a food so controversial that it occupies its very own wedge on the latest FDA food pyramid for optimal nutrition. A series of trading cards called "Don't Be a Milk Sucker" available from its Web site, features cartoon characters suffering a host of illnesses PETA attributes to milk consumption such as ear infections, obesity, acne, and even diabetes!
Nor does milk consumption escape PETA's definition as a distinctly cruel act against animals. We meet "Milk-Stealing Ming," who is depicted with his mouth directly attached to an unhappy cow's udder, alongside a "wanted poster" describing his crimes and exclaiming, "cows make milk for their babies, not for maniacs like Ming."
If we are to take at face value PETA's irresponsible suggestion that "animal cruelty" — as defined by their radical, catch-all parameters — is a reliable indicator of psychopathic tendencies, I suppose it's just a matter of time before we all read about Milk-Stealing Ming's future adult crime sprees in the headlines.
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).