Photo: New York Times
Yesterday, Discerning Brute’s gal-pal, Chloé Jo Berman of Girlie Girl Army and her activist bud Ashley Lou Smith got naked and took showers in the middle of a crowded Times Square to raise awareness about the effects of meat and livestock production on the environment. Is it hot in here, or is it just the global warming?
Behind a banner that read, “Clean Your Conscience: Go Vegetarian,” these PETA beauties bathed in a shower set up in Times Square to let consumers know that producing just 1 pound of meat requires water equivalent to more than a year’s worth of showers. The best thing that people can do for the environment is to go vegetarian.
Additionally, U.N. scientists have determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, SUVs, trucks, and planes in the world combined. Researchers at the University of Chicago determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard car to a Toyota Prius.
“It’s impossible to ‘go green’ without going vegetarian,” says Berman. “Just by changing their diets, concerned people can help protect the Earth, their own health, and countless animals.”
Organizations like the Center for Consumer Freedom promote the idea that consumer capitalism is the neutral, benign, and even natural state of being. This in itself is problematic, especially in a democratic society. Their mantra might sound something like “Freedom is choosing what to buy”. Any organization that criticizes consumerism or the ramifications of it is then labeled as extremist and even terrorist. PETA is this meat & dairy funded organization’s enemy numero uno.
Activistcash.com is a website project by the CCF that claims to “offer valuable information” to the public and the media with “in-depth profiles of anti-consumer activist groups”. They make no claim, however, of providing an objective analysis of any activist organization. The twisted logic they use is obvious. Rather than analyzing the real motivation behind any of these organizations, ActivistCash.com claims that it’s all just a bunch of money hungry lawyers pulling the strings and making big bucks on going to court over any issue that calls into question the practices of any number of corporations or industries. So whenever the reader might ask ‘Why is the Waterkeeper Alliance taking the pork industry to court?’, ActivistCash responds, ‘because there are some lawyers that are going to make a hell of a lot of money.’ What is left out is the actual issue. When an organization is not taking legal action, then Activistcash.com simply labels them as militant, extremist, terrorists. It is amazing how powerful and vague those three words are, and how often they are used on the ActivistCash website. It is surprising that they haven’t used the word “evil” yet.
Clearly, their goal is to protect and serve something slightly more abstract than any specific individual or organization – Big Business and consumer capitalism itself. Business as usual!
The irony of this project is that fact that ActivistCash.com itself becomes what it claims to be against – a misleading project vying for publicity under the guise of an objective research organization simply supplying the facts with “100 percent accuracy”. Right…
The organizations and people that Activistcash.com profiles – everything from the Sierra Club to the Center for Media and Democracy – are organizations whose views depart from the status quo. They offer alternative ideologies on how people should participate, behave, and interact in society. These groups are tackling complex social and political issues, and whether or not you or I agree with them, they do represent a percentage of the population that does agree. The Center for Consumer Freedom would like to pretend that consumer capitalism is not something worth creating and maintaining a critical discourse on. Any educated person knows that creating and maintaining a critical discourse on everything is healthy for a democratic society especially a discourse on the function of society itself.
If the Boston Tea Party were to happen today, would the Center for Consumer Freedom demonize it as a violent act by extremist zealots? Anyone who has read a history book knows that when an idea departs from the status quo it is seen as having a bias.
Comparisons are made to communist Russia concerning organizations such as the American Corn Growers Association who promote organic agriculture. Pamela Anderson and Bob Barker are among the celebrities targeted by ActivistCash.com for their celebrity influence on animal rights issues.
The Center for Consumer Freedom is less about setting the record straight and more about disagreeing with environmentalists, the animal rights movement, and anyone critiquing consumer hegemony. The Center for Consumer Freedom is very selective with its facts. It chooses to highlight (and repeatedly highlight) only the links to criminal activities of the organizations it
profiles. There is little mention of any other activities, and if one were to judge any of the profiled organizations based on Activistcash.com, one may believe that organizations such as Farm Sanctuary and The Environmental Media Service are simply criminal organizations. If one were to take the same approach with a website dedicated to U.S. corporations, the results would not be any different. We would be led into a world of crime. Given enough information, we could focus only on the criminal activities from any corporation, organization, or politician. One key problem here is the view that criminal activities automatically equate wrongness, badness, evil, terrorism, or what have you. What is left out, once again, is the context. The fact that laws change, and many things that were once considered criminal, such as interracial marriage, are now generally accepted. There is a reason for the first amendment. It was created with the knowledge that laws can change, and if people are given the chance to vocalize their opinions, that change may occur, and laws may be re-written.
The following excerpt is a description of Farm Sanctuary according to ActivistCash.com:
The animal rights world is full of all sorts of characters, from the kindly old grandmother who sells fake cow-skin furniture (actually called “cowches”) to the violent bomb-thrower, bent on the destruction of anyone he considers an “animal abuser.” Somewhere along this continuum, between the chicken lovers and the anti-circus nuts, is a group of animal rights zealots providing “sanctuary” for farm animals whose original purpose was closer to the plate than the petting zoo (http://activistcash.com)
Chicken-lovers, nuts, and zealots. Clearly this is a subjective opinion rather than a valuable analysis of the Animal Rights Movement and Farm Sanctuary. It is also terribly misleading, characterizing animal rights activists as murderers. There exists no documented evidence of any human death or injury due to an animal rights related action in the United States.
The language used on ActivistCash.com is very questionable, constantly using terms such as extremists, zealots, and terrorists to characterize activist organizations. Its propaganda techniques are not opaque. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has become enemy number one to CCF and Activistcash.com (largely due to their success and the size of their bank account), and in a television commercial aimed at PETA, the CCF says:
Leukemia AIDS, M.S. – PETA is against all medical research that uses animals to conquer these diseases…” (www.consumerfreedom.com/advertisements_tv.cfm)
Images of sick children in hospital beds act as the visuals for this commercial. It is ridiculous and hypocritical that the CCF has created something that, if made by another organization about – let’s say – Disney’s use of sweatshop and child labor, would be torn apart by the writers at CCF and Activistcash.com. The commercial says nothing about PETA’s involvement in helping to find effective alternatives to animal research. The reason they don’t say this is because they want you to believe that PETA values research animals over sick children. The following example is a typical scare tactic used by many organizations to get people’s attention, claiming that children are in danger. This is a headline on their website and was written in reference to PETA handing out flyers to the children of fur-wearing mothers that read: “your mommy kills animals”.
Few parents realize the threat posed to their children by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the growing animal-rights movement. (www.consumerfreedom.com)
In another anti-PETA commercial, we see a woman who tells us that she is “concerned about a radical group called PETA. They take Animal Rights to extremes.“
We are then told that PETA condones arson and gives money to convicted arsonists. Finally, we learn that the woman will teach her children to love and respect animals, but violence is never acceptable.” Violence against whom? Humans? Property? Animals? These ads are very vague. Making a blanket statement like “violence is never acceptable” leaves little room for any objective analysis into the circumstances surrounding the so-called violence.
It may sound cliché, but there was a time when many people believed it was wrong for someone of a darker skin hue to have rights. There was time when many people believed that humans with breasts and a vagina should not be allowed to participate in the democratic process. The examples are endless. The point here is that things change in society – whether or not the underground railroad was legal, whether or not the non-violent revolution led by Gandhi was legal, whether or not the violent civil rights clashes were legal, they happened and society changed, and now when we look back at these events, many of us celebrate them, and we wonder “how did we allow human slavery?” and “how did the Nazis manage to gain so much power?” and Surely the Boston Tea Party raiders were not terrorists…or were they?
The animal rights movement exists because there are many people who believe that non-human animals have a brain, a nervous system, the ability to suffer, and therefore deserve the same rights that protect you and I from suffering due to abusive treatment, including slaughter.
While Activistcash.com refrains from crediting its writers and members (it does provide a phone number for the press to contact them), it has no qualms with putting every organizations and key player’s contact information up on their website. If Activistcash.com gazed in a mirror, I wonder what the CCF’s profile would look like.
In a mock-up of the Declaration of Independence, the CCF proclaims:
“We the people solemnly publish and declare that Consumers are, and ought to be, sovereign adults trusted to make their own food decisions.”
Well, the food decisions that the “we” at food-industry-sponsored CCF would like for you to make. The CCF does not want you to fall under the influence of the “dangerous” organic food industry, or the propaganda of the anti-meat animal rights movement, or the scare tactics used by the anti-biotech movement. They do, however, want you to fall under the scare tactics and propaganda of their own organization and the people funding them from the meat and dairy industries.
Richard Berman, who runs the Center for Consumer Freedom through his PR firm, Berman & Co., has served as a lobbyist for Steak & Ale Restaurants, and his company has ties to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Sutter Home Winery, Philip Morris (which owns Kraft Foods and Oscar Meyer), and, oh yeah, National Steak & Poultry. So it’s not surprising that CCF advocates eating chicken despite PCRM’s carcinogen-revealing tests. (Let’s not even discuss the fact that the 53rd death from bird flu just occurred in Indonesia, bringing the total to 148 deaths and 253 cases of bird flu worldwide.)
One crucial question remains. If The CCF’s goal is to protect consumer freedom and choice, then why do they defend huge multinationals like McDonalds? In a world where there is a Starbucks, McDonalds, and WallMart on every corner, what freedom of consumer choice will really be left? Would you like fries with that?