PEOPLE for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has finally and unequivocally come off the rails. Attempting to convince us to become vegetarians, the anti-human advocacy group has mounted a new public relations campaign asserting that the eating of meat is the equivalent of the torture and slaughter of Jews by the Nazis.

This odious message isn't insinuated subtly between the lines. It is the explicit theme of the entire campaign--which is now being presented at colleges and universities across the country.

First, there are the pictures, which can be seen at www.masskilling.com. PETA juxtaposes photographs of emaciated concentration camp inmates in their tight-packed wooden bunks with chickens being kept in cages. It gets worse. In a despicable comparison, a photo of piled bodies of Holocaust victims is juxtaposed with one showing bodies of dead pigs.

The text of the campaign isn't any better. In a section entitled "The Final Solution," PETA makes this astonishing comparison: "Like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps."

The website also extols the writing of a "Holocaust scholar" named Charles Patterson, author of the book "Eternal Treblinka," which is pitched on the PETA site. Patterson is quoted as follows:

During the Twentieth Century two of the world's modern industrialized nations--the United States and Germany--slaughtered millions of human beings and billions of other beings. Each country made its own contribution to the century's carnage: America gave the modern world the slaughterhouse; Nazi Germany gave it the gas chamber.

Forget that Hitler was an on-again off-again vegetarian and that Nazi Germany passed some of the most far-reaching animal protection laws of that era. That PETA can't distinguish between unspeakable evil and animal husbandry reveals a deeply perverted sense of morality. That the organization--perhaps the most prominent animal rights group in the world--believes that a leather jacket is the moral equivalent of a lampshade made of human skin, should discredit it in the eyes of any decent person, regardless of one's feelings about animal cruelty.

PETA's grotesque PR campaign points to a real crisis for the modern animal protection movement. Just as people are becoming increasingly aware of their distinctly human duty to treat animals humanely, the activists behind the animal rights/liberation movement are growing progressively more fanatical and extreme.

The comparison of meat-eating to Hitlerism, if taken literally, is an incitement to violence. So perhaps it is no surprise that the movement is increasingly violent. Animal rights/liberation violence has gotten so bad that the Southern Poverty Law Center--certainly no right-wing group--issued a report last fall explicitly comparing two animal rights groups--the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)--to organizations such as the KKK and Aryan Nation. According to the report, animal rights terrorists regularly employ "death threats, fire bombings, and violent assaults" against those they accuse of abusing animals.

Some of the most vicious attacks have been mounted by SHAC against executives of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British drug-testing facility that uses animals to test drugs for safety before they are tested on people. The threats and violence became so extreme that Huntingdon fled Britain for fear that some of their own were going to be killed, after assailants wielding baseball bats attacked one of their executives and another was temporarily blinded with a caustic substance sprayed into his eyes.

Unfortunately for Huntingdon, the animal rights/liberation terrorist network is international, and a mere move across the Atlantic Ocean did not protect it. Not only has the terrorism continued here, but U.S. companies with business ties to Huntingdon have also been targeted. The goal? Intimidate banks and insurance companies to the point where they are afraid to do business with the company, thereby driving it out of business.

The deafening lack of condemnation of such tactics from less radical animal rights/liberation organizations would seem to belie the oft-stated claim that animal rights is a peaceful social movement. Indeed, the firewall that PETA has long maintained between itself and movement terrorists is proving illusory. PETA's tax-exempt status is being challenged because it admits paying $1,500 to the Environmental Liberation Front, which according to the FBI is one of the nation's largest terrorist groups.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center report, PETA provided funds to convicted animal rights terrorists, including $42,000 to Rodney Coronado, convicted of setting fire to a research lab at Michigan State. The report further noted the resignation from his position at Ohio State of Dr. Michael Podell, who gave up "a tenured position and a $1.7 million [AIDS] research project. Podell, who was using cats to study why drug users seem to succumb more quickly to AIDS, received nearly a dozen death threats after PETA . . . put the experiment on its 'action alert' list. Podell was sent a photograph of a British scientist whose car had been bombed. 'You're next' was scrawled across the top of the photo."

It is breathtaking that one of the world's most prominent and well-financed animal rights organizations equates eating a steak with being an SS officer at Auschwitz. Equally shocking has been the scant protest made against PETA's campaign. True, the Anti-Defamation League last week denounced PETA for "trivializing the murder of six million Jews." But where is the condemnation from other human rights and civil rights groups? Could PETA's leftist political tilt have anything to do with their silence?

PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign has exposed the twisted moral vision at the heart of the animal rights/liberation movement. Apparently many animal rights activists actually believe that eating meat is morally equivalent to Hitler's mass murder. This stunning claim needs to be remembered as we grapple in the years to come with the mostly peaceful, but sometimes violent, efforts of animal liberationists to assert the moral and legal equality of humans and animals.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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