Solidarity forever, PETA-style

The animal rights world is in the middle of a sea change of sorts. The movement’s leaders, frustrated by their slow (but steady) progress in forcing their agenda on the public at large, are beginning to combine forces with activists from other leftist movements.

At this summer’s “Animal Rights 2002” convention, the Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle spelled out the master plan. “We would be foolish and silly,” he told hundreds of activists, “not to unite with people in the public health sector, the environmental community, [and] unions, to try to challenge corporate agriculture” [click here to hear the audio].

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has started to play this scenario out. Today the group is unveiling a brand new anti-milk scare campaign based on the popular “Got Milk?” advertisements. And PETA’s chosen standard-bearer is a real eye-opener.

Attendees of today’s PETA press conference in Madison, Wisconsin might expect to hear from reliable standby Neal Barnard, who leads the misnamed (and heavily PETA-funded) Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. But instead of Barnard, they will be hearing medical “evidence” about the supposed “dangers” in milk from a Boston doctor named Michael Greger.

Greger is a long-time animal activist and vegetarian evangelist who typifies the collective move of American animal-rights zealots toward cooperation with other radical movements. In his own “Animal Rights 2002” convention speech, Greger declared: “The future of the animal liberation movement depends on our ability to unite with other social justice movements, and corporate globalization is the key bridging issue we’ve been waiting for all of our lives” [click here to hear the audio].

When he’s not railing against corporations (especially the ones that bring us milk and meat), Greger edits a mad-cow-scare web page for the Organic Consumers Association. He also has ties to a variety of leftist political movements, including the 1999 Seattle anti-globalist riots, last week’s “Anti-Capitalist Convergence” protests in Washington, and last year’s “living wage” actions at Harvard University.

Today’s PETA press conference is aimed at softening support for the World Dairy Expo, which begins in a few days in Wisconsin. But this is not the first time PETA has plotted against this annual industry event.

In April 2001, PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk made headlines by announcing that she “openly hopes” foot and mouth disease (FMD) would come to the United States. A month later, PETA campaign director Bruce Friedrich sent a letter to Dairy Expo organizers, containing a veiled threat: cancel the dairy show, or FMD will certainly be brought into the U.S. by European exhibitors.

A week later, Friedrich jetted off to London for the summer (where, among other things, he streaked in front of the Queen of England). Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wisconsin) asked the USDA to “decontaminate” Friedrich before allowing him back into the United States for the Wisconsin dairy show. “Based on his comments,” Congressman Green told reporters, “Mr. Friedrich’s re-entry to our country must be closely monitored.”

Everything PETA does ought to be “closely monitored,” including this week’s ridiculous foray into medical scare-mongering. And as the animal rights message leaches into other “social justice” movements, those of us doing the monitoring will just have to work that much harder.

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