THE PEOPLE for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a novel response to the popular question, “What would Jesus do?”
It’s: Order up a tofu burger and kick back with some steamed seaweed.The animal-rights crusaders have set out to convert the world’s meat-eating pagans to their vegan creed. In that effort, they have inaugurated an ad campaign appropriating the likeness of Christ. A billboard picturing of the Shroud of Turin -- which many Christians believe to be Jesus’ burial garment -- contains the headline, “Make a lasting impression, go vegetarian.”
It’s the second installment of PETA’s million-dollar “Jesus Was a Vegetarian” promotion, first started but temporarily suspended back in July.
Controversial ad campaigns are, of course, a PETA specialty. Typically, the organization plasters pictures of naked supermodels across its billboards (better to be nude than to wear fur). In March, it placed ads in various college newspapers urging students to give up milk in favor of beer -- much to the chagrin of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Its most recent outrage was a billboard depicting a milk-mustachioed Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City. The caption read “Got prostate cancer?”
Exceeding the bounds of good taste, making fun of a man’s illness, and dubious claims about the carcinogenic effects of dairy products have seemingly not done enough to win over the world to its brand of radicalism. So PETA has entered into the spiritual realm, mocking faith the way it mocks cancer patients, and embracing junk theology to match its junk science.
The Gospel According to PETA rests on some fanciful scriptural interpretations to conclude that Jesus shared the organization’s culinary devotions. Never mind all those contradictory passages from the New Testament, such as when God presents Peter with a vision of “all the earth’s four-legged creatures, reptiles and birds of the sky,” and commands him to “Get up … Slaughter and eat.”
That’s purely symbolic, PETA insists. So is Jesus’ feeding the crowds with bread loaves and fishes, His filling the fishermen’s nets with an enormous catch, or His eating fish after the Resurrection.
Meat-eating is a mortal sin, PETA reasons, God oddly chooses to convey this much-ignored commandment with symbols that carry the opposite meaning. PETA asserts, without evidence, that the reason the Bible doesn’t express the message more clearly (i.e., “Thou shall not eat meat”) is probably because of errors in scriptural transcription over the centuries.
On its website (which depicts Jesus with an orange-slice halo), PETA concedes that, as an observant Jew, Christ might have feasted on lamb at Passover dinners. But even if He did, “that should not placate us regarding the 20 billion of God’s creatures who are abused for food each year.” If Jesus wasn’t a vegetarian, He should have been.
That’s the essence of PETA’s message -- not, as the caption on the Shroud billboard suggests, to “follow” Jesus, but to subordinate religion to the animal-rights cause. For Christians, “following” Christ has traditionally meant feeding the spiritually hungry or clothing the materially poor. Now, according to PETA, it’s about cooking with soy.
PETA has long cloaked its rhetoric in spiritual-sounding language of mercy and compassion, but it’s never shown much of either for human beings. Its director, Alex Pacheco, once noted that the organization feels “that animals have the same rights as retarded children.” Its president, Ingrid Newkirk, has infamously pooh-poohed the Holocaust, noting that “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”
That odious comparison makes PETA’s religious approach, which also includes appeals to Jews and Muslims, all the more outrageous. It’s hard to find much ecumenical commonality between the three monotheistic faiths, which hold that man was created in God’s image, and an outfit unable to make an ethical distinction between the Final Solution and KFC.
PETA’s philosophy might have had its roots in mercy and compassion, but it has since mutated into a bizarre misanthropy. Misanthropy bears very little resemblance to a faith which teaches that man should love his neighbor as he loves himself. It lacks appeal for anyone -- Christian or not -- who does not engage in PETA’s peculiar form of idolatry, which puts chickens, pigs, and cows above both man and God.