Students from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, drew an angry crowd at the University of California at Berkeley after displaying images that compared animal treatment to the lynching and enslavement of black Americans. About a dozen Berkeley students furiously engaged the PETA members, accusing the animal rights group of racism. The situation intensified when one member of the crowd threw ketchup and mustard on the PETA display and another tore down part of the exhibit.
One image presented by PETA featured a chained elephant foot juxtaposed with the chained foot of a slave. Another showed black individuals hanging from a tree by their necks contrasted with the image of a cow being hung by its hind legs. Several black students shouted down the PETA students and called for the display to be taken down. One student who was upset by PETA’s comparison of slavery to animal mistreatment shouted amid tears, “I’m not trying to say that people should eat meat. I understand you, but the way you’re depicting our history, the way you are depicting the things that happened to us, the thing that happened to our ancestors, it’s not ok, it’s not ok!”
Another student, identified as Autumn by her peers, tore down one of the images in a fit of rage. Dominique Nisperos, a third year Cal student, was also upset by PETA’s display and argued with one of the group’s members. When asked if tearing down the display was appropriate on a campus that touts its free speech history, Nisperos responded, “I can see why they did it.” She added that bringing up the free speech issue “isn’t getting to the root of the problem. The means at expressing [PETA’s] message was racist.” Veronica Nisperos, a Berkeley student also incensed by the exhibit, stated that the group did have a point, but the way in which they made it, “created opposition among people who should be allies.”
Sengeeta Kumar, who led the PETA group, was surprised to have encountered such a reaction at UC Berkeley. “I was really hoping that people would think critically…it became very emotional and almost dangerous in the sense that people were threatening and pulling things down and it just became unsafe,” she said. Kumar noted that her group has taken the exhibit to 13 different schools and never faced a hostile reaction.
PETA eventually gave into the pressure and dismantled their display. Kumar expressed disappointment in her organization’s inability to get their message across. “When emotions are risen, people can be closed to dialogue.” She added, “We are all part of oppression, of beings who can’t speak for themselves. Animals are enslaved in our hands. This exhibit isn’t about demeaning any people, it about uplifting humanity.”
PETA members spent the rest of the afternoon wiping off the ketchup and mustard that was sprayed on their display.
Video 1: An unidentified student shouts down a PETA member.
Video 2: A student identified as Autumn by her peers is calmed down after tearing down a PETA display.
Video 3: Unidentified student explains the ketchup throwing incident.
Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.