Saturday, September 24 , 2016, 3:52 pm | Fair 82º

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Harris Sherline: PETA’s Distorted Animal-Rights Perspective

I can’t think of any organization or group of people who have less perspective about the real world than the members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

This group of animal-rights zealots is perhaps the most unhinged of those who believe that animals should have the same rights as people.

The mindset of zealots in general, but this group in particular, was graphically illustrated in an October 2005 U.S. Newswire report, which noted, “A radical animal extremist stunned senators from both sides of the aisle when he testified that the murder of medical researchers was ‘morally justified’ to save lab animals: California surgeon and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) spokesman Dr. Jerry Vlasak made this outrageous statement to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where he drew the derision and indignation of Sens. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., and Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J. ...

“Vlasak, who also compared the life of lab animals to African-American slaves and the Jewish victims of Nazi concentration camps, made his comments while defending a similar statement he made to the news media: ‘I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. And I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million nonhuman lives.’”

Of course, zealots don’t agree that they are outrageous. They are self-righteous and believe their values are paramount and the only ones that count. If you disagree, you must be forced to submit or be eliminated. However, it becomes a problem when they run up against others who refuse to give in and are willing to fight back.

In an Oct. 29 article, the Orange County Register reported that the latest example of the mentality of PETA members is their desire to have a sign posted to memorialize fish that were killed in a traffic accident. “The sign would read, ‘In memory of hundreds of fish who suffered and died at this spot’ to remind tractor-trailer drivers of their responsibility to the animals who are ‘hauled to their deaths every day,’ according to the letter provided by PETA.

“The crash occurred Oct. 11 when a truck carrying 1,600 pounds of live fish and several tanks of pure oxygen, crashed with two other vehicles. ... The oxygen was used to keep saltwater bass alive as the fish were being taken to market. ... ‘Although such signs are traditionally reserved for human fatalities, I hope you’ll make an exception because of the enormous suffering involved in this case ... Research tells us that fish use tools, tell time, sing and have impressive long-term memories and complex social structures, yet fish used for food are routinely crushed, impaled, cut open and gutted, all while still conscious. Sparing them from being tossed from a speeding truck and slowly dying from injuries and suffocation seems the least that we can do,’ the letter continued.”

My question is, does it really make any difference how the fish died?

Dead is dead, and whether the fish were killed by being dumped on the highway or simply died of asphyxiation as a result of being taken out of water or perhaps were cooked alive in boiling water for someone’s meal, as in the case of lobsters — what difference does it make?

Or how about salmon trying to swim upstream to reproduce being eaten by bears, who catch them in their paws and gorge themselves in the process, or the fish that are raised in hatcheries for canning factories? Should there be some sort of last rites administered because of their suffering?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Call me foolish or silly, but how many people really care about this issue, what with all the problems that demand attention in our troubled world?

I have to believe that we are the only society in the world that would waste the time and effort to even discuss such an issue. It’s no wonder that people in other countries think Americans are “a little off-center,” so to speak.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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