They Tapped A Bad Idea In Defense Of Animals

Posted: March 30, 2000

I make no secret of my love for animals. But I draw the line far short of where the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) drew it in their nationwide campaign to persuade college students to substitute beer-drinking for milk.

PETA, which claims to be the largest animal-rights group in the world, never seems to have any proper sense about how far is too far when it comes to defending animals. In this case the group took a kernel of legitimate concern about the mistreatment of cows and calves by a number of huge commercial dairy operations and turned it into a lame-brained scheme.

Convinced of its own cleverness, PETA urged college students to "wipe off those milk mustaches" and replace them with sudsy foam.

It went on to argue that beer is healthier to drink than milk because it contains less fat, no cholesterol, has no harmful hormones and contains less salt.

In its campaign, PETA praised beer in these words: "Unless you drink the stuff on your way up Mount Everest, beer won't give you a stroke. However, dairy products contribute to almost every disease except carpal tunnel syndrome, including stroke, iron-deficiency, allergies, cancers of the prostate, breast, colon and ovaries, heart disease; and even the common cold."

PETA's material quoted its college-action-campaign coordinator Morgan Leyh: "Colleges have been busy banning kegs from campus. But we say, 'Ditch the dairy, not the beer!' " Backing up that argument, PETA gave away bottle openers festooned with the words "Drinking Responsibly Means Not Drinking Milk - Save a Cow's Life." That last is udder nonsense.

PETA appears to believe that if college students, who probably don't rank very high on the milk-consumption scale to begin with, were to become milk teetotalers, thousands of bovines would immediately be shipped off to lives of happy bliss in a bucolic meadow.

That scenario exists only in the beer-fogged brains of PETA creative artists.

Some dairy cattle aren't treated as well as they should be, and the abuses should be stopped, but there are commercial as well as ethical reasons for farmers to take good care of their cattle. Sick animals suck away ever-slimming profits from dairy operations.

But the larger issue here is PETA's full-scale push to increase beer consumption on college campuses.

Here a much wiser and more beneficial organization than PETA charged to the rescue. Mothers Against Drunk Driving knew only too well the dangers of encouraging college students to drink alcohol.

For starters, MADD knew that no one has to encourage college students to drink anyway. Far too many students are misled into believing that drinking binge-amounts of alcohol is an essential rite of passage.

Among the statistics on MADD's Web site are these showing that alcohol use is the No. 1 drug problem among young people; about 10 million current drinkers were under age 21 in 1995. Of these, 4.4 million were binge drinkers, including 1.7 million heavy drinkers; eight young people a day die in alcohol-related crashes; the younger an individual starts drinking and the greater the intensity and frequency of alcohol consumption, the greater the risk of using other drugs.

MADD successfully shamed PETA into pulling its "Got Beer?" campaign materials from college campuses, although the bulk of the campaign's arguments continue to be available on the PETA Web site. PETA will continue to try to convince the world that the dairy industry administers cruel and unusual punishment to cows, but at least the people drinking milk won't be needing a designated driver.

Rich Hood (rhood

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