Sensational tactics are necessary to promote animal rights, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) senior vice president Dan Mathews told an audience of more than 50 students in Frist 302 last night.
Mathews, who has been arrested over 20 times for his involvement in animal rights-related demonstrations and protests, chronicled his experiences as an animal-rights activist in a lecture called "How a Fish Turned Me from a Bruised Fruit into a Proud Vegetable." The lecture was sponsored by Princeton Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
Mathews is best known for having launched PETA's "Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" advertising campaign, in which supermodels appeared naked in posters and on TV to express their opposition to fur.
"Cable TV molded a society more hungry for sensation than education," he said. PETA has responded by using "flashy" campaigns.
During the question-and-answer session following the talk, Steve Marcus '10 questioned PETA's "use of sex to further the cause." A self-described former PETA supporter, Marcus was disillusioned by the sexual nature of a "Rather Go Naked" demonstration he attended last year.
Mathews responded that PETA's objective is to change the masses and get the message out "at the consumer level, not the political level."
He added that "to lure in masses, we have to find common ground with people. One thing people will always want to look at is naked people or sexy people."
Mathews also read an excerpt from his recently published book, "Committed: A Rabble-Rouser's Memoir," describing his experience dressing up as a carrot outside elementary schools to educate students about animal conditions in factory farms. He was met with angry mobs and sometimes had meat thrown at him.
"As PETA's campaign chief, I don't ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself," he said.
Mathews, who became a vegetarian as a teenager on a fishing trip, stressed the importance of reaching out to children in entertaining ways, like dressing up as a carrot.
After the talk, Mathews took a number of questions from both PETA supporters and non-supporters in the audience.
Alejandro Ciniglio '10 questioned PETA's opposition to animal testing. Mathews' response compared animal testing to "Nazi experiments on Jews and Gypsies and gays."
"Ethically, we're opposed to it ... making anyone suffer for your own purposes is wrong," Mathews said.
Ciniglio also asked if Mathews equates animal life with human life.
"An animal's life is just as important to that animal as your life is to you. Their suffering is just as great as yours in many ways," Mathews said.
Mathews also fielded a number of questions about PETA's relationship with more extreme animal rights groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front, a group named as a terrorist threat by the Department of Homeland Security.
In a series of questions to Mathews, Paul Miller '10 cited a number of cases where PETA provided legal support to Animal Liberation Front leaders.
"You don't condone violent activities, but you do support people who are involved in violent activities?" Miller asked.
Mathews stressed PETA's commitment to nonviolence and lack of official support for such organizations.
"We have a methodical approach to fighting these industries," Mathews said. "But some people snap, and we are not going to abandon them if they take that approach."
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.