Editor, Daily Nexus,
If you’ve walked through the Arbor lately, you’ve notice People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ commanding display juxtaposing photographs of animal and human suffering. I love animals as much as the next guy and agree that our society is in need of reform when it comes to how we treat animals. However, PETA’s display is offensive. I love free speech. I don’t want to kick PETA off campus. I just want everyone to understand why its display is offensive and insensitive.
One of the panels equates a lynching with the slaughter of a cow. Another equates the herding of cattle with the forced march of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Yet another equates a chained African-American slave with a chained elephant. I understand PETA’s message: All suffering – both human and animal – is the same. The physical pain suffered by slaves and animals might be the same – I would have to ask a biologist to be sure. However, slavery wasn’t merely about physical torture and brutality. Slavery was about dehumanization. Slavery was about how humans could alter their perception of another human so that they were able to perpetrate such horrors without blinking an eye.
African-Americans have been fighting the “blacks are animals” metaphor for hundreds of years. PETA’s display fails to honor and respect that legacy. By comparing animal suffering to that of slaves, PETA’s display shows that the members do not understand what was wrong about slavery. Maybe PETA is right. Maybe the way we treat animals is horrible. Maybe we should look at animals differently. But if they want to spread that message they should get themselves a new banner.
The degradation and dehumanization of another human being that took place during slavery is simply not the same as the physical torture perpetrated against animals.