PETA, Fallacies, and a Controversial Ad Campaign
By Matt Abbott
The radical animal rights organization known as PETA - which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - is no stranger to controversy. Indeed, for several years, the organization's numerous ad campaigns, all of which implicitly or explicitly advocate veganism and vegetarianism, have offended more than a few persons. One particularly offensive and fallacious PETA ad campaign featured photos of World War II Holocaust victims side by side with photos of dead or sickly animals. The ads explicitly demonstrate the fallacies of "arguing by analogy" and "appealing to pity." Other arguments made by PETA utilize the "mob appeal" and "red herring" fallacies.
An analogy is a comparison that works on more than one level, and it is possible to use analogy effectively when reasoning inductively. 1 Oftentimes, however, the analogy used is far-fetched at best. Such is the case with PETA's Holocaust analogy. Religious persons - at least most of them - believe we humans are created in God's image and likeness; that we have dominion over plants and animals; and that animals have no rights per se. Even many non-religious persons recognize the important distinction between animal life and human life. Hence, they do not object to eating meat or wearing clothes made from animal skins.
Also, besides being offensive to certain Jewish groups - Ed Morgan, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress said that comparing Holocaust victims to animals "sinks to such sordid depths that one has trouble comprehending the depraved thinking behind it"2 - equating the suffering and death of humans with the suffering and death of animals is contrary to the natural order, thereby making it a false analogy.
Writers are often justified in appealing to the pity of their readers when the need to inspire this emotion is closely related to whatever they are arguing for, and when the entire argument does not rest on this appeal alone. 3 The PETA Holocaust ad wants the viewer to feel sorrow and disgust at the fact that animals are seemingly being treated as Holocaust victims were treated during World War II. However, the extermination of animals for the purpose of providing food and clothing cannot be placed in the same moral category as the extermination of human beings for the purpose of creating a "master race."
The "mob appeal" fallacy encourages the viewer to join the proverbial throngs of people who allegedly are doing a particular act, lest he or she is left out in the cold. Such a fallacy can be found in the following PETA statement: "Every time you choose to buy a leather jacket or leather shoes, you sentence an animal to a lifetime of suffering. Join the millions of consumers who are realizing that 'hairless fur' is something we can do without...." 4
Finally, PETA throws in a red herring - that is, an argument that has little if anything to do with the issue at hand - in the following assertion: "Many researchers believe that vegetarianism is the only way to feed a growing human population. 5 A Population Reference Bureau report stated, "If everyone adopted a vegetarian diet and no food were wasted, current [food] production would theoretically feed 10 billion people, more than the projected population for the year 2050." 6 The reasoning in that assertion, however, doesn't prove that vegetarianism is the only way to feed a growing human population. 7 No evidence is given to show that a growing human population cannot be fed in a non-vegetarian way. 8
In conclusion, PETA's Holocaust ad campaign is problematic primarily because of the fallacies involved: a false analogy and appealing to pity, without regard for the natural order. Additionally, PETA has put forth other dubious arguments involving the "mob appeal" fallacy and the "red herring" fallacy.
Oh, and do you know that PETA can also stand for People who Eat Tasty Animals?
1. Robert K. Miller, The Informed Argument (Texas: Harcourt, 1998) 41.
2. Canadian Jewish Congress (2004). "CJC condemns 'outrageous' exhibit by PETA." Retrieved Oct. 22, 2004 from http://www.cjc.ca/template.php?action=news&story=667
3. Robert K. Miller, The Informed Argument (Texas: Harcourt, 1998) 40.
4. Christian Logic.com. "Logic Loop Twenty Six." Retrieved Oct. 5, 2004 from http://www.christianlogic.com/loop/logic_loop_26.htm
5. Christian Logic.com. "Logic Loop Forty Three." Retrieved Oct. 5, 2004 from http://www.christianlogic/loop/logic_loop_43.htm
Matt Abbott - Author,
Catholic, Abbott, animals
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Implant allows paralyzed man to move arm using his thoughts HD Video
- Christian student suspended for arguing with Muslim teacher - ...
- St. Peter Regulatus: Saint of the Day for Thursday, March 30, 2017
- 'Living Lent': Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Day 30
- Another Mexican priest is killed, making him the 32 known clergyman ...
- Daily Readings for Thursday, March 30, 2017
- Daily Reading for Friday, March 31st, 2017 HD Video
- Daily Reading for Thursday, March 30th, 2017 HD
- Cause of California's drought is revealed HD
- Pope Francis' important message for children HD
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 HD
Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.