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A Meaty Debate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In an ironic twist, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also treats its employees like so much meat. And it doesn’t even pay them for the privilege. A recent story in the Style section of The Washington Post described life for a PETA intern in the nation’s capital. Sometimes it merely involves dressing up in a chicken suit -- perhaps one left over from a presidential campaign (“I’ll debate my opponent anywhere, unless he’s chicken…”).

But life also involves crass displays of exhibitionism, such as the day a pair of “PETA beauties” shared an outdoor shower on Pennsylvania Ave. “They languidly wash each other with cruelty-free soap and ignore heckles from the growing crowd,” wrote Post reporter Monica Hesse. But why ignore it? Embrace it, if not each other. After all, the very point of using naked women is to draw a crowd.

“All the men here are so skeezy, snapping pictures with their cellphones, pretending to read the literature given to them by Line Moeller, another PETA intern who is wearing a teeny terry cloth robe,” the story adds. But being attracted to naked young women is simple evolution. Of course male passersby are drooling at the women, just as they’d be drooling if someone walked by with a big slab of sizzling Kobe beef. Millennia of human experience have taught us that meat is good. The same thing can be said of naked young women. You can fight evolution if you want: for example, by becoming a vegan. But you can’t change human nature.

The interns are learning, too. One, 18-year-old Kelsey Jaye, explains she enjoys her work. “It’s great to be able to use your body as a tool,” she says. What a wonderful message for the youth of America. Maybe PETA should also also teach Jaye she needs to stay in school, at least until she can “use” her body to land her Mrs. degree?

Looks are, of course, important. “The PETA interns have beautiful skin and lovely teeth,” the newspaper story says. “They have shiny hair and the buzzy energy that comes, they’d say, from avoiding animal products and animal byproducts.”

Well, of course the vegans would say that their health comes from not eating meat, just as a religious person will always insist that “all good things come from God.” The flip side of the coin is that the vegans would also ignore anything bad that might come from their lifestyle choice. If, for example, they tire easily, they’d never think it might be because they don’t get enough protein in their diet; they’ll just assume tiredness is a fact of life. The fact is that lots of us enjoy meat, and also have “shiny hair” and “buzzy energy.” We just don’t like taking showers on the sidewalk.

There are problems with the food supply in this country, as anyone who’s read Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” can tell you. But PETA’s approach -- banning anything it doesn’t like -- isn’t the answer. The problem is that bad food -- chips, soda, drive-in cheeseburgers -- is cheaper than healthy food: fruits, veggies, lean meat.

In large part, that’s because the federal government prevents a free market from operating. By guaranteeing a minimum price for corn, for example, Washington encourages farmers to plant that crop on every square acre of land available. So there’s always too much corn, and it gets turned into everything: high fructose corn syrup, McDonald’s Happy Meals, cattle feed and so forth. That distorts the entire food chain.

The answer would be to repeal all farm subsidies. Doing so would save Uncle Sam at least $20 billion per year, according to a report by University of California, Davis Professor Daniel Sumner. Prices would change, but people would be able to start responding to the laws of supply and demand. Free choice is the answer. For example, many people have voluntarily changed their eating habits after reading Pollan’s book.

In the end, even if we all gave up meat, it would never be possible to please the PETA people. There will always be something for the 18-year-olds of this world to protest. “Think of the silkworm,” the Post implores. “Nobody ever thinks of the silkworm. PETA thinks of the silkworm.”

No, thanks. I’d rather think for myself.

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