Got Beer?

  You've probably seen the "Got Milk?" series of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. The ads feature pictures of celebrities sporting milk mustaches. Well, if one animal rights group gets its way, beer foam may replace milk as the facial accessory of choice. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched a campaign to get college students across the country to substitute beer for milk this week. The campaign, which PETA calls "Got Beer?" was timed to coincide with St. Patrick's Day—a holiday that, in the U.S., is associated with heavy beer drinking. PETA says that by drinking beer instead of milk, college students will help save cows from what it calls the "cruelty" of the dairy industry. As Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegetarian campaign director, told reporters, "dairy cows are warehoused like so many inanimate objects, kept pregnant by artificial insemination to keep milk production high and slaughtered when they are spent after three or four years...." He added that milk isn't good for you. It's high in fat and cholesterol, which beer isn't. Well, it's not as though the average college student needs encouragement to drink. And, most college students are under the legal drinking age. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that PETA's campaign has drawn criticism—most notably from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Teresa Hardt, a spokeswoman for MADD, said that the organization was "very concerned" at PETA's seeming indifference to what she called "the number one drug problem among American youths." MADD called upon PETA to pull the campaign. But Friedrich said that PETA plans to continue with the campaign despite the criticism, and denied that the campaign promotes underage drinking. On the surface, PETA's nonchalance in the face of criticism is puzzling. Besides being seen as encouraging kids to break the law, their campaign makes them seem indifferent to the well-being of our kids. What's behind this indifference is the worldview that animates PETA and other animal rights groups. This worldview goes beyond the biblical view that people have a moral obligation to treat animals well and minimize their suffering. It denies that there's anything intrinsically special about human beings and sometimes it even sees human beings as a threat to the well-being of the other species. This denial of the special status of human beings almost inevitably leads to a lessened concern for the welfare of people. As PETA's founder, Ingrid Newkirk, put it, "a pig is a dog is a boy." Likewise, another animal rights champion, Peter Singer of Princeton, has become controversial for his open advocacy of infanticide. Of course, "Got Beer?" doesn't intend to do our kids harm. But in their zeal to alleviate animal suffering, PETA doesn't seem to have noticed that they could cause humans to suffer. Some of PETA's criticisms may be well-founded, but the best way to help animals isn't by disregarding human well-being. It's by reminding people of the moral obligations that come with our special status. Because, when it comes to looking after God's creation, beer is no substitute for a sound worldview.


Chuck Colson



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