Thursday, June 11, 2009

PETA Off Course in Bid for Grand Haven Lighthouse

(From the June 11 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)

I didn’t know whether to laugh or roll my eyes when I read in this paper one week ago that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has requested rights to use the Grand Haven lighthouse for a center for “fish empathy.” My initial response was one word: please.

The leadership of PETA wants to use the space to offer vegetarian food and give out little toys that say fish are “friends, not food.” They justify this as a good use of the lighthouse because after being used to protect people at sea, they say, it now makes sense to use the lighthouse to protect sea life.

No. This does not make sense. For one, lighthouses do not protect. They guide. Fish don’t need guidance. They find their way to harbors and upstream reliably each year. If anything, PETA seems to have lost direction.

It was particularly amusing to read that PETA officials think people will be less likely to “stick a fork” in fish once they learn how “sensitive and intelligent” fish are.

Really? How do they know that? Did the fish tell them? I know from going out with friends who are avid fishermen that fish are intelligent. That’s what makes the little suckers so much fun to catch. But sensitive? Maybe after they’ve been marinated or brushed with lemon and butter.

Seriously, did PETA officials ever consider that fish eat other fish? From my perch (no pun intended) high atop the food chain, I think that makes humans very sensitive and intelligent indeed. Rather than carp about my diet I wish these people would find salmon else to complain about. (OK, puns intended there).

You don’t have to think long about the food chain to realize that everything from birds to bears eat fish. Does PETA have a problem with that? I’d suggest they have a fish empathy session with an eagle and a grizzly and see how far they get.

In fact, Jesus endorses the consumption of fish. One of his most famous miracles involved feeding a huge crowd bread and fish. No commentary or footnote I’m aware of explains that he passed out asparagus. It was fish. His first followers were fishermen too, and they were even helped by the Lord to increase their catch.

I’m curious about the position of the average PETA member on the abortion issue. Have they considered that a human fetus is “sensitive and intelligent”? Maybe the lighthouse should be an outpost for the pro-life movement. Given the choice between the importance of a fetus versus a fish, I don’t have to think more than a second. Speaking of choice, if PETA members are pro-choice then they should allow people to choose what to eat without harassment. They can abstain from eating fish. We can all say pass the tartar sauce.

This objection to fish eating is also offensive to other cultures. As you go around the world you’ll encounter populations who revere cows and would never dream of eating beef, even though we Americans love our steaks and hamburgers. Meanwhile, other cultures think nothing of dining on dog, which we consider a domesticated part of our households. Well, we can shake our heads at the difference, but it’s a stretch to take over a local symbol such as the lighthouse to argue the point. Especially when so much of our local culture revolves around fishing, as a business and recreational activity. The charter captains I’m sure would be upset by the partisan PETA propaganda on the pier. But even more so will be our fellow citizens of more modest means who can’t afford a boat and enjoy the pier as the location for their fishing. To set up shop there is as, well, insensitive as it would be to protest fishing in a fish-dependent culture such as the Japanese or the Inuit in northern Canada.

The National Historic Lighthouse Act of 2000 allows nonprofits to use lighthouses for education, recreation, cultural or historic preservation. I don’t think what PETA wants to do fits any of those criteria; in fact it flies in the face of a key recreational and cultural aspect of the Tri-Cities. I hope the National Park Service considers this when they respond to PETA’s request.

Yes, let’s stick a fork in this crazy idea and consider it done. Instead, let’s start a new group named for my initial reaction to this lunacy: please. Or PLEASE, as in People Love Eating Animals, So Enjoy!

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