Whilst I'm digging back quite far in this thread now:
I mean there's only ever nothing but bashing of PETA's style and publicity choices, no-one seems to say anything about what they think of their actual views.
Did you stop to consider that people frequently refuse to air their views on this subject because they can't be bothered with the inevitable shitstorm that follows from doing so? Just look at this thread, even if it's been kept mostly civil. There's also not much point in presenting a point of view for criticism when you are unwilling to change it.
My views on this are very simple, although most people won't think very highly of them.
(Turns out as I was writing this I realised that my views on the matter are not simple at all, because I'm suddenly posting a blimp again.)
It's important to point out that my father, as he grew up in the days where it was essential to learn a trade before you could realistically find work, trained to be a butcher, and was moderately successful for some time. Today, he continues to place a professional amount of care in any meat he prepares, and we nearly always enjoy a full roast meal on Sundays. You probably know where this is going now.
I strongly enjoy eating meat products precisely because they contain meat - I like their flavour, texture and versatility in preparation within meals. I generally dislike vegetarian-friendly meals for a variety of reasons including unusual textures I do not enjoy and off-putting taste, but this is hardly universal. It is, however, common for me to complement the vegetarian-friendly component with a meat product because that makes the overall meal more enjoyable for me. I just plain like eating meat. I also really like my cheese. The only thing in meals I like more than meat are sauces - for me any
meal is enhanced with a complementing sauce. Naturally then, anything that would threaten to stop me enjoying my food is something that I would be more than willing to squash like an ant.
The family dogs very obviously love me, and you'd never see me eat dog meat - I place a strong, strict divider between animals as pets and animals as produce sources, as most people do - but other than that notable exception, I'm very aware that animals don't care about me, and I most certainly don't care about them. For produce, whatever produces the highest quality end product is preferable, which generally means not treating an animal like shit during its life. This, not a moral choice, is why I generally support animal welfare views.
Animal rights views can piss off.
Firstly: "animal". That's one hell of a generalisation for a biosphere as complex as Earth's. Each species has different capacities and qualities, and that should be acknowledged, not a blanket viewpoint that downplays more complex human qualities and treats less developed animal equivalents as equally valid; or indeed occassions where animal equivalents are superior, sometimes vastly so. To return to my above dog example: dogs are inherently social and have an understanding of social heirarchy and dominance - this is how they integrate into families so well. They are literally incapable of understanding the concept of "equality" - for a dog, everyone in a pack has a rank, and other than the very top and bottom, everyone is both superior and inferior to someone else. Every other animal we regularly encounter is that much less able to understand human social concepts; cats go wherever the best food is and have a limited understanding of dominance and that's as far as they go understanding us. Claiming to understand an animal's mindset is as ridiculous as claiming they understand us. We do not even see the world in the same way.
The second part is the part that makes me sound like a crazy man and is more speculative, but I'll discuss it anyway.
You may be familiar with the book "The BFG [Big Friendly Giant]" by Roald Dahl. In it, the BFG yells at his human friend not to pick the flowers because he can't stand to hear them scream as they're yanked out of the ground and snapped in the middle, i.e. killed.
Plants are even more alien to us biologically than other animals, and this is exactly the main problem. Indeed, as we delve further into the realm of biology and better understand it, we better understand the situations where an animal indeed has traits, or understands a trait in the same way a human does; in ways thought unthinkable in the past. I speculate, and cannot prove, that eventually in some form we will discover that the above fictional extract isn't as fictional as people believed. We do not understand how a plant would feel pain yet, and it would not feel pain in the same way an animal does, via nerve cells, but that does not mean it can't feel damage and respond to it
. Indeed, plants don't even have a brain yet they are capable of responding to stimuli regardless.
What I am driving at and hopefully everyone can see, is that whilst plants and animals are not the same, and individual plants and animals are not the same either and vary wildly between species, vegans and vegetarians still need to kill plants to sustain themselves
. This apparent hypocrisy is never discussed, probably because it is so difficult to empathise with a plant, but it is there. You are still killing something to sustain yourself - you're just killing something else instead and I see no difference whatsoever between the two.