PETA’s neglect of Katrina survivors a blight on its image

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It is difficult to become part of a group in which you agree with wholly on every issue they stand on. It is a part of being human. Although I have disagreed with some, never have I been disappointed with any of the groups that I am a part of until recently.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is a fairly well known animal rights group. They have fought against huge corporations such as Revlon, Petco, Kentucky Fried Chicken and many others. They fight everything from animal cruelty in general to animal testing. They have protested circuses and bull runs. All of these seem valid causes and one would think that, in light of disaster, this group would have its priorities in line.

Some weeks ago, a natural catastrophe hit the United States with no mercy. Hurricane Katrina, as few can forget, hit the southeast parts of the United States; Louisiana was hit most severely.

Rightfully, the government was criticized for the slow reaction time. People were left in the flooded Louisiana death lakes. Many died of the hurricane damage. More would die of hypothermia. As the water continues to go down, diseases spread by rotting flesh will only make the process worse. Some blamed the government of racism and others saw how money would play a major part in being saved.

Be it race or income, it cannot be argued that this was handled well. The cost is much more than a historical landmark or a place to celebrate the annual Mardi Gras celebration. No one imagined such a disastrous nightmare to take place on our land. It seemed it would never end. Many people waited for help and few people thought of anything else. PETA was the one exception.

As a member of PETA, I receive newsletters through e-mail every so often. The newsletters are often about a law being passed, a piece of land someone is trying to develop, or a company which was found to be violating animal cruelty laws. I was shocked when I opened my e-mail and found PETA’s complaint of the week. They were urging members to send letters to congress telling them how angered we were that nothing was being done to save the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina. They were writing about animals being forgotten and left to die. They asked the members to urge government officials to send the National Guard to collect animals.

How is it possible that a group based on rights could forget their own species? Had they not heard of all the humans who were still praying for help?

It is completely understandable for people to remember their pet and if they can be remembered during a disaster such as a hurricane, it is something to be admired.

Pets have become like siblings or children to many people in today’s day and age and, idealistically, should not be forgotten. But because we live in an imperfect society, animals are often understandably left behind.

Does this make our government or pet owners bad people? Of course not.

The human victims of Hurricane Katrina were looking for food and shelter. Had all the humans been safe then perhaps PETA would then have been asking something reasonable. Had all of the people been put somewhere where they would have been given proper medication and nutrition, perhaps PETA would then have been asking something ethical.

It is sad to see such a previously admirable group of people such as PETA remember animals and forget humans. Perhaps this is a lesson for everyone, from our government to activists to individual people, that priorities should be in line before they are brought to light by force. One should ask oneself where we are putting our own kind. Possibly, because they are our fellow man, they should be put on the top of the list.

Carmen Lorenzo is a freshman journalism major.