PETA’s Pathetic Fallacy

Jessica Simpson, J. Neil Schulman.The following is a guest editorial by J. Neil Schulman “Instead Of A Comment” to amplify on the annoyance I expressed against PETA:

Don’t get me wrong. I have no objection to anyone choosing to be a vegetarian, a Vegan, or pro-Ana for that matter. Short of cannibalism by murder, everyone should eat — and not eat — whatever they want to.

I was married to a vegetarian and was a vegetarian, myself for five years — after my divorce. I even wrote an article in 1986 regarding my ignored suggestions to McDonalds and Burger King that they could get customers like me in — who wasn’t frequenting their fine establishments because nothing was offered for my wife — by putting veggie patties on their menu.

It took a while but eventually they did.

But PETA is going typically off the rails with its new campaign to target celebrities who eat meat, in the same way these extremists previously attacked celebrities who wear fur or leather.  Making Jessica Simpson their first celebrity target because she sported a T-shirt that reads, “Real Girls Eat Meat” — which if you’re dirty-minded like me doesn’t necessarily even refer to consuming  animal products and by-products –  is a Lake Pontchartrain Causeway too far.

PETAfeds don’t just eat nuts — they are nuts.

Vegetarians who morally condemn meat hate nature. They megalomanically claim for themselves a Godlike superiority based on the pathetic fallacy that non-reasoning creatures are as capable of experiencing suffering as self-conscious beings capable of  nostalgia, dread, and charity. They have no logical objection to a wolf killing and eating a sheep, or a lion stalking and killing a gazelle for food, but they fancy themselves morally superior to a human hunter shooting and eating a stag. It’s not that these insufferable busybodies love animals. It’s that they hate their own species, which nature has given a reasoning power they have failed to master.

As an architect and architectural critic, John Ruskin was an early advocate of conforming man-made structures to the environment they’re built on, and using local materials for their construction. The phrase “pathetic fallacy” comes from Ruskin. He originated the term to refer to the poetic use of attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects or animals.

–J. Neil Schulman, author and filmmaker

J. Neil Schulman’s articles on animals rights have been widely reprinted, including in the textbook Animal Rights. His articles on the subject can be found here and here.

Here is his 1986 article about his suggestion to Burger King:


by J. Neil Schulman

In the hamburger war, I’m just not a guy you want as an enemy.  Out of MacDonald’s billions and billions served, I take personal responsibility for a couple of thousand.  If Wendy’s really wants to know where the beef is, they should check out my waistline.  And when Burger King commercials ask me if I’m hungry, I shoot back questions about the Pope’s Catholicism.

So last year, when I married a gifted, gorgeous, and goyische gal, friends worried about my mixed marriage–to a vegetarian.  My wife, Kate, doesn’t eat meat, fish, or fowl. I’ll eat anything that will keep still long enough to be salted.

But like all mixed marriages, a modus vivendi had to be established.  Ours is that we don’t try to convert the other to our own gastronomic faith.  When Kate and I eat together at home, we cook vegetarian because I enjoy sharing meals with my wife.

But when we eat out we order separately–no problem if a restaurant has a main dish on the menu that Kate can eat: anything vegetarian with a reasonable amount of protein.

McDonald’s doesn’t.  Though Burger King and Wendy’s have salad bars, neither is strong on protein.  Those wedding bells were definitely breaking up that old gang of mine.  So long, Ronald.  Nice to ‘ve known ya, Herb.

Even before I married a vegetarian, I knew how to cook up a pretty decent meatless burger.  You sautee chopped eggplant with a cup uncooked bulgur, some bell pepper and onions.  Mix in a pound of chopped firm tofu, a half pound of chopped mixed nuts, sunflower and sesame seeds, some salt and ground garlic.  Beat in an egg, form into patties, and grill.  Serve with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.  It’s gotten me past more than one Big Mac attack.

So, when cooking up Veggie Macs, Kate asked me how long I thought it would take for one of the burger giants to woo the expanding health-food market, I thought, “The sooner one of them does, it’s hello to real Big Macs and Whoppers again.”

Quixotically, I wrote to the presidents of the two national burger chains represented in my neighborhood: Edward Rensi of McDonald’s and Jay Darling of Burger King.  The gist of my letter to each was the same: how about putting a meatless burger on the menu so vegetarians–and burger lovers like me who eat with one–could come back to their chains?

“Most important to your bottom line,” I wrote, “even non-vegetarians might prefer a non-meat/fish/fowl main dish once in a while in these health/cholesterol/weight-conscious days.”

My first response was from a Supervisor of Consumer Relations for Burger King:

“We appreciate it when our customers take the time to write. However, I regret to inform you that Burger King Corporation is unable to accept unsolicited ideas or suggestions.  You will be interested to know that we have large departments to research, develop and market our products.  Because of the experience and skills of the people in these departments, we make it a policy not to accept suggestions from members of the public.”

Returned therein was my letter to Mr. Darling, along with two fifty-cents Burger King Gift Certificates and the wish:

“Please accept the enclosed complimentary coupons for you and your wife to use on your next visit to any one of our restaurants.”

As Clint Eastwood would say: “Yah.”

I wrote again to Mr. Darling, expressing my plight without making any suggestions.  Again, my letter was intercepted by the same Supervisor and forwarded to an Executive Vice President, who took charge of expanding their reasons for brushing me off.

Burger King spent a fortune to bring in Herb.  But they won’t even lift a finger to bring in Herbivores.

Burger King’s imperious responses to my letters reminds me of another monarch–the one who said, “Let them eat cake.”  This makes me broiling mad.

It’s overwhelmingly likely that Burger King’s policy is intended to protect them.  If they introduce a new product once suggested by a customer, that customer might sue them for stealing an idea which originated earlier in a research department.

But if by some odd chance Burger King’s army of marketing mavins had somehow overlooked my admittedly obvious suggestion, the “Not Invented Here” syndrome would make sure the idea would never enter the corporate decision-making process.

How can free enterprise be free if corporations are so afraid of their own customers that a simple inquiry has to be answered with Nixonian stonewalling?

After this experience, I doubt I’ll ever find the opportunity to use the two Burger King fifty-cent gift certificates.  When Burger King makes a mistake, it’s a Whopper.

[Update: Neil sent along this interesting link]:

2 Responses to “PETA’s Pathetic Fallacy”

  1. NorCal Cazadora Says:

    Fortunately, PETA has no credibility - it is so extreme that even its most noble and common-sense campaign against abuses in factory farms is rendered ineffective.

    The Humane Society, on the other hand, has been extremely effective in promulgating its naive worldview because it doesn’t act silly; it just uses wickedly effective political and social marketing techniques.

  2. Jessie Lilley Says:


    I have long held the belief that vegetables have souls. These PETA (PITA=pain in the ass?) characters are a menace to vegetable kind. The shrieks or carrots, celery, brussels sprouts, etc. that are heard across the land daily have driven me to take up arms and attempt to shoot anything in a PETA t-shirt. Luckily for them, I am a lousy shot or you’d have read about me in the papers by now.

    Satire aside, I stand with Jessica Simpson. Real Girls DO Eat Meat. I plan to cook up a batch of it today, in fact, so the meals for the week are prepared.

    Recently I commented to a friend, as we were strolling through Whole Foods market in search of their most excellent creamy tomato soup, “Have you ever noticed how all these “healthy” eating people always look angry and scrawny?” If that’s what eating healthy does for you, bring on the cows!

    Damned Fun Police.

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