Thursday, April 12, 2012

Calling PETA Founder Mentally Ill Does Not Make You a Better Animal Advocate

For almost a month, I have thought long and hard about posting my feelings on this post by Nathan Winograd.

(I have only been truly inspired to publish my thoughts in response to No Kill Nation's strangely-obsessive posting campaign against People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

Winograd writes, "I have long argued that although we have no definitive diagnosis of the condition which motivates the bizarre and cruel behavior of PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, there is one psychological condition which appears to shed some light on what might be motivating her to seek out and poison thousands of animals every year: Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome."

I am deeply disturbed by this assertion.

The denigration and marginalization of persons with mental illnesses is not fantasy. Being diagnosed with a mental illness can result in being denied health insurance (or dropped from your carrier), and may result in the illegal loss of your job. You may be bullied. Every behavior you exhibit may be "suspect mental illness". There is still stigma attached to medical conditions that affect the psychological state, behavior or health of an individual.

And quite frankly, there are plenty of "mental illnesses" that do not affect your ability to process and argue and debate and relate to this world. I'm tired of the pathetic argument that having a mental illness somehow diminishes you as a person.

To medically diagnose someone without a license is unethical. In fact, it is likely illegal in most states.

Claiming your opponent's belief is because of a mental illness fails as an argument. It is fundamentally flawed. It's an attack on an individual's, in this case unfounded and alleged, medical problems, not on their position on companion animal euthanasia/killing.

I support the pro-adoption movement. I believe every healthy animal has a right to live free from as much suffering as possible. The difference between my belief and that of the No-Kill movement is that I extend my circle of compassion to the most number of victims* of butchers and slaughterers - chickens, turkeys, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, bison, fish...not merely to that pathetically small group of species we acknowledge as "companions" in this nation.

When I read a leader in the No Kill movement calling someone mentally unstable or ill, I am not merely put off by the fallacious and irrational argument, I am personally insulted. The plight of dogs and cats in animal shelters is real and must be addressed, there is no doubt. Making allegations to the mental health of your opponent does nothing for those dogs and cats. Nothing. It weakens your position and well, to be honest, makes me feel you are utterly and completely disconnected from what persons with actual illnesses endure in this country.

This is not a statement of support for any organization or individual.

It is a request to stop diagnosing people you don't know. And to stop using the "mental illness" card as if it bolsters your position. It doesn't.

*I appreciate the frustration and anger at healthy dogs and cats being killed at any shelter, but even the worst shelter kill room is less cruel than the "best" slaughterhouse in which sentient, emotional beings are disassembled - most of them fully conscious. In the United States, that is 321 animals per second. No comparison.

No comments: