PETA isn't a bother most of the time. The animal rights group's efforts are often annoying, sometimes laughable, but rarely craven and vile.
My first inclination was to ignore the latest outrageous stunt by the Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals rather than give it any ink.
I held my tongue several years ago when it implored The Sun to stop covering fishing. I didn't comment when PETA asked the Boy Scouts to stop giving out fishing merit badges. And like you, I did not rush out last year at this time to take part in "Turn in Your Tackle Day."
But when PETA's latest campaign - "Your Daddy Kills Animals" - hit the pile of rubble on my desk, it was sit-up-and-take-notice time.
Seems the group that claims 800,000 members has embarked on a mission to hand out anti-fishing leaflets to children at tackle shops and fishing tournaments.
The single, full-color page looks like a comic book, but that's where the funny stuff ends.
Underneath the cartoonish headline, "Your Daddy Kills Animals," is a drawing of a man in a suit and fishing hat, brandishing a huge hunting knife as he guts a fish. Call it Ward Cleaver meets Jack the Ripper.
On the flip side is a little story about how "your big, strong daddy yanks [fish] out of the water and takes them away from their friends forever."
I'm insulted. What a terrible lesson to teach children. Mommies are just as capable of catching fish as daddies. How come PETA's "fish empathy project manager," a woman, didn't catch that bit of sexism? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
So far, though, there's nothing unusual about PETA's line of attack. But read to the bottom of the little grim fairy tale and you'll find this ominous warning: "Until your daddy learns that it's not `fun' to kill, keep your doggies and kitties away from him. He's so hooked on killing defenseless animals that they could be next!"
Just where does PETA get off thinking it's a good idea to drive a wedge of fear between a child and a parent? Why does PETA's "brain trust," and I use that term loosely, think it has the moral high ground to lecture children not its own?
Apparently, the campaign is in line with what a PETA spokesman once told the Santa Fe New Mexican about how the group planned publicity: "We'd rather go too far than not far enough."
It's hard to imagine, however, what kind of people the group is going to recruit with recent publicity that degrades religions, races and now parents.
Take PETA's recent grotesque compare-and-contrast campaigns. First, it was billboards with side-by-side pictures of Jews in concentration camps and chickens in cages with the caption, "Holocaust on Your Plate." This year's offense masquerades as a traveling art exhibit featuring photos of lynched and beaten African-Americans alongside photos of butchered farm animals.
Torturing animals is wrong. The conditions at many farms are atrocious. But there's no comparing animal cases with the extermination of millions of people or the systematic terrorizing and murder of Americans.
PETA's scorched-earth philosophy also explains the billboards of a likeness of Rudolph Giuliani with the question, "Got prostate cancer?" suggesting the former New York mayor's illness was caused by milk consumption. Ditto the billboards to promote its anti-milk campaign on college campuses that used the slogan "Got Beer?" to suggest a switch to alcohol.
While tasteless, one could argue that Giuliani, a former prosecutor used to tabloid slime and sharp political elbows, is capable of handling himself. A tad more odious, the anti-milk campaign was aimed at a group with some degree of sophistication and reasoning ability (I said some).
But literature aimed at kids is twisted and cowardly. It tells them that daddies use "wicked tricks" against "victims," while "really smart" fish can "eavesdrop," "use tools" and "learn from each other."
Answer me this: If fish are so smart, how come they eat stuff that really doesn't look like food? And after one fish takes the bait, screams and disappears, how come the others don't learn from the mistake?
Fish 1: "Where's Nick?"
Fish 2: "He ate a fuzzy yellow thing, and that's the last I saw of him."
Fish 1: "You mean a fuzzy thing like this one? Oh, nooooo."
Fish 2: "Come baaaaack."
(Editor's note: Fish translation was provided by People Eating Tasty Animals.)
Why, in PETA-land, fish even have friends. Of course, the group doesn't explain the nasty business about big rockfish chasing and eating their little rockfish buddies.
Nowhere in this comic book or elsewhere has PETA explained to any degree of satisfaction how two of its employees were charged in June with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty. Police say the pair took dogs and cats from North Carolina animal shelters under the promise of finding them homes and then killed them within hours and dumped their bodies in trash bins.
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk issued a statement saying the dumping carcasses in trash bins violated the organization's policy. Neither employee was fired.
Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA's director of domestic animal and wildlife department, offered her own delusional spin: "Did we euthanize some animals who could have been adopted? Maybe. The point is that good homes are few and far between. Our aim here was to stop them from dying an agonizing death."
Ah, yes. We have to kill the animals to save the animals. As long as it's done ethically, of course.
And these folks are going to teach children about the cruelty of fishing?
In PETA's comic book world, evil fishermen "forget" that killing is wrong because "the victims look a little bit different from us."
A little bit different? PETA leaders haven't looked at themselves in the mirror in a while.
If this comic book is any indication of what's in the works, it's probably time for them to start.