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October 24 2008

Julie Benz speaks out against violence towards animals. "I'm not a serial killer, but I date one on TV." The Dexter star appears in two PSAs and an interview for PETA about the link between serial killers or other violent criminals and cruelty to animals. Plus enter to win Dexter seasons 1 and 2!

Oh yeah, I forgot that child-Dexter admitted to Harry that he had killed a neighbor's dog in Season 1 of the show (I think he gave some excuse along the lines of, "It was bothering Mom with all its barking while she was sick", heh).

I see the correlation between Dexter and serial killers with the whole torture-animals-early/kill-humans-later, but because of Dexter's origins, he's felt to me since the end of Season 1 like a fairly different case study. At least in terms of root causes. [Season 1 & 3 spoilers] I mean he was At least that's what I'm watching for. All the supporting characters are well-acted/written and interesting too, but Dexter's one of the most unique and intriguing characters on TV right now (I hear they've humanized him a lot from the books, which makes me more interested in reading them because I can see and have really noticed the times when they've taken care to try to keep him sympathetic to the audience on the show, but I'd prefer to see a darker Dexter too).

I just watched the HBO PETA/Ingrid Newkirk (one of its two founders) documentary a couple days ago. I didn't know much about the organization, beyond its ad campaigns (sometimes clever, sometimes extreme). When they were originally conceived in the `80s, they did a ton of good. Blowing the lid off of scientific studies on primates--those were easily some of the most disturbing scenes in the film--making the public aware of cosmetics being tested on animals, cruelty to animals in slaughterhouses, etc...they got a lot of companies to change their ways.

I know since then they seem to be more in the media for their stunts than their achievements, but apparently they still do a lot of good for animals besides that. There're a ton of other animals organizations that try to disassociate themselves with PETA because of their views and/or tactics though, like the Humane Society and Friends of Animals.

I'm all for being humane toward animals and good on Julie Benz for doing this. One issue I can't agree with Peta on though is the whole vegetarianism thing. I'm not sure if it's a requirement of their organization if you want to be a member, but from the documentary, it seemed to imply that (I'll read up on them a bit more later).

I'm not a vegetarian, I don't know if I'll ever be willing to try a no-meat diet (certainly never willing to go vegan--I like milk and honey too much). I believe humans are and should be omnivores for the sake of our overall health and I don't think there's any moral obligation to stop eating meat (and since, historically, we've been eating meat as a species for a long time, if not since the "beginning"--someone else can correct me on that, who knows about types of human ancestors' teeth fossils--it stands to reason that our biology favors some inclusion of animal nutrients) . If carnivores in the wild can continue to kill for food, I see no reason to put a restriction on ourselves (and yeah, I've considered the various quality arguments for why we could/should go veggie). Reducing red meat consumption, sure, there seems to be a ton of evidence supporting that as a healthy decision (no big deal for me, I'm a chicken & fish kinda guy anyway)...Buying organic and free-range when you can, trying to support local, definitely necessary steps in the right direction to improve animal welfare and the quality of what ends up on our plates.

[ edited by Kris on 2008-10-24 18:10 ]
Wow, when did she go brunette?

(And this thread now has the obligatory shallow comment. :-)
I know she went dark for Saw 5 (debating whether to see Saw 4 to catch up for that...they say it's going to be the last one, but I dunno. And I felt pretty done with Saw 3, which effectively ended the story aside from one thread left unfinished--the main character of the sequel's daughter, but I didn't care enough anymore to see #4). Maybe for Punisher: War Zone too, but I haven't seen any production stills of that yet. Dunno when the PETA spots were filmed, but if they were long after production on those films, maybe she just kept the dark hair 'cause she likes it. Or it's for another role.
I thought they said Saw 4 was supposed to be the last one. Besides, they're already planning for another sequel- there's a reality show on VH1 where a bunch of actresses are competing for a role in Saw 6.
Well it's little Simon vs Darla for the number one slot at the box office this weekend. According to Variety

"HSM3" and "Saw V" may seem like strange bedfellows, but they'll actually compete for older teen girls, who are diehard horror fans.

Are they really? I haven't noticed this.
Some, yeah. Girls like to be scared as much as guys do (I don't know if girls like gore as much as many guys apparently do. I dunno why you'd specifically watch for the gore, but more than a few dudes have said that's a draw for them).

High School Musical 3 is being released in theatres ? I know it was already huge after the first one (which had me wondering why they didn't put #2 in theatres), so it makes sense.
It breaks my heart when people are responsible for the unnecessary death or pain of animals, but that said I'm forever wary of PETA and its ilk. They seem to act like attention whores, and like nothing will ever be good enough for them. Seriously, what was with that breast milk story recently? It was completely absurd.

People visiting this thread might be interested in watching this video on It's things like that which make me think we should start giving an approximation of human rights to certain animals, who clearly deserve them (just a disclaimer: I think it's absolutely absurd when people claim it's self-evident that animals are worth as much as humans, because they're not, at least for the lower species). Those bonobos in the video were no different to children, except that they'll never grow up.

"...about the link between serial killers or other violent criminals and cruelty to animals"

On the Dexter note, he killed a dog when he was young so that he wouldn't "have" to kill people. As much as both scenarios are deplorable, I'd much rather a crazy person take out his or her homicidal tendencies on an animal than on a person (though the strange thing is, I think I'd have more sympathy for the animal, since they can't help themselves). Anyway, assumptions are dangerous (such as x leads to y, instead of z leads to x and y), and I think a statement like that could make people think that if animal cruelty was reduced, then there'd be fewer murders too. Most likely, they're completely unrelated, but at worst it could actually cause more. I'm not saying I believe that, but just that it's a possibility.
Ross: No, no, Carol. There's nothing wrong with it. I just... I just don't think breast milk is for adults.
Chandler: Of course the packaging does appeal to grown-ups and kids alike.

As far as I'm concerned, whatever shred of credibility that PETA may have had left was blown away by their most recent campaign which claims that milk causes autism. Advocating for animal rights is one thing; advocating for quackery is another.

[ edited by BrewBunny on 2008-10-24 20:54 ]
I'm another that is usually leary of anything PETA puts out, but this time I think they got it right. The connection from the show she is on to a real problem fits. They should do more campaigns like this. Maybe people would start listening to what they have to say again, rather then tune them out like so many people (including me) do now.
I'll never understand people that willfully hurt animals (unless it's a bear and it's chomping on your head...) but it's just as bad when someone knows a person hurt an animal and do nothing about it.
... by their most recent campaign which claims that milk causes autism.

Disgusting. Yeah Brewbunny, that's exactly the kind of agenda motivated, ill-informed (or actively dishonest) stupidity that makes it so easy to brush the genuine issues PETA raises under the carpet. Are they really so short-sighted they're willing to lose credibility to make a splash ? Or maybe they don't care about spreading lies and half-truths so long as they think their purpose is served (or they might be banking on people to actually be that gullible) ?

(even in the abstract they link to from that blog entry it mentions Wheat as well as milk as a potential factor - strangely, that didn't make it onto the billboard. And even amongst people that believe there's a direct link between particular diets and autism, most will have their kids on a casein and gluten free diet, wonder if it talks about that on the link they advertise)

How about reporting cruelty to animals because cruelty to animals is really, y'know, cruel, not to mention usually illegal (at least in the West) ? Bad enough, surely, without resorting to simple-minded scaremongering. What are they gonna do when people reason that, since we're not hip-deep in serial killers, animal cruelty must be a rare, isolated problem and not worth bothering with ?

*sighs*. Why do some people/groups seem so intent on actually living up to the "woolly headed liberal" stereotype that the right bashes we on the left with (not saying this particular issue is about right/left but it's a symptom of a wider malaise as they say) ? Baffling, in an annoying sort of way.
NYP, Fair point that the animal cruelty->human violence is a legitimate connection. I've read about some local child protective services agencies who have been starting to coordinate with animal control agencies and humane societies so that CPS can check in to make sure that kids aren't also being abused by the animal abusers.

That said, taking the discussion to the serial killer level strikes me as a bit extreme. It's true that there is a correlation between being a serial killer and perpetrating animal abuse as a child (together with also being on the receiving end of sexual abuse, being a pyromaniac, and wetting the bed late into childhood*), but the animal "abuse" observed in serial killers tends to rise more to the level of animal "torture," as opposed to the more garden variety neglect and abuse that people are likely to witness. It's not like every Joe Schmoe out there who kicks a puppy is going to be dining on liver and fava beans for lunch.

*I have absolutely no personal experience with serial killers or their unhappy childhoods. I'm only aware of this sort of freaky stuff from hanging out with a shrink who worked with high level violent offenders in San Quentin.
Well, I think they went to her because in the show there was a connection between animal abuse (torture) and a serial killer. I don't think that they are saying anyone that abuses an animal will be the next Son of Sam. (Except, well, I am considering the source...) As with most things, each case will be different. But I'm ok with raising awareness in people so that the next time they see some punk kid throwing rocks at a dog that is tied up and has no where to hide, they say something rather then just shrug and say, 'kids will be kids'. For a few reasons, 1) that kid could be psycho (although rare), or 2) the kid is crying out for help.
So, awareness good but extreem blanket statements bad, I agree.
Again, fair points, NYP. :-) And, on the bright side, at least Julie didn't have to pose naked to make her point.
I'm afraid wooly-headedness may just be a widespread epidemic among all humans. There's usually somebody just waiting to push their own semi-related nonsensical agenda, ready to latch on to any cause, whether worthy or no. I guess the best thing to do is to try to be as simple and clear as possible. Saje's "Reporting cruelty to animals because it's...cruel", being an excellent example.
That fact has a teeny part in my current writing project. And I'm now reminded of my major film aspiration and Julie's (hopeful) part in it. Yes, I should get back to that...

*needs to start watching Dexter*

[ edited by Braeden Fireheart on 2008-10-25 14:18 ]
I think this is ultimately irresponsible on the part of PETA. Either this will convince a great deal of people who only look on the surface of things, or rely on PETA as a source of information, to think that animal cruelty absolutely precedes homicidal activity (when in fact, more people die from gang violence, muggings, robberies, etc.) or tell people that animal cruelty is, like Saje said, that it is rare. Neither is true, and PETA should not report either as such.

And reporting animal cruelty as a phenomenon should be their aim, not attaching some half-truth to it as a way of sensationalizing the matter, and hoping that people use it to stop animal cruelty? They're more likely to take a second look at any particular person who might exhibit rebellious behavior. There are other signs, other things to look out for, and it's irresponsible of PETA to single out this one particular issue.

Let's use the government's Stranger Danger program as example. Good intentions, but it ended up being entirely ineffective because children were given contradicting signals. Don't talk to strangers, but if you're in trouble, go get help. Strangers can look like nice people, but they're really bad people. And it also reinforced that relatives, family are safe, when in most cases of child abduction, it's a relative or family member who has perpetrated the crime.

PETA is giving people contradicting signals, and people are more likely to follow something they feel is a source that does all the research. Preying off fear does nothing to alert people to animal cruelty in their area, it just gives them more fear in an already uncertain world.
The very fact that so many people think PETA is wacko means that their tactics work. The public didn't even know there was an animal rights movement until PETA started shoving it in everyone's face. If they did everything calmly and didn't draw a whole lot of attention, no one would even know the animal rights movement existed.

Ask an average person on the street to name another animal rights group and I bet they couldn't. There are a lot out there, but they just don't get the press coverage, so no one knows they exist. The higher-ups at PETA didn't get that way by being insane... they know what they're doing and they know half the stuff they do makes people roll their eyes. But they gotta keep doing it or people forget about them and they fade into obscurity.

[ edited by dingoes8 on 2008-10-26 02:55 ]
ASPCA. There's one.
And knowing there is a movement isn't the same as caring about it. What good is PETA if everyone automatically ignores them because of their reputation as wackos?
That's assuming that everyone does ignore PETA all the time...I'm willing to listen/watch their current ad campaign/message sometimes and roll my eyes at them at other times.

dingoes8 said:
"The public didn't even know there was an animal rights movement until PETA started shoving it in everyone's face. If they did everything calmly and didn't draw a whole lot of attention, no one would even know the animal rights movement existed."

That's one of the things they're upfront about in the documentary. They freely admit they're media whores and, while seeming a little resigned to the fact that that's the only way they'll be able to stay in the public eye somewhat, they don't seem ashamed or embarrassed at what actions they've taken.

A whole lot of their so-called "shock" tactics are pretty harmless, objectively. If some naked women wanna devote their time to being displayed naked in a cage, what does it hurt ? PETA's credibility ? They don't seem all that concerned about it, so why should the average person worry.

I'm not touching the animal abuse = human atrocities comparisons they've made though (Holocaust, racism, etc). Not equipped to have that conversation.

When they get members to infiltrate/gain employment at facilities where animal abuse sometimes does happen (research facilities, slaughterhouses), it seems like pretty worthwhile work to me. Even if it doesn't always solve the problem, at least making people aware...
Imagine if you were totally opposed to whatever they stood for. Would it still be OK for them to lie to make "people aware" ? Surely we should require the organisations promoting causes we (at least partly) agree with to be as honest in their methods as the organisations we don't agree with or what right do we then have to complain when candidate X or company Y blatantly lies on an [inter]national stage to achieve their aims ? And it's somehow better because PETA know they're lying ? *throws up hands*

And the RSPCA BTW. Not extremist nut-balls, just dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals wherever they can (for about 180 years, so far).
I'm not sure what lies you're refering to. The only thing you mentioned in your last post was them linking milk to autism, which a quick google search would reveal is a link that wasn't invented by them, but suggested by scientific research. And that's all their billboards say, "Studies have shown a link between cow's milk and autism." As a non-research scientist, how do you know this to be false? I've heard PETA accused of a lot of things, but dishonesty isn't a common one.

And again, I'm aware of plenty of other animal rights groups, and have been a member of a few. One or two people being able to name another group doesn't disprove what I said. And the fact that so many consumers think they're crazy also helps them negotiate with businesses. When they went to KFC Canada and got them to improve standards in their slaughterhouses, or got stores to stop selling fur, or got POM to stop testing on animals, do you think the companies did it because they had soft hearts? Because it would be more efficient and cost less? Or because they didn't want to deal with all the protests outside their stores, scaring their customers away?

We could argue about this all day (and I have in the past :P), but that's boring. As to the original post, Dexter is one of the few shows on tv I actively watch.
The lie i'm specifically referring to was a lie of omission i.e. they include a link to on an advert linking milk to autism without considering it important to mention that wheat has been linked in exactly the same way, was even in fact mentioned in the abstract they cite as justification for their misinformation. And not only that but that it's not milk per se that's a problem but an inability to digest it properly (again, the abstract they cite was about a possible link between food allergies and autism).

It'd be like raising awareness of diabetes by vilifying sugar. You may well do that if you have some political interest against sugar production, you probably wouldn't do it in order to raise awareness about diabetes. I also think the billboard in question is designed to prey on parent's fears - when a parent sees something like that i'd bet they don't parse the words carefully for the precise legally defensible meaning, they assume there's some causal relationship between drinking milk and developing autism (and I also think that's precisely the intended response). Personally I prefer organisations not to lie or prey on the fears/manipulate the ignorance of the general public, everyone's mileage varies.

And as I say, other organisations do good without needing to resort to those kinds of tactics - with something like animal cruelty there's just no need, the reality is bad enough (RSPCA campaigns over here show photos of abused and mistreated animals for instance. They're appalling enough without e.g. photoshopping the pictures to make them look worse).

(also, I have nothing against PETA protesting outside stores or - within the law - scaring customers away. That's manifestly not the same thing as lying or manipulating facts according to an agenda so if it's protests that companies are afraid of, why lie ?)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-10-26 17:16 ]
What Kris said (and thanks for saying it, now I can get some sleep instead of making the same points). :)

As for the link between animal abuse/torture and violent crime (against humans .... IMO animal abuse/torture is a violent crime), the data is solid and long standing.

The public didn't even know there was an animal rights movement until PETA started shoving it in everyone's face. If they did everything calmly and didn't draw a whole lot of attention, no one would even know the animal rights movement existed.
dingoes8 | October 26, 02:54 CET

Excellent point. Since PETA has broken new ground with controversial tactics, The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society International has jumped on the bandwagon and quietly begun pushing for the vast majority of PETA's goals. They have also adopted PETA's tactics of sending operatives underground at places like slaughterhouses to get video to prove allegations that the public would most likely choose to disbelieve otherwise, because of the horror of the reality. There is so much more than "reporting animal cruelty", that needs to be done.
What good does it do to "report" it, if there are no enforceable laws to punish it, no funding to do so and none of the kind of public outrage that pushes the authorities to follow up on these enforcement/funding issues?
Nothing gets done without some organization being willing to take point and take the flak that comes with it.
I'm not sure what lies you're refering to. The only thing you mentioned in your last post was them linking milk to autism, which a quick google search would reveal is a link that wasn't invented by them, but suggested by scientific research. And that's all their billboards say, "Studies have shown a link between cow's milk and autism." As a non-research scientist, how do you know this to be false? I've heard PETA accused of a lot of things, but dishonesty isn't a common one.

A "quick google search" will actually reveal "links" to many things which purport to be "suggested by scientific research," but which upon closer examination is revealed to be no more scientific than claims that the earth is about 6,000 years old. As the parent of an autistic child, I already have enough problems disabusing the public of the many misconceptions about autism, only one of which is the belief that my child could be "cured" by subjecting him to an extremely restrictive gluten-free & casein-free diet (i.e., no wheat or dairy products whatsoever). The last thing I need is for an organization like PETA out there peddling autism-related quackery for no other purpose than advancing their own agenda, thankyouverymuch.

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