Yesterday, I happened upon this headline from the hard-hitting journalists at the AJC. That’s right Zac, you’ve finally made it, and now the helpy helpersons over at PETA want to lend a helpful hand…by having you change the lyrics and title to your most well known song. They would prefer you sing about fried tofu rather than fried chicken.
First, how does singing about tofu result in better treatment of chickens? Second, who the hell wants to sing about tofu? Have you had tofu? If you haven’t and are really curious, I suggest going outside after a fresh rain and licking the nearest tree you can find. Third, the song isn’t about killing chickens. It’s about (and yes, I’m totally putting words in the mouth of the song’s author here) southern heritage and the simple pleasures in life, one of which is enjoying a chicken breast deep-fried in oil. Empirical studies have shown that 50% of southerners don’t even know what tofu is. Now if Zac and the boys were from L.A., it might make more sense to sing about fried tofu.
Honestly, I kind of thought the article was a joke, until I remembered that I think most things PETA does are jokes. Plus, it’s online so it must be real. Here’s an excerpt from the letter PETA sent to Mr. Brown:
“We’re writing today in the hope that you’ll extend your love of freedom to animals … In your song ‘Chicken Fried,’ you praise the simple pleasures of life—a cool drink, a home filled with love, enjoying the sunshine—all pastimes denied to the millions of cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals raised for food on factory farms every year.”
Just take a minute to digest that. We’re denying barnyard animals the simple pleasures in life. Right. I’ll skip by the sheer ridiculousness of the statement and get right to what I see as the bigger problems. For one, the writer – and by implication PETA – presumes that barnyard animals are the same as people, having the same goals and enjoying the same pleasures as we, the walky-talky bipeds do. I find it odd that the organization prides itself on protecting rights that animals may or may not even care about themselves. How do we know animals want these things?
The fact is, we don’t. The argument is based on the idea that animals suffer. Because they suffer, they are entitled to equal consideration. But is that really a proper basis for endowing animals with inalienable rights? I posit that it’s not. I think the desire to protect animals is less altruistic and more selfish than PETA might admit. Epistemologically speaking, we cannot truly know whether animals suffer. But, through transference we equip animals with the characteristic of suffering because they, in some small way, remind us of…well, of us. They have eyes in which we believe we can see pain, vocal chords in which we believe we hear cries for help, and so forth. We experience suffering so they must as well.
On a larger scale, if suffering is truly the basis for the endowment of rights, where does that end? Do trees suffer when we cut them down? I’m sure there are those that would answer affirmatively. Do PETA supporters live in wood houses? Of course they do. Why? Well, first because they have conveniently decided that trees don’t suffer (it’s on their website). But deeper than that, it’s because the utilitarian use of trees is much greater than the inferred suffering. They are not like us. They don’t look like us. They don’t have central nervous systems like us, etc. But how do we know trees don’t suffer? Have you read The Giving Tree?
At this point it’s no secret that I don’t particularly care for PETA. I don’t condone animal cruelty either, mind you. I’ve had several species of pets in my time and loved each of them. But they were still just pets. It was just a dog. It was just a fish. I still eat fish, and don’t care how they’re raised. Just tell me how it’s prepared. So, I suppose my overall point here is that PETA is stupid and if they want a song about tofu, they should write one.
You may recall that they also wanted my alma mater to replace its beloved and award-winning mascot with a robot. Seriously.
This is totally made up, but is probably not that far off, especially if you exclude Atlanta.