Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CHUTZPAH for Those who Don't Understand CHUTZPAH

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) first brought itself to public attention through guerrilla tactics, such as throwing paint at expensive fur coats (while they were being worn). These days they seem to appreciate that such tactics can alienate potential supporters. So they are now taking approaches that have less to do with causing damage and more to do with spreading the word, particularly to those who need to hear it most. Last night two individuals, acting entirely on their own behalf, decided to take the word to the rich and mighty by intruding on one of their more elite playgrounds, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Here is how Associated Press National Writer Ben Walker related the story:

Sadie the Scottie was fully expected to reach the purple podium at America's top dog show. She did, after two intruders turned the center ring at Westminster into their own platform.

The heavily favored Scottish terrier won best in show Tuesday night and seemed to be an easy choice. Her team waited quite a while for this victory — it took a little longer, too, because of a startling protest inspired by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Shortly before judge Elliott Weiss picked Sadie, a pair of well-dressed women walked into the big ring at Madison Square Garden and held signs over their heads that said "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances," the latter a slogan popularized by PETA.

The crowd of 15,000 gasped at the sudden protest, booed the women and then cheered as a half-dozen security guards ushered them away without incident.

PETA members Dana Sylvester and Hope Round were charged with criminal trespass, police said. They acted on their own, the organization said, but it supported them.

To make my own position clear, with the exception of a couple of turtles and hamsters that I had as a kid, every pet that my wife and I have had has been adopted. I feel there are strong ethical grounds for protesting the use of animals for show purposes; but I appreciate the tact behind PETA's "official" reaction to this incident. At the same time it takes a lot of chutzpah to barnstorm a place like Madison Square Garden. In support for their mustering the chutzpah to do so, I wish to present this week's Chutzpah of the Week award to Sylvester and Round. It means far more to me than any thoughts about whether Sadie deserved to have her party spoiled.

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