The animal rights and suspected domestic terror group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is well known for the shock value of their campaigns. From comparing farm animals to human rape victims to hanging a volunteer painted like to look like a mermaid outside a seafood restaurant in – with actual hooks piercing her skin and suspending her off the ground – PETA is no stranger to the macabre. They attained a new low, however, earlier this month when they reached out to Mashable.com for help spreading a video they admitted was fake.
In association with the PR company Press Kitchen, PETA created a fake abuse video featuring a man ordering his cat to do various tricks and slapping the cat when it fails. The video was allegedly meant to call attention to the way big cats are treated in circuses. The problem, of course, is that the abuse isn’t real. The cat in the video is no more than a convincing computer-generated image (CGI). Of course, a CGI cat doesn’t seem so bad considering that the only other way to make this video would have been actually to slap a cat. The real shame isn’t so much that they did some creative CGI work, but that they wanted to spread this video as news. The plan was to post the video online anonymously, and then have media outlets pick up the video to lend credibility and take it viral. Mashable explains their refusal:
Through this marketing effort, PETA is trying to convince the media to report and share a fake video as if it’s real, in hopes of deceiving the public to create manufactured outrage. As animal lovers, this is offensive. As a media outlet with a responsibility to truthfulness, this is unethical. As people with basic moral values, WTF?
PETA admitted in their initial request that the video was fake but attempted to downplay the lie. Mashable revealed part of the email:
What we’d like to do is have Mashable debut this video of a cat, created with computer-generated imagery (CGI), being abused, which will have been planted on YouTube anonymously by the ad agency who created it for PETA. Your posting of the provocative piece would simply be to acknowledge that it’s in circulation – not to make any claims about its authenticity.
“It’s alright Mashable; you won’t be lying,” they might as well say, “you’re just helping us lie.” The fact that Mashable refused their request and revealed it to the world is admirable. In a world full of misdirection, Mashable declined to be part of the problem. If all news outlets were to discover that fundamental principle of ethical journalism, fake news could quickly be a part of the past. PETA, of course, released a statement that misrepresented Mashable’s response. They assert that “the PR company approached Mashable and shared their idea. Mashable didn’t like it.” Mashable cleared up this misunderstanding:
We should note here that the issue isn’t that “Mashable didn’t like it” so much as that we here at Mashable don’t take kindly to being approached for partnership on a shady, ethically ass-backwards marketing campaign. But also, yeah, sure: We’re not fans of animal abuse videos, fake or otherwise.
Mashable does credit PETA for doing some good in the world but concludes their story by pointing out that they won’t spread fake news even in pursuit of a noble cause. The ends do not justify the means. This isn’t the only time PETA has been linked to unethical behavior, of course. As alluded to earlier, PETA has been associated with domestic terrorists, and there is some speculation that PETA has done more than just fund them. They target children with gruesome comic books. PETAKillsAnimals.com used public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to show that PETA kills the vast majority of all animals it takes. In the face of all that has come out against PETA, one question must be answered. What noble ends could possibly justify PETA?
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