The moral question about the human species, and its wholesale ravaging of this planet, pushing so many orders of life into extinction, isn't whether or not we should be meat eaters, since we are omnivorous by nature. It is that, from the outset 50,000 years ago, we exceeded our needs in what we'd take from the land with cold-blooded apathy.
As with all other animal species, fight-or-flight is coded in our genes as a survival mechanism. Yet, we are the only animal that engages in violence and torture when there is no threat. We are the only species that willingly inflicts pain and suffering intra-specifically, weather or not there is a need to.
This remains a malignancy among us to this day. We exploit the lower species, with no respect for them as beings, but as rigid commodity. Thus, we continue seeing the murder of intelligent and emotional creatures like the harp seals; abuse of those beautiful elephants in captivity; destruction of the orangs in Indonesia; and the swelling consumption of wilderness by those fucking lousy real estate developers. And that's the tip of the iceberg.
We owe so much to the planet for these crimes. It's definitely the argument of a cause that MUST be delivered rationally. I haven't been keeping up with PETA, but you're right about fanatical behavior. Passion is vital, of course. But lunatic acts of violence merely discredit such causes, inviting the perception that they are fringe issues led by a pack of loonies.
I DO like what I see the ASPCA doing. I like what Greenpeace does. I'd LIKE to see more powerful philanthropists commit to the cause. For instance, I've always believed that an option should be available to those animal shelters who hold to the blanket rule of euthanizing dogs and cats after something like 2 weeks; they'll DO it, even if they have empty cages remaining. I saved my cat from a shelter in 1997. She was one week from being killed there, even though there were ONLY a few cages occupied. I saw several LONG rows of empty cages in that place, and STILL they were going to kill her.
I'm sick of such apathy. I'm sick of our own destructive instincts. It's an important issue to me. And, so, naturally, I'm angered when fanatics run into Looneyville to represent the cause.
One method I find effective in getting the message out - even though it can ruin your Saturday night - is running video and film in crowded outside malls showing how horrendously companies in the meat industry treat animal stock. In what short life those creatures have, they should at least be able to enjoy it to the extent they can. I don't care if it's cows (which, by the way, contrary to the propaganda, are very bright animals) or chickens; I don't like subjecting them to long, slow torture.
When I saw those images myself, I ceased eating beef and chicken (a process that took me time, of course). So did my girlfriend of that time. I only eat fish these days. And I refuse to buy any products from a company if I learn it endorses cruelty.
I also like what Animal Planet is doing. Many of their documentaries - I think - are helping to waken people about the complexities of these species, so long dismissed by the human race in its arrogance - its malignant impulse to control, destroy, and inflict cruelty for its own sake.
Either way, ONE day we will have to meet the price of our actions.