- - Monday, March 4, 2019

Imagine living in a place where the government dictates what clothes you’re allowed to buy, what you should eat and drink, and punishing you for making the “wrong” personal choices. I’m not talking about North Korea or Venezuela, but California.

The California State Legislature is considering banning the sale of fur products at the behest of PETA and allied groups. You’d think lawmakers would have bigger things to worry about than the trim on a winter coat. Yet the legislature is unwittingly allowing itself to become the latest pawn in the much larger game of total animal liberation.

While the anti-fur campaign is its latest high-profile move, the larger strategy of the animal liberation movement ultimately aims to prohibit using animals for any human benefit. This agenda doesn’t just mean you can’t wear or consume animal products. It also bans medical testing on animals while researchers seek cures for AIDS, cancer and childhood diseases.

Most people are unaware of the larger picture playing out in different arenas where the tactics range from intimidation to legislation in the name of total animal liberation. Animal activists who have a personal agenda frequently use distorted references to the Bible, produce snuff films and harass business employees to secure their priorities. Many of these people have criminal records. Some have been tagged by the FBI as domestic terrorists.

Consider the Berkeley-based organization Direct Action Everywhere. This group harasses diners at restaurants and shoppers at supermarkets for buying animal products. They break into farms and steal animals. A recent VICE News segment filmed a mob of hundreds busting into an egg farm north of the San Francisco Bay Area last year.

Those sympathetic to PETA’s anti-fur wiles should know that the group has given money to Direct Action Everywhere’s “charitable” arm. (The IRS must be asleep at the watch if Direct Action Everywhere can be considered philanthropic.) Yet those of us with the wool pulled up from our eyes, so to speak, can’t be surprised by PETA’s support: This is the same PETA whose president has said she’ll be the last person to condemn the Animal Liberation Front, an FBI-designated domestic terrorist group. PETA gave $70,000 to the legal defense of an arsonist. PETA is against people owning pet dogs and cats. And not to be outdone, the past CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (confusingly, not the organization responsible for your local animal shelter) was no less radical when he expressed hope that “I don’t want to see another cat or dog born.”

Why are California legislators listening to these people?

While a fur fight rages in the legislature, PETA has recently launched corporate brand attacks on the use of wool and leather for clothing. If the legislature arbitrarily bans fur (no matter how humanely it is raised), you should expect these products to be next up.

Along with clothing, these people have made headway restricting consumer choice in food products. California is set to ban the sale of conventionally raised pork and eggs by 2022. The cost to government food programs and consumers on limited budgets will be significant.

Perhaps the worst part of the animal liberation agenda, however, is not related to consumer product choice, but medical research. These activists want to shut down all medical research that uses lab rats, even though the use of animals is necessary to develop cures for humans (and animals). PETA has attacked St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the March of Dimes over their support for animal medical research. “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” says PETA. You get the picture.

All this is happening in spite of little public support for such a radical agenda. Americans love pets, back medical research and support using animals for fiber. According to Gallup, a strong majority of Americans think wearing fur is moral. And as I write this, I am reading a piece on coyote pelts fetching record high prices at auction driven by high consumer demand.

Legislators and staffs need to take time to educate themselves about the duplicitous and twisted people who are pressing them to adopt their various animal liberation agendas. Short of that realization and rejection, the fringe elements in society will gain another advance and enjoy encouragement for their anti-citizen and anti-consumer choice programs.

• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Co., a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

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