Sea-kittens?! Truth can be stranger than fiction!

Our friends at PETA have decided that for far too long fish have gotten a bad rap. They have been thought of as slimy, cold and unfeeling creatures that deserve nothing better than to end up impaled on the hook of a blood lusting fisherman. To combat this image, PETA has renamed fish “sea-kittens”. Apparently fresh water fish will have to find their own PR manager. “Sea-kitten” is the perfect name, indeed what child would dare confess that “I have to go home now, my mom’s cooking sea kittens for dinner”.

I for one think the whole idea of renaming much maligned animals is a marvelous idea! Far too many animals have simply been the subject of bad PR and it’s high time this injustice is remedied. Parasites, for instance, have been subjected to an immensely negative campaign. We use the name to describe any number of unsavory groups; children, politicians, investment bankers and parking enforcement officers. But this is unfair. For instance, the fluke Euhaplorchis californiensis can be found in Californian killifish which reduces its ability to avoid predators. This provides feeding egrets with an easy to catch food source and who can claim that’s bad? So the first step is to give much maligned parasites new names. They will now be referred to as “Host Buddies”. But parasites aren’t the only ones to suffer the injustice of bad PR. Spiders (now referred to as “Eight legs o’love”) and Bed Bugs (“Bedtime bity-wities”) have also had their fair share of negative publicity and have thus suffered painful persecution.

The concept of sea-kittens for fish does raise some problems however. If there are now sea-kittens then our feline friends will now have to be reclassified land-kittens to prevent confusion. Pigeons, long thought of as flying rats, could be air-kittens. There are other problems as well. What are we to make of sharks (Headline: “Two fisherman presumed dead after great white sea-kitten attack”)? They are fish though so perhaps sea-cats would work instead. Whales, although not fish, should be OK due to the worldwide attention they receive and the enormous public sympathy their plight generates. Cows however, continue to be viewed as nothing more than a walking meal despite years of PETA’s no meat campaigns. Thus to draw attention to their suffering, cows will become “Land Whales”. How could you hurt a land whale? Haven’t they suffered enough?

While this has all been tongue-in-cheek, it remains fact that PETA has launched this new campaign aimed at children. To many the campaign may seem silly, but think about this; the story has been featured in the Guardian newspaper and was this morning (1-15-09) discussed on the MSNBC morning show Morning Joe. While it may seem over the top it has accomplished one thing; people are talking about it and it’s keeping PETA’s name in the news. While most of us understand PETA is a PR marketing firm there are still many who believe they do good work on behalf of animals and it’s up to us to speak up and set the record straight.

Dave Bienus, Penn State University

Speaking of Research

4 responses to “Sea-kittens?! Truth can be stranger than fiction!

  1. Obviously the majority of us “thinking” people don’t understand the double standard at which PeTA is poking fun. While this campaign is targeting children (the only humans who still objectively view life), it is blatantly showcasing the double standard of the ‘animals = food’ concept. Fish are socially acceptable fodder for the over-fed organisms we call Americans, yet felines are considered companions for middle-aged women rather than a delicious lunch. Perhaps it’s my inquisitive nature, but this makes me wonder why I can’t order up beer-battered kitten or puppy parmigiana next time I go out for dinner. What gives?

  2. Even lice have PR these days: check out the Parasite Pals Super Fun Site!

  3. Funny how PETA is suddenly a fan of neuroscience research, now that it provides evidence that fish sense pain just like mammals.

    Unfortunately for PETA any neuroscientist worth his salt also knows that the real perception of pain is not due to activation of peripheral sensory organs, which fish do share with mammals, but rather to the activation of certain cortical areas, which fish lack altogether.

    Sorry Morris!

  4. Interesting post Dave, but I’m not convinced that the lastes PeTA post is provoking more discussion. Looking at the comments on the Guardian piece I’d say “derision” was the word you were looking for. I particularly liked the fact that several comments pointed out that when it comes to protecting the aquatic environment angling associations tend to lead the way.

    If PeTA is trying to cultivate a more whimsical image then they have a long way to go yet. We can still remember their deaply dishonest campaigning against HIV/AIDS research in the 1990’s, and their “holocaust on a plate” campaign whose offensivness only they didn’t seem to appreciate. It seems that even that debacle didn’t teach them a lesson, as this more recent ad campaign that exploited a particularly nasty murder shows http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/06/international/i101302D40.DTL

    All publicity is good publicity? Somehow I’m not persuaded.