Here's the thing with PETA: they just keep getting it wrong. And still, they get attention. And they exist.
It's all so wrong.
In their latest stunt, they've distributed a video that they say shows a herd of North Carolina dairy cows wallowing in hock-high manure. They describe "emaciated" cows and overgrown hooves. Actually, not hooves; just one hoof. Apparently, that's all they could find in the whole herd. They claimed the milk goes to regional grocer Harris Teeter and encouraged shoppers to go elsewhere. Finally, they implored viewers to take action: "If you do not wish to support the dairy industry's cruelty to cows, please, go vegan."
Wisconsin dairy farmer and blogger Carrie Mess took a look at the video and spotted some, ahem, inaccuracies based on contextual clues. She blogged about it, and her biggest observation: the cows were too clean. If they were actually living in that much filth, they'd have it up their sides. They'd fling it across their backs with their tails. I'd add that they'd also have foot rot, but that's another story. Also, there were weeds growing in the cracks of the concrete in this building where the cattle were supposedly being housed.
Carrie's post got shared far and wide, and within a few hours 160,000 people had read it and the post had 1.2 million Facebook views. PETA responded on Twitter that Carrie was obviously a shill for the dairy industry - the favorite accusation by anyone online these days, when they're fresh out of explanations and defenses. That was on August 12. By the 15th, PETA had to retract their allegations that grocer Harris Teeter distributed milk from this particular dairy. Turns out they were wrong about that. By the weekend, local North Carolina papers were reporting that the farm had been investigated by Hayward County Animal Control, which has cracked down harshly on animal abuse cases in the past, and found the cattle have been pastured in a clean area and in a pasture across the road when they weren't being milked. Animal control officer Jean Hazzard said, "I have responded to the dairy and met with the owner and reviewed the alleged deplorable confinement and living conditions, which were unfounded." Further, there was no evidence the cattle were either emaciated or in poor health.
By Monday of this week, Carrie got mail from PETA, in the form of a cease and desist letter from their legal team alleging defamation.
"They believe that my opinion on their video constitutes defamation," Carrie says. "They would like me to retract my post and issue an apology."
PETA also thinks her retweets of other's statements about the video being a hoax or a fraud also constitutes defamation.
By a legal definition, that's a stretch. Also, it's the pot calling the kettle black. For Carrie's part, she saw it for what it was: PETA's attempt to intimidate her, by adding her to their frequent recipient list of cease and desist letters. But hey, she's in good company. Beyonce and the clothing brand Bebe have gotten letters lately, too. Carrie's right up there with an international superstar! She adds, "I won't be intimidated."
In the end, it's another chance for agriculture to sigh deeply and know that PETA is still as ridiculous as ever. They don't care about facts. They don't like for people to think - like Carrie did. They prefer unfettered emotion. And big checks.
Know this, too: PETA's action against the North Carolina farm really is defamation: intentional, false, harmful of reputation, and disparaging. However, Carrie struck a blow for the good guys here; a Google search of "PETA dairy farm video" shows her blog post in the top five search items.
I have the tiniest sliver of hope that word might just get out about this crazy animal rights group that's got it all wrong...again.