PETA's beef with cow commercials

Really cuts the cheese

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 1999, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved

      Good grief, some people need to lighten up.

      The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission recently, asking for an end to those cute little talking cow commercials sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board.

      According to Associated Press coverage, PETA claims these ads, with their slogan of "Great cheese comes from happy cows" are deceptive and will cause consumers to "naively buy California cheese based on the false image conveyed by the ads."

      Yeah right. We all make our purchases based on the advice and wisdom of talking cows. That's why all of us use Gateway computers.

      PETA's complaint further states that consumers are being misled "into buying a product that they otherwise would not have bought."

      Sorry, PETA. I buy cheese because I need it, and I don't care if it came from California or Costa Rica. I'll choose the best quality for the best price. I don't look to talking animals for guidance when making a purchase. Although, I have to admit, that talking gecko does make a lot of sense when it comes to auto insurance.

       How can you object to those commercials? They are the cutest, most creative little pieces of fluff to come along in years. They are 60 seconds of levity in a world that has become far too serious. Case in point: The sleepy cows "hit the snooze" and send that crowing rooster flying. It might make you chuckle (unless you belong to PETA), but it certainly isn't going to make you run out and buy cheese. In all likelihood, those commercials have no impact on cheese purchases at all. People buy cheese because they need it, not because the cows told them to, happy, sad or otherwise.

      PETA doesn't agree. They claim it is deceptive advertising to suggest that cows are happier in California than in Wisconsin. They say most California cows do not live in blissful Sonoma County pastures like those in the commercials. They live in muddy, filthy manure piles, chained up to milking machines all day.

      That is an exaggeration as well, but for the sake of argument, assuming PETA is right, wouldn't you rather live in a muddy, filthy manure pile, chained to a milking machine in nice, warm California than cold, gray, snowy Wisconsin? I rest my case. Technically speaking, the California Milk Advisory Board is not being deceptive. The cows are happier in California, if you define "happy" as "slightly less miserable."

      But PETA wants more for cows. They want them to be happy. But what is "happy" to a cow? Most adult cows just stand around, chewing their cud, with a dewy, dull expression in their big brown eyes, indicating the cerebral activity of a test-pattern on a PBS television station. They aren't wallowing in existential angst and yearning for self-actualization. If they have enough to eat and drink, and aren't in any immediate pain, they seem to be content. They don't know any other type of existence. They aren't struggling masses yearning to breathe free. They're cows, for God's sake. They are not people, too. The PETA people need to look up the meaning of the word "anthropomorphism."

      Sure, dairy cows have to put up with a machine sucking out their bodily fluids for a couple hours a day, but on the other hand, a cow that's giving milk is a cow that's not in the slaughterhouse. In a cow's world, producing milk is the lesser of two evils.

      How do you define complete bovine happiness, anyway? Having nothing to do all day, and all the food, sleep and sex they want? Heck, using that criteria, I wouldn't mind being a cow myself. But the fact is, no animal (including people) exists in complete happiness, not even in the wild, where every day is an endless cycle of eat-or- be-eaten. Freedom is not all that wonderful either.

      That's the trade-off for domestic animals. They can't do whatever they want, but they don't have to fight to exist either. It all depends how you look at it. I'm sure PETA would have no issue with my two cats. The pampered little brats live like royalty. On the other hand, they are not allowed outside. They desperately want to get out into the yard, but they are confined indoors.

      I'm depriving them of their God-given right to roll in the grass and climb trees and stalk grasshoppers. They'll never know the ecstasy of wild, noisy feline love on the back fence at night because I've also had them neutered against their will. By PETA's definition, I am denying my cats of happiness by imposing my will on them.

      On the other hand, my cats will never know the agony of being squashed under the wheels of a car or being torn apart by a German Shepherd, nor will the hundreds of unwanted cats they might have fathered.

      Like the cows, my cats don't have the life they would have chosen. On the other hand, they're healthy, protected from harm and well-fed. Just like the dairy cows. If farmers don't keep them safe, well-fed and healthy, they won't produce milk. It is in a farmers' best interest to take good care of his cows.

      Are the cows completely happy? It's all relative. They're probably as happy as they can be, given their circumstances, over which they have no control. As far as I'm concerned, the cows are doing their jobs, just like I'm doing mine. I can't do whatever I want either. I'd rather be out frolicking in a field, but I have to pump out this column. And the cows have to pump out milk. If we don't do our jobs, the people in control of our lives won't give us food, or the money to buy it.

      I'm just thankful that when I'm too old to do mine, my boss won't eat me.