I love animals. I really do. With the possible exception of venemous cobras, flesh eating pirannahs, great white sharks and killer bees.
Come to think of it, I'm not crazy about large hairy spiders, mosquitos or bats either.
I lose patience, however, with animal rights organizations like PETA ( People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, not to be confused with another group calling itself People Eating Tasty Animals).
PETA has either raised the public awareness of animal rights or engaged in wholesale acts of terrorism, depending on who you ask.
I come down somewhere in the middle. They certainly have made the humane treatment of animals a compelling topic of discussion, if not debate.
But for whatever good the organization has done, it is often offset by acts of wholesale goofiness.
They have on occasion trotted out "Lettuce Ladies"' who appear publicly in bikinis made to look like lettuce leaves, and distribute information about the vegan diet. There is a lesser-known male counterpart to the Lettuce Ladies, called the Broccoli Boys. It is unclear how they dress.
In April 2008, PETA ponied up --- excuse me, offered --- a $1 million prize for the creation of "commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012." The announcement caused what the New York Times called a "near civil war" within the organization, since many of PETA's members oppose eating animal tissue even if no animals are killed in its creation.
According to one Internet report, PETA regularly asks towns and cities whose names, in its view, are suggestive of animal exploitation to change their names. In April 2003, they offered free veggie burgers to the city of Hamburg, New York, in exchange for changing its name to Veggieburg; the town declined the offer.
PETA also campaigned to have the town of Fishkill, New York, change its name, claiming the name suggests cruelty to fish. (The root "kill", found in many New York town names, is Dutch for "creek".)
If that's not enough, Chris Garnett, then a PETA youth outreach coordinator, changed his name to KentuckyFriedCruelty.com. Early in 2008, activist Rachel Feather changed her name to Rachel Fishinghurts.
Now, in its never ending attempt to appear crazy as a loon --- excuse me, I mean nuttier than a fruitcake --- the PETA folks have cranked up a campaign to discourage the consumption of fish by renaming them "sea kittens."
"Would people think twice about ordering fish sticks if they were called Sea Kitten sticks? the group says on its website.
"...Fish need to fire their PR guy...," the group explains. "Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account and leave our scaly little friends alone.
"You've done enough damage, buddy. We've got it from here. And we're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?"
PETA has even set up a webpage complete with Sea Kitten Bedtime stories for the kiddies (example: "With no room to swim, and no chance for escape, Tara looks forward to the end.")
Of course, we already have catfish but apparently that doesn't have the same ring to it. And I guess we can next expect cattle to be called Bovine Buddies or chickens Poultry Pals.
There are several possible outcomes for this campaign: People will stop eating fish. People will start eating cat smothered in tartar sauce. People will stop taking PETA seriously.
Speaking of food, here is something else for PETA to worry about.
According to an article in the Kansas City Star, raccoon is making it to the dinner table.
Simply brine the meat. Soak it overnight. Parboil for two hours. Then slow-roast or smoke or barbecue to perfection.
Raccoons, the story says, go for $3 to $7 each, not per pound, and will feed about five adults. Four, if they're really hungry.
"Those who dine on raccoon meat sound the same refrain: It's good eatin, according to the article.
"Raccoon meat is some of the healthiest meat you can eat," says Jeff Beringer, a furbearer resource biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"During grad school, my roommate and I ate 32 coons one winter. It was all free, and it was really good. If you think about being green and eating organically, raccoon meat is the ultimate organic food," with no steroids, no antibiotics, no growth hormones.
I'll take his word for it. The only raccoon I see here in the big city is roadkill and that takes the edge off my appetite.