Extremists have the right to speak

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Everyone has a cause. Look around, and you see PETA animal rights activists comparing slaughterhouses to the gas chambers of the Holocaust, and you see Arianna Huffington attacking the drivers of SUVs.

Their right to protest is one of the unique and wonderful aspects of our country. As extreme as their views seem to the average person, they have the right to share them.

But then again

we have the right to disagree with them as well. Whether you are an animal lover or not, comparing the everyday slaughtering of animals to the systematic murder of 6 million human beings only proves to us that the hardcore PETA people have a priority problem. Recent studies have shown that lack of protein during pregnancy can cause debilitating - and sometimes permanent - defects in the newborn. In order to "save" animals, the mother has contributed to her own child's birth defect.

Humans need protein, and while it would be nice if everyone could afford veggie burgers and tofu surprise, most can't. Are the third world nations who eat the goats and cattle as they have for millennia to be classified as Nazis because they have to slaughter their food?

As far as Arianna Huffington and the SUVs, there is no doubt that the vehicles are gas hogs - but so are limousines, and we sincerely doubt Arianna was driven to the news station studio in an ecology friendly compact car. Yes, there are more SUVs than limos, but to equate the drivers of the utility vehicles as supporting terrorism is ridiculous. According to a recent article in Car & Driver, only one out of eight gallons of gas used in this country comes from the Middle East, and most of that comes from Saudi Arabia - a country that is - for the moment

- an ally. If we did dramatically cut back on our gasoline intake, it is not the Arabian oil that would be eliminated first - it is easier and cheaper to get to, requiring less labor and equipment than the North American wells.

Besides, there are other ways to lower gas consumption than turning in the SUV for a subcompact. All options should be explored. Are those who leave lights on, increasing energy costs also supporting terrorism? Many power plants use oil. What about those NASCAR drivers? Are they supporting terrorism?

The ironic thing is that many plastics are petroleum based. Those PETA members who are using plastic to avoid leather and other animal by-products - are they contributing to terrorism?

But their extreme views are just as legitimate in this country as the middle of the road perspective - and even needed. We must have the extremists, both right and left, to get a sense of the middle. We rely on the extremists to find our solutions. Only those who care deeply and passionately about an issue

- from energy conservation to animal rights

- will work passionately to solve the problem.