Babies and Pigs in Diapers

cute_baby_pig_in_diaper_button-p145519727683822193t5sj_400Nadya Suleman, the California mother of 14 children, has said in a recent news interview that she is considering adopting a pet pig and/or a small dog.  PETA is urging Ms. Suleman to refrain.  According to PETA, a representative of that organization sent Ms. Suleman an e-mail dated April 27, 2009 (this is a copy, PETA says):

We’re writing to you today after reading an interview in which you said that you would like to buy a pig and a dog for your children. In today’s uncertain economy—and with all the demands that come with raising 14 children—we urge you to reconsider adding two more dependents to your family. Like children, pigs and dogs are intelligent, social beings with complex needs. They require a lot of attention, space, and exercise as well as a huge financial commitment.

You also said that you would keep the pig outside because of “the smell.” Keeping a pig outside and making him or her a playmate for your children—who do not understand a pig’s many needs and will only pay attention to him or her when it suits them—is not an acceptable way to treat an intelligent animal such as this.

I generally find PETA’s ads distasteful.  I don’t like the organization’s use of sexualized images of women in its ad campaigns (about which Ann previously has blogged; see, e.g., here).  I do admit, though, that I agree with the big substance of this particular communication: having pets or children is a big responsibility.  But in reading the PETA’s letter, I had a somewhat negative reaction.  Many thoughts swirl in my head.

Apart from the letter’s breezy “Dear Nadya” (followed by a comma, not a colon — a peeve of mine), its public judgment — of what I think should be a private matter — bothered me the most.  Yes, yes, the personal is political, the political is personal, etc. etc.  But still, isn’t it for each person or family or household to decide whether to welcome a companion animal?  For many animal rights activists, I appreciate that the answer is a resounding, “No,” just as for many opponents of abortion, it shouldn’t be for each woman to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

I agree that having 14 children does not seem to be a smooth route to health, happiness or financial security.  Adding a pig or a dog wouldn’t make that route any smoother.  But in the end, I would leave it to Ms. Suleman to decide.

The PETA letter doesn’t mention concerns about animal hoarding (an indication of a real psychological problem).  But there persists a way (blogged here) in which  of Ms. Suleman is viewed as an abnormal “hoarder” — first of children and potentially now of animals, as well.

-Bridget Crawford

(H/T Amanda Ambrose)

2 Responses

  1. I also find a lot of what PETA does more harmful than helpful, but colons and commas aside, I can appreciate the aim of the letter. While Ms. Suleman likely has problems that run deeper than many others, because of the limelight around her, PETA is acting within its normal M.O. by asking her to not adopt; while it may be a private decision, the life of the animal coming into the home must be considered. Too often, in many families, dogs and cats (and pigs) are taken on a novelty items, without consideration of their needs. This is why shelters are so overrun. While I generally dislike PETA’s blunt and uncompromising tactics, I do think they needed to make this message.

  2. Colons and commas ARE important if our civilization is to survive.

    That aside, PETA has every right to write to this woman and publish the letter. Many didn’t like the late Judge Higgenbotham’s very public “letter” to Justice Thomas about race (which appeared in a law review as well as the jurist’s mail box). Expression through publication of missives is a heuristic First Amendment exercise.

    PETA is one of the most prominent “shoot one’s self in the foot” organizations I’ve ever seen. From objectivization of women to nonsense like asking the city of Fishkill, N.Y. to rename itself “Fishsave,” there is both a clownish and a dark side to the organization.

    Is the so-called “Octomom” a potential or actual hoarder? I doubt it. She appears to be overwhelmed by the attention she’s getting, unsure of how to capitalize on it (and that she clearly intends to do) and blundering ahead. Kids, in my view, should have pets, preferably dogs and cats. Whether someone with fourteen children ought to add four-legged members of the family is another matter.

    If anyone goes back in the archives and reads about the Dionne Quintuplets, they’ll see the same kind of media and public interest this woman has garnered, albeit in a more restrained age without the mass intrusiveness and gossip the Web and TV insure. Whether the Octomom gets a horse or a pig, the best thing would be for her to spend more time with her family and less interacting with all the Budinskis.

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