PETA says it will tone down tactics after Sept. 11 attacks.

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PETA says it will tone down tactics after Sept. 11 attacks.

By AMY JETER, The Virginian-Pilot.

September 29, 2001

NORFOLK -- No bloodied furs.

No ``Meat is Murder'' banners.

No vociferous descriptions of kittens mutilated in research.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is trying a different approach -- for a while, at least.

The Norfolk-based animal-rights organization has pledged to abandon its controversial shock tactics in recognition of the nation's somber mood following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

``Sadness and images of cruelty would not be effective right now,'' PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said. ``Our last wish would be to add to the distress when our goal is to reduce suffering.''

Through the month of October, PETA has replaced plans for jarring or confrontational protests with more peaceful actions, such as handing out veggie burgers or leaflets.

The group's practice of calling attention to animal protection through displays of nudity will continue, however.

Newkirk said it's a return to the roots of the 21-year-old organization, which used to promote animals with images of their beauty.

The change could be permanent if it works, Newkirk said.

Others interested in animal protection issues cast the move as a ploy to get media attention.

``At a time when the nation's focus is on the victims of the tragedy, it strikes us that PETA is trying to get points for not being offensive,'' said Cate Alexander, spokeswoman for Americans for Medical Progress, an Alexandria-based group that supports using animals responsibly in research.

Alexander said her organization approved of a gentler PETA, but she doubted the new character would stick.

Merritt Clifton agreed.

As the editor of a newspaper that tracks the animal protection movement, Clifton recalled other times when PETA toned down its approach due to a national disaster or an outcry over a particular ad campaign.

``They returned to shout and confrontation, which is sort of what they do,'' Clifton said.

Still, no other animal rights group has announced changes since the attacks, he said, perhaps because the other groups are not as media-savvy.

Elliot Katz said his San Francisco-based organization, In Defense of Animals, would continue as planned.

He applauded PETA's move, though, saying people who promote animal protection should not give the impression that they are insensitive to humans.

``I think they actually have a heart,'' Katz said.


Reach Amy Jeter at 222-5221 or e-mail ajeter@pilotonline.com
 
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