It’s been a while since I’ve written about the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but after I ran into this beauty I couldn’t stop myself. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Our story begins with a bill filed in late December by Oklahoma State Rep. Jim Olsen that would require a poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments, measuring at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall, in all classrooms in the state, beginning next school year.
Olsen said in a news release:
The Ten Commandments is one of the foundations of our nation. Publicly and proudly displaying them in public school classrooms will serve as a reminder of the ethics of our state and country as students and teachers go about their day. It is my prayer that this display would inspire our young people during their formative years and encourage them to lead moral, principled lives.
None of this sat well with PETA fanatics.
In response, PETA is pushing Oklahoma to also display the “Ten Vegan Commandments” in classrooms, which read as follows.
1. Thou shalt regard all animals as individuals who deserve respect and compassion and aren’t here for humans to exploit.
2. Thou shalt always come to the aid of an animal in need.
3. Remember to have animal companions spayed or neutered and to provide them with nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and comfortable shelter.
4. Thou shalt not wear any garment or ornamentation made from or taken from the body of an animal.
5. Thou shalt not kill, maim, or injure any animal for “sport.”
6. Thou shalt not use animals as conveyances nor for entertainment.
7. Thou shalt not steal or consume milk from animals, as a mother’s milk is meant to nourish her babies.
8. Thou shalt not support or conduct any experiment that inflicts pain and fear on an animal nor participate in animal dissection.
9. Thou shalt not buy an animal from a pet shop breeder, leave any companion animal in a hot car or outside unattended, nor chain any animal.
10. Thou shalt not consume an animal’s flesh, skin, or eggs nor anything else that belongs to an animal.
If you read through the above more than once, you’re not alone. While several of the “commandments” reflect moral and ethical behavior, others are downright foolish. PETA, of course, sees it differently.
In an open letter to Rep. Olsen proposing that he file similar legislation to request that public schools display the organization’s commandments, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote:
Dear Mr. Olsen:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including thousands in Oklahoma—with a request: Having filed House Bill 2962, would you also consider filing a bill to request that all public schools display the “Ten Vegan Commandments,” an ethical set of principles designed to encourage individuals from all backgrounds to practice nonviolence and lead moral, principled lives? Please allow me to elaborate.
While many of us were raised to believe that slaughtering animals for food or clothing is somehow acceptable, when we reflect, we can come to the realization that none of this violence is necessary and that all killing is reprehensible. Genesis 1:29 teaches us that Eden was vegan and that humans flourished in harmony with animals. Surely, God created us to be caretakers, not killers. As you have said, “None of us would like to be killed,” and we believe that extends to all species—sentient individuals who experience pleasure, loneliness, grief, and fear yet are subjected to horrific abuse and slaughter at human hands.
The Ten Vegan Commandments—which include principles such as “Thou shalt always come to the aid of an animal in need”—would instill good values in today’s students. At a time when Oklahoma ranks 50th out of 50 in a study of state school systems, partially based on an assessment of the rate of violence or disciplinary actions, fostering empathy in young people for all those we share the planet with would really pay off as they grow up in a diverse society.
The unnecessary violence inflicted on the billions of animals tormented and slaughtered every year for food, clothing, and entertainment depends on a simple lack of empathy for others who may appear different from us but nonetheless share our interest in enjoying life without experiencing undue fear, pain, or violence.
Prominently displaying these principles in all public schools would be a simple way to promote peace, understanding, empathy, and compassion. We’d love to work with you to make this happen. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Rather than launch into an argument — pro or con — about equating what amounts to political doctrine with theological doctrine, I’ll say this:
If the Ten Vegan Commandments were to be displayed in Oklahoma classrooms, shouldn’t, for example, the “commandments” of The Red Meat Lovers Club be displayed, as well? Just sayin’.
Anyway, PETA also sent a letter to Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters asking him back the group’s push to display the Ten Vegan Commandments in classrooms.
Waters’s response was COMEDY GOLD. On Wednesday, he posted a video response to PETA.
Hey @peta, thanks for reaching out. This is a special message for you!
Walters then pulled out a bag from behind his desk, took out a burger, took a big bite, and said:
The burgers are great here in Oklahoma and you’re welcome for lunch anytime.
— Superintendent Ryan Walters (@RyanWaltersSupt) February 7, 2024
Just. Too. Perfect.
The Bottom Line
The Supreme Court has held that posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, so — and I’m not a constitutional scholar — I suspect the proposed Oklahoma bill will either fail or if it passes, ultimately struck down.
That said, the notion that the so-called “Ten Vegan Commandments” equate with the Ten Commandments is preposterous, in my book. Then again, radical veganism is a religion of sorts, so there’s that.
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