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Kirby: Don’t treat turkeys — or other animals — like human beings

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published May 04 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated May 05 2014 08:49 am

I never saw myself as a mass murderer. I’ve been accused of a lot of bad things, including stuff of which I’m still rather proud. But mass murderer? No. That one has never come up.

It’s a point I now have to consider because the group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals has petitioned the state of Utah for a roadside memorial in honor of hundreds of turkeys killed in a truck crash near (and eventually in) Deer Creek Reservoir.

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The roadside memorial (a sign, not a cross) would feature a picture of a turkey and the words "In memory of the hundreds of terrified turkeys who died here in a truck crash."

PETA says the idea is to inform the public about the carnage that sometimes occurs as helpless animals are transported to slaughterhouses.

Elevating turkeys to the level of memorializing them along roadways is — OK, I’ll admit to a certain amount of species chauvinism here — more than a little bit ridiculous. But that’s just me.

I have murdered animals. Lots of them. I once put five cows out of their misery after they failed to figure out which side of the railroad tracks was the one out of the way of an oncoming train.

Officer Me: "You guys OK?"

Cows: "Mooo!"

Several loud booms.

Maybe I should have called a vet. After all, I would have called an ambulance if it had been human beings lying there.

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There’s no memorial to these terrified cows today. The only memory of the tragedy is in my head. It’s the voice of the annoyed engineer: "I’m getting tired of hitting these $%*# things!"

There isn’t enough highway along Deer Creek Reservoir to memorialize all the human beings killed there, let alone deer, badgers, rabbits, birds, snakes and the occasional pelican.

Because we can’t really convince people, by posting warning signs, to slow down, buckle up, drive sober, stay awake and not pass on a double yellow line, I doubt a turkey memorial will convince anyone to go vegan.

Driver: "Hey, a picture of a turk ... hmm, with gravy."

I’m not against PETA’s concern for better treatment for animals. I am a bit troubled when I see animals being quietly elevated to the status of human beings. If it keeps going, I could end up a war criminal.

There’s a line between raising awareness and evoking contempt that passion can seriously blur. The more fervently we believe something, the more likely it is to make us stupid.

In 1963, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA) picketed the White House, carrying signs demanding that Jackie Kennedy put pants on the family pony.

"A nude horse is a rude horse!" was their slogan.

SINA insisted that animal decency today would improve society’s morals tomorrow. The movement, which began in 1959 and reached an estimated 50,000 followers, attracted supporters and offers of large sums of money.

Members of SINA were encouraged to hand out "SINA summonses" to people immoral or shameless enough to walk their nude pets down the street. I’m serious. Look it up.

The idiocy continued until 1963, when CBS exposed it as a satiric hoax, the brainchild of comedian Alan Abel. Here’s the thing: Even then people wanted to join and fight for animal decency.

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