Meating of the minds 

Some people can't even stand to have dinner with their relatives. The History Channel recently showed people who like to have a dinner of their relatives. The happy cannibals of New Guinea were there on cable, feasting on their fellow tribesman and saying things like, "Now I'll always have a part of my mother with me." How adorably naive. Without access to pop psychology and Oscar Wilde, they don't realize that "all women turn into their mothers," anyway. Your mother will consume you without the frivolous step of you consuming her.

To cannibals it's natural to graze on one's pals. Other cultures dare to eat maggots, monkeys or English food. I have a friend who grosses me out by ordering squid and octopus, and I disgust others with my enjoyment of escargot and steak tartare (cow sashimi).

The more I hear "eeeeeew, gross!" from these squeamish people, the more I'm likely to want to keep grossing them out, telling them about the cannibals, and that if they've ever been rude to a waiter they may "always have a part of him with them," too. There is a certain perverse pleasure in knowing where other people's buttons are and pushing them.

Watch the fur fly

Animal people are really easy to get to in this way. It's a snap to make them slip into that weird, defensive sing-song baby talk and say things like, "No, that's terrible," just by stating a simple fact like, "God, that dog of yours stinks to high heaven." If they are activists or vegetarians, it's even easier. You can gush over some voluptuously red steak you had the night before and watch them react as though you just showed them an angry personal rash. Teasing animal-rights activists is like taking candy from a baby -- it's not a sport for the sporting.

There are plenty of nuts on the animal-activist tree, and the temptation to crack them is a mouth-watering one. The trashing of labs, the tossing of fake blood on fur-wearers and 300 incidents of violence in the past year don't make animal-rights people very easy to warm up to no matter how much they love their puppies. Nobody wants to see bunnies suffer chemical burns, mascara brushes to the eye or other indignities (OK, maybe a few Playboy bunnies), but if we've learned nothing else from hard-core religious types, it's that clubbing people with your values makes them distrustful and dismissive of you. Do it and you're cutting off your nose to spite your face, something that was discovered not to work when tested on animals.

This didn't occur to New York radio talk-show host Mike Gallagher, who was offended by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' satirization of the "Got Milk?" ads. Their "Got Beer?" campaign, which extolled brew over moo for better health, caught flack as bad for kids.

Gallagher showed his contempt for PETA's whimsy by going to West Virginia for an animal execution, the slaughter of Old Blue, a four-year-old steer, live on the air, with the meat from the animal going to charity. But according to the Associated Press account of the gruesome, gratuitous grandstanding (I'm auditioning for the part of Dr. Smith), the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day; Gallagher "wavered" and could not do in the animal himself, or even watch as the shooting took place. Cow eyes evidently work.

Dead ends

Gallagher may have offended animal-rights activists, but big deal, he could have done that by going to McDonald's. Instead, he helped their cause by proving their point. It's a lot easier to shoot off one's big mouth than to shoot anything else. If we all had to kill and butcher our own Big Macs, those "billions served" would decrease dramatically.

It's easy to order a killing; it's not easy to make one. In fact, it's interesting to speculate how many fewer death sentences would be carried out in Florida and Texas if the Bush brothers had to throw the switch instead of just sign the paperwork. George W. might face a few more barriers on his way to the White House if he'd administered a lethal injection himself instead of telling someone else to do it. And that doesn't even consider the possibility that someone he injected might later be proven innocent.

Gallagher's response to PETA's response shows that two wrongs don't make a right, but they do make a point. Ours is the only species dumb enough to consider itself superior while poking an accusing finger at the neighbor's lunch. Animals spend their days eating, sleeping and screwing on the lawn. All we can hope to do is watch this lifestyle and learn.

And sometimes eat one. We're only human.

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