My kids, 5 and 7 years old, have been raised to respect nature. They love the outdoors and look forward to our regular camping and fishing trips.
We have a yellow Labrador retriever named Sara that thinks she's human. She smells, sleeps on the couch and eats off the kitchen counter but cries like a baby if we lock her outside.
I look forward now and then to a nice fat steak and have even killed a few mammals and birds, but only for food, never for sport.
I don't like trophy hunting or fishing and think those fellows who beat baby seals with billy clubs should be stripped naked and put adrift on an ice flow.
When it comes to political issues, I consider myself a moderate, and believe to each his own, except when it comes to grown men wearing T-backs on public beaches.
I don't get riled up about much; life is too short. But a recent news release from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has prompted me to take a stand.
But first, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I have some history with this particular animal rights organization.
In March 2001, when PETA petitioned the Boy Scouts of America to drop its fishing merit badge, I wrote a column entitled "Confessions of a Killing Machine" that became the lead item on the organization's Web site.
As a result, I received dozens of angry e-mails from people across the United States who wanted to do things to me they would never dream of doing to some poor defenseless animal.
With that said, here we go again:
Last month, PETA sent out another news release to announce yet another campaign aimed at fishing.
"If fish were renamed 'sea kittens,' would humans be less likely to hurt them?" the news release asks. "PETA thinks so, which is why the group has just launched its national 'Save the Sea Kittens' campaign."
No. Seriously folks … I am not making this up.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has more than 2-million members and supporters, making it the largest animal rights organization in the world. The organization does many admirable things, including fighting against factory farms, animal experimentation in laboratories and the animal abuse in the entertainment industry.
But apparently, PETA has too much money and/or too many people with too much time on their hands.
Now here is where it gets really scary:
Ashley Byrne, the PETA campaign coordinator, "will travel across the country to elementary schools that serve sea kittens for lunch to remind people that sea kittens are intelligent, sensitive animals who deserve respect …"
First of all, Ashley, an animal or fish should be referred to as "it," not "who." My crazy Labrador Sara has personality, and as Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way."
But the fact remains, Sara is a dog, and dogs like to sniff other dogs' you-know-whats.
Now, secondly, please be advised that it has taken me seven years to get my son to eat something other than chicken nuggets and French fries.
The boy actually likes fish sticks, but if you show up at his elementary school and tell him that he is really eating "sea kittens," he will be traumatized for life, and I'll have to send you straight to time out.
Byrne said the campaign has been to two schools in North Carolina, where she said it "got great feedback from both students and parents."
No offense, Ms. Byrne, while I do respect your Constitution-protected right to call fish "sea kittens," I, for one, will continue to address each species by its common name, i.e., snook, trout, redfish, etc.
My son, the fish stick eater, is free to make up his own mind. But be forewarned, he dreams about catching a redfish and cooking it over a campfire.
You and your friends might call him "sea kitten killer." My guess is he will just laugh and try to hook a snook.
To find out more about PETA's "sea kitten" campaign, go to www.peta.org.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808.