Last year, in an effort to drum up more compassion for fish, PETA suggested calling them “sea kittens.” The tongue-in-cheek suggestion was meant to attract media attention and prompt people to think more about fish—and it worked.
Now, in an effort to make rats more popular, PETA has joined forces with scientists at the National Institute of Agronomic research—the same scientists that PETA once criticized for developing a glow-in-the-dark rabbit—to engineer a less scary breed of rat—one with a cute, fluffy bunny tail rather than a long pink one. The basic reasoning is the same: people will feel more sympathy for rats with powder-puff tails, and not try to kill them with cruel glue traps or poison them with toxic chemicals.
Don’t believe it? Good for you. It was, of course, an April Fools joke.
PETA would never partner with mad scientists to genetically engineer animals. But a number of people fell for it—even though PETA has been playing April’s Fools jokes for years. PETA staffers have a healthy sense of humor—and a keen eye for opportunities to get animal issues in the news on a regular basis.
One of my favorite pranks occurred in 2000, when PETA announced its plans to sabotage a bass tournament at Lake Palestine in Texas by releasing tranquilizers into the lake, so that the fish would be “napping, not nibbling.” Texas officials, who must’ve thought that such a plan was actually feasible, took the bait and even assigned rangers to protect the lake.
With so much heart-breaking cruelty in the world, we need to have a good laugh every now and again—especially when it comes at the expense of animal abusers.
Seriously though, in a way, these jokes also show how quickly ridiculous rumors can spread. To this day, people still accuse PETA of throwing paint on fur-wearers, something PETA representatives don’t actually do. Worse yet, some people actually claim that real animal rights activists put antifreeze in water bowls at dog shows—something that would be horribly cruel, illogical, and contrary to PETA’s message of compassion. Sane and caring individuals may oppose breeders and dog shows, but no one in their right mind would harm the very animals they’re trying to help!
But I’ve found that people will believe what they want to when it comes to PETA. That’s okay—we’ll have some fun with it. In April 2006, after PETA announced (again) that we planned to sabotage fishing tournaments by releasing robotic fish that would swim near fishing boats and emit a high-frequency sound to scare away prospective catches, we received some hostile—and humorous—comments from anglers. Enjoy them. And if you have any suggestions for future April Fools jokes, let me know!