Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The buffalo wings of doom

I'm all for treating animals humanely, but the people over at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) really need to give it a rest.

I thought that they had already jumped the shark back in 2009, when they accused President Obama of committing an inhumane act when he swatted a fly during an interview on CNBC"Believe it or not, we've actually been contacted by multiple media outlets wanting to know PETA's official response to the executive insect execution," a PETA spokesperson explained on the group's blog shortly after the interview aired.  "In a nutshell, our position is this: He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."

Later that year, they put together an anti-turkey-eating ad that was intended to run before Thanksgiving,  but NBC nixed it, saying it was too graphic -- leading to charges of censorship.  This, of course, gave the ad a great deal more publicity than it otherwise would have had, although it's questionable whether it had any effect on the United States' turkey consumption.

So they've had to come up with other strategies.  And the latest one is a doozy.  Think about it:  how do you get guys -- ordinary, working-class guys -- to reconsider eating meat?

Tell 'em that eating chicken wings will make their sons' willies shrink.

You think I'm making this up, but here's the source.  And a direct quote, which I also swear I am not making up:  "The latest scientific evidence shows that the sons of pregnant women who consume chicken are more likely to have smaller penises because of a chemical found in the birds’ flesh...  Pregnant women may want to think twice before chomping on those chicken wings, or their sons could come up short."

Mmm-hmm.  Because that's plausible.  Can't you just see the grant application for that study?  "Our research methodology will involve monitoring the chicken wing consumption of two groups of pregnant women.  After they have given birth, we will measure the penises of all of the boys.  We believe that there will be a strong inverse correlation between chicken wing consumption and penis length."

But of course, however ridiculous that sounds, they didn't even do anything that rational.  Their "latest scientific evidence" turned out to be a claim that supposedly chicken meat contains high levels of a group of chemicals called phthalates, which are suspected of hindering sex organ development in fetuses when the mother is exposed to high doses.  The problem is, phthalates are present in a lot of things -- but chicken wings do not appear to be amongst them.

From the Wikipedia page on phthalates, I quote:  "Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical tablets and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents.  End-applications include adhesives and glues, electronics, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children's toys, modeling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles."

Note how "chicken" is not on the list.

Of course, the folks over at PETA never seem to let any inconvenient things like facts get in their way.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I think it's always best to treat life with reverence, whether or not you choose to eat meat.  Factory farming is inhumane, and the widespread use of antibiotics and hormones for meat and dairy production is likely to have untoward effects on human health.  I don't kill anything gratuitously -- I catch spiders in the house and let them go, for cryin' out loud.

But once you start claiming that swatting a fly is an "execution," you've lost your credibility.  And just for the record: you do not regain it by playing fast and loose with the facts in an attempt to scare guys into thinking their favorite organ is going to shrink if they have a plate of chicken wings at the sports bar. 


  1. I suspect this sort of thing arises from frustration, with a bit of contempt mixed in. As in, we know we're right, but the general public is just too stupid to understand our finely-honed arguments. We have to lie to them. It's for their own good.

  2. I agree with this in principle, but as a skeptic, I must call into question the use of the fact that the word "chicken" from the Wikipedia page. Wikipedia articles often lack thoroughness and there is a chance that, while Wikipedia fails to mention it, there could be phthalates in chicken (though there probably aren't.) Best to cite something more scholarly.

  3. What if you order the boneless wings?
    Wait, don't answer that, I don't want to know. O-o