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Crossfire

Has PETA Gone Too Far With Billboard Featuring Mayor Giuliani?

Aired August 29, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, PETA's latest campaign: the animal rights group tries to link dairy products and prostate cancer, with billboards featuring New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Are they finally going too far?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: I think it's highly objectionable and I also think it gives an incorrect message.

BRUCE FRIEDRICH, PETA SPOKESMAN: But we're not trying to win popularity contests. We're trying to raise awareness about the fact that if you're consuming dairy products, if you're eating meat, you're supporting animal abuse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

We are a nation of animal lovers. Indeed, what with puppy shampoos, puppy manicures and puppy therapy, we might even go overboard in loving our pets. Not so, says PETA, the most radical of animal rights organizations -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- believes there's still too much abuse of pets and animals in this country, and they're not afraid of stirring things up to get their point across.

This summer, they handed out "Unhappy Meals" at McDonald's until the chain promised to improve living conditions for its chickens. So now you don't have to feel so guilty about eating that next Egg McMuffin.

PETA's latest crusade: billboards of cancer-stricken Rudy Giuliani, linking milk with prostate cancer; ads which have the mayor hopping mad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, it's not true. There is no connection between my prostate cancer, or anyone else's, and drinking milk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: So tonight, are those tactics over the line or is it impossible to go over the line in protecting animals? And the big question: Do even rats have rights? -- Mary.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Some rats.

Ingrid, thanks for joining us.

Well, we've heard a little of what the mayor of New York City had to say. Here is -- if you would take a second to listen to more thing Rudy Giuliani had to say this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: ... have to. And I don't like doing that. Generally, as a public figure, a public official, you get used to all of this, you get used to all the -- even the things that are false that are said or written. But in this particular case, I think that there's a point to be made, and that is that even a public official, even a public figure retains some degree of privacy rights, and people should respect that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: What he was answering was whether or not he should sue you. It sounds like he hasn't ruled it out. But don't you think, putting the human side aside, for the moment, that he's clearly -- he and his family and friends -- struggling with this newly discovered cancer. Don't you think you violated his privacy?

INGRID NEWKIRK, PRESIDENT, PETA: I think we made him more the subject of sympathy rather than less. And we're getting everybody's ire not him; everyone's fighting with him. But he's a very public figure, he's no shrinking violet.

You know, he held the news conference that got the most attention for this ad and during it, he downed a glass of milk and said, the dairy industry is just fine.

We are desperate. We don't have the advertising budget of the milk people. We can't pay celebrities more money than a cancer researcher gets in six months, so we have to do something to get people's attention, to what happens to mother cows; there's no retirement home for them. What happens to the veal calves produced by the dairy industry and what happens to people, yes.

MATALIN: But let me reflect on -- or flesh out rather -- what the mayor had to stay in an earlier byte, put out -- not put out -- and I quote the National Cancer institute, not Rudy Giuliani -- quote --

"No studies have been done," -- no studies have been done -- "that clearly show why milk consumption would or could increase prostate cancer risk. At this time, there is not enough evidence to suggest that American men should limit or stop consuming milk, or milk products, specifically, to reduce their risk of prostate cancer."

You violated his privacy. You've offended our sensibilities and there's no link to prostate cancer. You're just making it up to save baby cows?

NEWKIRK: Not making it up. Would like to save baby cows, yes, and their mothers, yes; horrible industry for animals, no question. There's not a benign industry, even if you think it might be. But no, if you look at our Web site, which Dumpdairy.com, you'll find 11 studies cited that show that there absolutely is a link.

You know, the National Cancer Institute that issued that statement, the chairman of -- the secretary of health and human services, posed for a milk moustache ad. The group of physicians took her to task for it and said, hang on a minute, milk is not a health food. It's basically a liquid poison. And the only reason we drink it is because the dairy industry has all those ads telling us it's sexy and it's yummy and it isn't. It's going to put us in the hospital the way milk and meats do.

PRESS: Well, here's something I don't understand, Miss Newkirk, is, if you sheer a sheep and use the wool, I mean, the wool jumps off and goes back to the pasture. You milk the cow, you don't kill the cow. The cow walks away.

In fact, I live in an area with a lot of dairy farms, in California, and the dairy men say -- I think correctly so -- if you don't milk the cow, the cow suffers by having all that milk in the udder. So, I mean, what's the point here?

NEWKIRK: You know, we're so separated -- the supermarket from the farm -- I find the majority of people don't even realize that a cow has to be made pregnant -- they artificially inseminate her, which isn't pleasant -- but she has to give birth and lactate in order to produce that milk and then we steal it.

It's meant for the calf. The calf goes into the veal crate -- 14 weeks in the dark and all these things that happen -- and yes, the cow does die, because they -- I've stood on the slaughter round and they kick that cow in the face, they kick that cow down the ramp, and she goes to her death and she doesn't want to go.

PRESS: No, wait, wait, there's a step in between.

NEWKIRK: Yes.

PRESS: I'm with you on the veal. I think the treatment of veal -- the way that it's raised -- is just absolutely obscene, it's gross, it -- you know -- don't eat it, right? And the mother cow, at the end of her milking days, may go to McDonald's in a cruel fashion, but I'm talking about, in the meantime, the cow comes in the morning, gives milk. Goes back and eats grass. Comes in the evening, gives milk. Goes back and eats grass. I mean, that is not cruelty to the cow. NEWKIRK: They don't anymore. I mean, very few farms -- we're in an era of factory farming. The old farm that I grew up on, when I was 4 years old, has long gone. These cows stand on cement their whole lives, their feet swell. I don't know if you've read all the things about electrical milking machines that cause electrical shocks that give them problems.

But no. Her udders now, she's injected with hormones, which come back to haunt us -- this IGF-1, which causes our cancer cells to grow, they're all in her. So, no, she has a lousy life.

PRESS: And you're saying that all these millions of American moms who've fed all their kids all these milk for all these years are giving them cancer?

NEWKIRK: Yes. Human breast milk is what babies should have and why do human adults drink cow's milk that's meant for a cow baby? It makes no sense. Why don't we drink kangaroo milk? It would make as much sense.

We should drink juice, drink water, drink other things. But milk is so full of protein that it really hurts our bodies and it actually helps leach out calcium. That's true. Go to the Web site Dumpdairy.com and have a look.

MATALIN: All right, so is that then why -- I never quite understood and maybe that was what you were trying to explain in the "Got Beer?" ads, that beer is better for you than milk? Is that...

NEWKIRK: That's it.

MATALIN: That was the point? But did you consider the harm being done to real human beings that you were encouraging to drink, underage college kids. The whole rest of the world is trying to get kids to drink less, you're encouraging them to drink more, and underage kids at that?

NEWKIRK: We never did, you know. If you looked at our stuff, all we said was, can you imagine that nobody thinks that beer has any nutritional value, but if you look at it, glass for glass, milk is so pathetic a drink, it's so bad for you, that actually, there's more nutrition in a glass of beer. And it was to make that point.

But we never advocate drinking beer. I mean, adults can drink it, that's fine. And of course, every college sports event is sponsored by a beer company. Every newspaper has beer ads and no one complains about that.

MATALIN: But you did pass out trinkets encouraging the drinking of beer on college campuses. I just, it's the moral relativism of this -- and you have said -- and you can cleverly turn a phrase -- that there's no rational right for human beings being special. If I can quote you: "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

NEWKIRK: When it comes to feelings, they are, aren't they? Because researchers will put an animals foot on a hot plate and they will withdraw it the same as you would or I would.

When it comes to hunger and pain and thirst, yes, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. It doesn't matter if we like them. Doesn't matter if we know anything about them. They're (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They're like us and we all need to be in this together.

PRESS: You see, that's the problem. I mean, I am an animal lover. I would never allow anyone else, nor would I myself ever be cruel to any animal, but you're asserting there's no difference between a human being and a farm animal, and I'm sorry. You lost me and you lost millions of Americans at that point.

NEWKIRK: No, no, no. Didn't say that at all.

PRESS: You did. A rat is a boy is a dog is a pig, whatever it is.

NEWKIRK: When it comes to feelings, that's a biological fact. That their skin burns the way that ours does. They're afraid if you give them an electrical shock the way we are, and they love and they get lonely. They look forward to your coming home, if you have a dog.

They are like us in the important ways. And we've got to stop thinking we're gods and they're trash and start thinking of them as other nations even.

PRESS: But I would just argue that we are different from them in much more important ways, which gets me. The one of the things that you don't -- which I think is just downright silly. You guys were out protesting in front of CBS Studios, protesting the stupid show "Survivor", because the people there got so hungry on this stupid island, where they shouldn't have been in the first place, that they were roasting rats for food, and you were out there saying, this is terrible, rats have rights. You know, I think the only right a rat has to get killed, frankly. What do you mean rats have rights?

NEWKIRK: Perhaps you weren't born one, but you know that's not true. You know that's not true, because you know...

PRESS: It is true.

NEWKIRK: ... they stocked everything, from beach umbrellas to canned food on that island. No one was hungry. They did it. They killed animals for a quick thrill, for entertainment, and that crosses the line. Could have been a dog, could have been a rat, could have been an animal you sympathize with. Give the animals a break.

PRESS: What rights do rats have?

NEWKIRK: The right to be left in peace rather than be tortured for fun. If you have a problem with an animal, take action.

PRESS: If they come in to my yard, they've got a right to be in my yard, they've got a right to be in my house, they've got a right to be in the crib with my kid, is that what you're saying? NEWKIRK: Of course not. But there's a humane way to do things and an inhumane way to do things. We're not Wyatt Earp. It's the 21st century. Why do we pick on animals when we don't have to? And that's back to this food issue. Why are we eating animal corpses in this 21st century? Haven't we progressed? Don't we understand who animals are, now?

MATALIN: We can answer that, because they are yummy. I'll be going out right the show. OK, moms and dads, you clearly screwed up with all that mouth. You may be screwing up going to McDonald's. We'll tell you why when we come back. But stick around not just for that segment, but after the show, where Ingrid Newkirk will taker your questions online at cnn.com/CROSSFIRE.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: You're welcome.

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

And one campaign after another, the tactics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have critics calling them "people existing to annoy." But are those tactics saving animals? PETA President Ingrid Newkirk stands up for the silent four-legged majority.

PRESS: Remember our cameraman Mike calls them "people eating tasty animals." Sorry about that.

Now, let's go to McDonald's. This is last summer, kids showing up at Mcdonald's and some of them at schools, they get this, instead of their Happy Meal, they get this box, "The Unhappy Meal." And if you look inside -- I can't show everything; the camera won't pick up everything -- but first of all, there's this little straw inside with blood splattered all over it, this little cow with his throat cut, a pig with his throat cut and blood all over, and then this, Ronald McDonald's dressed in a butcher apron with blood all over it, and holding this great big dagger, this cleaver, with blood all over it. I mean, were you trying to educate kids or traumatize kids?

NEWKIRK: Well, we only gave it to parents, but we were trying to traumatize McDonald's, and it actually worked. We'd been sitting at the negotiating table for two years with them being nice, and they hadn't listened to a word we'd said. Once we walked away and started campaigning, starting saying, look, we are going to hand these out to children on the slides and things you set up in your parking lot then, they paid attention, and as a result, they made some changes.

PRESS: Well, you said it worked. I have to question it, because I do a lot of talk radio in California, and KABC Radio in L.A. was talking about this. I can't tell you, the calls were 10-1 from people who said, their kids were traumatized, their kids were breaking out in tears, people who supported you were not going to give you checks any longer, they're withdrawing their membership. You're turning people off with stuff like this, aren't you?

NEWKIRK: Well, our constituents are the animals, and if we can't give them a voice, then why do we bother to exist? People may hate us for what we do, we may be terribly annoying, but we do get our message across. And people go to these Web sites, they call us up, and we get back to them, and we say, look, let us tell us what is happening to the animals. Pigs going conscious without being stunned to the slaughter. Pigs sitting on cement not being able to turn around. A chicken not even able to stretch a wing in her entire life. People haven't have a clue. They go to McDonald's, McDonald's doesn't show them that stuff. So we have to find a way to do it, and we have to find a way to get under McDonald's skin. In the process, we get under consumers' skin, but that's the breaks. The animals are thankful for it.

MATALIN: Well, Ingrid, do you ever think you've crossed the line? I mean, I thought the Giuliani thing was just so insensitive, but this even exceeds that, if this is possible. And maybe you didn't say it, but you're quoted as saying, "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." I guess it was the "Unhappy Meal" campaign. Did you really say that?

NEWKIRK: I can tell you what I did say. I tend to spend my life undoing things that I'm supposed to have said. But we were talking to a report about Isaac Besheva Siniger (ph), the Nobel laureate. He came here from Nazi Germany. He took a room in Chicago above a slaughterhouse, and he looked out the window, and he saw these cows chained together, shackled, being prodded, and poked and kicked down the line to their deaths, and he said, you know, this is why I fled Nazi Germany. It is this insensitivity to the plight of others who you don't feel are like you. And he said, to animals, all men are Nazis. These are concentration camps for animals, and somebody asked me, well, what would you be doing in World War II? And I'm said I'm sure we would be fighting to get Jews out of concentration camps. That isn't what's happening today. Today the animals are in the concentration camps.

MATALIN: All right, that was a very nice explanation. It still stands as a hideous statement. Now here's something you might want to explain to. This is an item that no dissenter of this administration, but the secretary of agriculture was giving. I don't even know what the speech was about, but in the middle of his speech comes -- there you see it -- a tofu cream pie, and she's screaming, if you can't hear her, "you meat pimp," and she was hollering at him for promoting animal -- cruelty to animals.

Let me ask again those questions -- does this really, this offensive language, these assaults on public officials, including again, Giuliani, that really has attracted supporters?

NEWKIRK: Well, it's kind of lousy. We aren't trying to attract supporters. We are just trying to educate. And it is a lousy situation. We are in a tabloid press era, as you know. And we have to compete with sex, violence, controversy. If we do something normal -- we hand out a treatise; we ask, as we did, Mayor Giuliani to sit down and talk about the fact that his father had prostate cancer, he has prostate cancer, and he hasn't a clue where it comes from -- then we don't get anybody coverage. We don't reach people. We run an ad like the Giuliani ad, or we put a bit of tofu cream in someone face -- which is Vaudeville -- it's not violence -- it's Vaudeville -- and suddenly everybody dials us up and screams at us.

And we get the chance to say: But let us explain what's behind this. And we talk about animals. And the plight of animals is nothing to joke about. And we have to

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: You didn't bring any tofu pies with you, tonight? I hope not.

NEWKIRK: I promise, I didn't.

PRESS: You just mentioned the Giuliani ad again, which reminds me, I wanted to ask you: With all this furor over this -- and the mayor saying he may sue you -- are you through with those ads -- I mean, no more of those prostrate cancer ads? Is Giuliani the last?

NEWKIRK: No, we have got a bunch going up. But we are looking at Bob Dole now. Bob Dole has you know, been on television talking about erectile dysfunction. And I think we may do a "Got Milk" one with him, because milk and meat are related to clogging the arteries and to all major organs -- not just to the heart. And it's not fair to think you can eat animals and you can drink milk your whole life, and then just pop a pill.

So, we will be making a point. And he's a good guy. I like Bob Dole, by the way. So we're not against him. But we will use him to make a point.

PRESS: Well, in fact, you put up a billboard -- another billboard -- out in the state of Washington with a woman wearing a bikini holding a link of sausages where she says: I threw a party but the cattlemen couldn't come. Eating meat can cause impotence.

Can I tell you as a red meat eater how wrong you are?

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: What do you base your facts on?

NEWKIRK: You know that after the age of 60 -- now this is a medical fact that it's quite horrific -- after the age of 60, more than half of American men are impotent. And it's not for any reason other than their diet.

PRESS: You can't blame it on the beef.

NEWKIRK: It clogs the arteries. PRESS: Beef is the natural Viagra.

NEWKIRK: Bill, oh -- and the natural cure is vegetarianism.

MATALIN: He's bragging. He's bragging.

NEWKIRK: We will give you the recipes.

PRESS: I will tell you more about it later.

NEWKIRK: We'll never if you're telling the truth.

PRESS: For now, we are out of time. And besides, I'm blushing.

Good night, Ingrid Newkirk.

NEWKIRK: Good night.

PRESS: Thank you very much for coming here.

NEWKIRK: Thank you.

PRESS: Good luck with the fights.

Mary Matalin and I will -- we'll be back with some closing comments on our favorite foods.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Hey, after that show, I'm sure a lot of you have questions for Ingrid Newkirk. Here's your chance. She is going to stick to take all of your questions right after the show in the chat room at cnn.com/crossfire.

Well, Mary, what gets me is, I'm with these people 90 percent of the time. It's just with some of these tactics, I just think they go over the top and they make claims that just aren't true, like that red meat causes impotence -- not true.

MATALIN: Well, that's why I -- that's where I saw you leave them. And now I know why beef the natural Viagra. You went on the Atkins all-meat, high-protein diet. Here's to your potency, Bill.

PRESS: Wait a minute, I don't need the beef. Tuna is the natural Viagra for me. But I'll drink to that.

MATALIN: Every time we get to talking about potent you are, it's a good day on CROSSFIRE.

PRESS: I'd rather have a glass of wine.

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: And I'm bound for a martini and a steak here.

From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us tomorrow for more CROSSFIRE.

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