Dan Mathews, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is a gentle man. His philosophy that we can live our lives without causing much harm is reflected in his new book, Committed; A Rabble-rouser‘s Memoir. He’s famous for being the man behind the highly successful I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign. He’s also an openly gay man, so when we meet, the conversation soon turned to the parallels between gay rights and animal rights.
“Whenever somebody is cruel, it comes from a very similar place – when somebody beats their wife or kids or gay bashes, or someone is cruel to an animal, it often derives from an inferiority complex. People don’t really know how to relate to those who are different to them and some of the dimmer, less evolved people on the planet react to things they don’t know about by striking out against them. It’s just always been that way; it’s a dark part of human nature. I realised that first hand when I was a kid, and people would beat me up for being for being gay or being a punk rocker, whatever,” he said.
Dan is also a gorgeous man and I ponder for a moment inviting him home to meet my pussy, but decide to keep it professional. So why should a gay man or lesbian care that the chicken in the freezer has more room now than it did when it was alive? Why should we care if the product on our head was tested on animals?
“As gays and lesbians who have often grown up feeling a bit misunderstood and persecuted ourselves, I think we can open our minds to recognise that others have a similar suffering. My organisation, PETA, has always had a lot of gay supporters because they are able to make that connection. People that have a dog or cat will know their undying love and devotion and many will want to return that kind of respect and defend animals. We‘re all neighbours on this planet, it‘s just a matter of being better neighbours.”
The parallel soon became obvious: if we don’t care about animal rights, why should anyone care about gay rights?
“The core of gay rights is once people realise they have a gay co-worker, a gay brother, a gay person they commute with on the train each morning, they realise that we have a lot more in common than we have differences. And when people realise that, they get a lot more respect. One of the things I always try to point out with animals is that we have a lot more in common with them than we have differences. Animal rights is just about extending our circle a little bit. You know, we live in a very hedonistic world, especially in the gay world and I think that’s a reaction to there being so much confusion and violence in the world. It becomes our responsibility that we create a lot of pain when we buy products made from animals. You don’t have to do much, other than just be a responsible and decent individual. It’s easy to have a very full life without killing.” he says with passion.
I can’t resist the Kylie question. Recently Mathews had written to La Minogue regarding a large cobra skin handbag the diva has been touting of late. He pointed out to her that pythons are nailed to a tree, skinned alive, pumped full of water with a hose down their throat so that they almost explode. But Dan adds kindly that he thinks Kylie just didn’t realise, that a lot of stars have stylists that don’t think about where these products came from. He has yet to receive a response and intends to follow it up, but is sure that she would not want to be a part of that. As Fergie once said to him, “you know, we have four appearances a day and six photo shoots and you just walk into a room and are set up and you often are too tired and you just don’t think about it.” Fair enough. He talks a little about stars he has met who are “a little bit more modern, a little bit more considerate”, like Pink and Pamela Anderson.
PETA has been especially concerned by our very own antipodean style of mass cruelty: mulesing and kangaroo hunts particularly. “PETA pressured big companies in the US and Europe that use wool from Australia, including Abercrombie and Fitch, to refuse to buy Australian wool until they stop these mutilations. Sometimes you have to act up a bit to get people to pay attention. And kangaroos are these unique incredible creatures, they were here before humans were, just leave them alone for Christ’s sake. Nature has balanced itself for millions of years before humans set foot on this planet and the idea of culling is nothing more than people playing God and coincidentally, making a dollar.”
I wonder how the gay leather scene would receive his ideas. “I’ve got my own skin,” he quips. “I don’t need to wear anybody else’s. The only reason to kill an animal is in self defence. Having a pair of Prada shoes is not self defence. You can find plenty of other shoes that didn’t involve an animal having it’s hooves and lips hacked off so it could be skinned.”
He sums up his beliefs simply, “I think that everybody makes a choice, but it should be an educated choice. Causing harm to animals is pretty easy to avoid once you learn.”
He’s certainly got a valid point. Eagerly, I rush home to tell my pussy all about this wonderful man I have met. He yawns.
Dan Mathews’ book – Committed – A Rabble-rouser’s Memoir is in bookstores now.