07/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

PETA Challenges Debate Teams Nationwide to Defend the Eating of Animals (VIDEO)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) student wing—peta2—has been challenging collegiate debate teams at many of the nation's top universities to defend the eating of animals and is asking students in the audience to try to answer a provocative question: Is eating meat ethical?

So far this school year, PETA representatives have faced off against members of many of the highest-ranked debate teams in the country—including those at Yale, the University of Georgia, the University of Texas, Brigham Young University, and Harvard. In the process, they have garnered massive attention from students and campus media outlets at every stop.

PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich opens the peta2 "Is Eating Meat Ethical?" debate at Yale University

Originally, PETA had hoped to debate representatives from the animal agriculture industry in order to allow students to consider the arguments of both sides. Unfortunately, every single industry representative who has been approached has declined or ignored PETA's request. In an op-ed in the Michigan State University student newspaper, PETA responded to these refusals:

Although PETA is always happy to discuss and debate animal rights issues, animal exploiters are no longer willing to do so. I believe their newfound timidity may have something to do with the fact that their positions are so transparently indefensible and the public can see right through them.

. . .

It's understandable why representatives of the meat industry would be afraid to hold an open and honest forum. . . . Chickens killed for KFC and McDonald"s are bred to grow so large they can barely walk and frequently suffer crippling leg deformities. At the slaughterhouse, they are dumped out of their transport crates and hung upside down by their often bruised and broken legs, which are forced into metal shackles.

Every year, billions of them have their throats cut while they are still conscious, and PETA investigations have proven repeatedly that sadistic abuse on the part of workers is the norm.

Students, however, have shown that they are ready to have this discussion. Every debate that peta2 has hosted has been standing room only, drawing hundreds of young people from both sides.

Many students attend expecting to leave reassured that eating meat is justifiable, only to find PETA's arguments too persuasive to ignore. Following the debate at Harvard University, The Harvard Crimson ran an opinion piece titled "Rethinking Meat," which was penned on behalf of the student newspaper's editorial staff. The editorial called on the university to do more to promote vegetarianism to students for the good of their health, the environment, and animals. An extensive survey conducted by ARAMARK—a leading food service provider—proves that demand for meatless meals on college campuses is higher than ever, with 30 percent of students now seeking vegetarian options when they sit down to eat.

Regardless of whether students' opinions about eating animal flesh are changed, however, peta2's goal is to get students to think critically about the issue—and in that respect, the vegetarians win every time.