Those fun-loving rogues at PETA suggest we retire the saying “kill two birds with one stone,” but I’m not sure the animal rights group understands that bird slayers these days prefer shotguns over stones.

Shotguns make a satisfying boom when you pull the trigger, for one thing.

Besides which it’s hard to wedge stones into those cylindrical shell holders sewed onto hunting vests.

Not that it’s easy to bring down two birds with one shot.

Or even one bird, in the case of especially hapless wingshooters.

Me, for instance.

I’ve fired large numbers of 12-gauge shells and most generally without ruffling so much as a feather.

I’m sure this pleases PETA.

Although chukars hardly need the dubious aid of an outfit that is more often the butt of satirical jokes than a serious molder of public opinion.

Chukars just rely on their wings, and gravity.

I don’t question the sincerity of PETA’s members.

But it seems to me that its publicity campaigns are more likely to, well, generate publicity than to actually persuade people to change their ways (or says, in this case).

PETA’s recent call for replacing what it refers to as “anti-animal” colloquialisms such as “kill two birds with one stone” is but the latest example.

The organization offers as an alternative “feed two birds with one scone.”

This sounds generous — feeding rather than killing — but frankly I’m disappointed in the PETA officials who came up with it.

Don’t they know how much saturated fat there is in the average scone recipe?

Birds that start relying on humans for handouts of buttery pastries are apt to get so portly that they won’t be able to lift off at all, making them vulnerable not only to shotgunners but even to thoughtless ju veniles with slingshots.

Also, birds have arteries that could get clogged.

(At least I think they do.)

PETA also takes exception to the phrase “bring home the bacon,” a savory arrangement of words that arouses my salivary glands every time I hear it but which apparently has a less pleasant effect on PETA members.

(And their salivary glands, which I expect are more apt to be titillated by, say, kale.)

PETA’s proposal is “bring home the bagels.”

I was shocked that PETA didn’t preface its suggestion with a trigger warning for the gluten-intolerant.

Surely those unfortunates with uncooperative colons are no less deserving of respect than our porcine cousins.

I respect PETA’s advocacy for preventing wanton cruelty to animals.

(And by “wanton” I mean acts that harm animals but don’t feed hungry people or help scientists cure diseases; I do not mean people who refer to someone who divulges a secret as “letting the cat out of the bag”.)

But ultimately some of PETA’s public relations efforts are so ludicrous in their exaggerations that I struggle to take the group seriously regardless of my respect for its aims.

In a recent column, for instance, Zachary Toliver, an online news content producer for PETA, wrote: “Sure, your feline friend may not personally take offense at a phrase like “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” but the underlying attitude that trivializes cruelty to animals or degrades and belittles them does have a real impact on their lives.”

Well no, Zachary, actually that phrase doesn’t have any impact on cats’ lives (I’m not sure how an impact that’s not real would matter, but possib ly PETA believes cats are bothered by impacts both real and imaginary).

Not unless you believe that every person who utters or writes the phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” literally skins cats on a regular basis.

(As an aside, cats can’t be personally offended by that phrase, or any phrase, because cats don’t speak English. Or write it either.)

Zachary’s argument presumes people are invariably literal when they speak or write.

Any reasonable person understands, of course, that this isn’t so — indeed, it’s why our language has evolved to include the very idioms that PETA finds so offensive.

Nor do I concede Zachary’s point that people who talk about skinning cats, even if they don’t actually take after a tabby with a sharp knife, have, to borrow his words, “an underlying attitude that trivializes cruelty to animals or degrades or belittles them.”

This is nonsensical.

I doubt anybody assumes, when they hear somebody talk about how a headache is “just killing me,” that that person trivializes the value of life.

I don’t know the origin of the saying about skinning a cat but I think it likely that its purpose was to use an activity that almost never happens — skinning a cat — to illustrate common problems for which easier solutions exist.

Americans have never had much need, it seems to me, for skinning cats anyway.

We have bigger mammals to skin, such as cattle.

They’re also much tastier.

Although, l est I fall any further from PETA’s good graces, I’ll admit to making this claim about the relatively culinary qualities of the species without having done an actual taste comparison between bovine and feline.

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The federal government isn’t renowned for its scatological humor — or for any sort of humor, come to that — but I recently had to reconsider my stance on this pressing question.

The headline of the email caught my attention, as it no doubt was intended to do.

“The Soil Your Undies Challenge is on in Oregon!” it reads.

My initial reaction was that, as I don’t have an infant or even a toddler on the premises, I wouldn’t be able to participate, at least not without making a change in my daily habits that I’d rather not make, challenge or no challenge.

But then I noticed that the sender was not one of those ubiquitous companies that seem to exist solely to send slightly amusing emails to gullible media types who will, unwitting dupes that they are, engage in some free advertising.

The email was from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a decidedly sober agency of a federal department also not prone to frivolity (at least not frivolity that doesn’t involve large sums of tax dollars) — the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That eye-grabbing headline actually had a legitimate purpose. The “challenge” encourages farmers, ranchers and forest owners to make a crude test of their soil’s health by burying cotton underwear for 60 days and then digging it up to see whether the microscopic beasties have gnawed holes in it.

(This of course wouldn’t persuade many men to not wear the garment; for some of us underwear is barely broken in after 60 days, and far from decrepit after six years.)

Although the feds caution that the results serve only as a rough guideline, the more dilapidated the cotton, the healthier the soil.

A teaspoon of fecund soil, the email notes, contains “more microbes than there are people on the planet.”

Which is valuable data even if you don’t grow things.

It certainly alters my attitude about coming in from mucking around in the flower beds and grabbing a handful of chips without stopping at the bathroom sink.

J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.

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