by lyle e davis
Most everyone we know loves cute little puppies, cute little kittens, cute little monkeys, cute little squirrels . . . animals are warm and cuddly and fuzzy and loyal and . . . . well, they're just nice.
That innate feeling often arouses a sense of loyalty within us when we hear of an organization with such a high minded name as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, more commonly referred to as PETA. Why sure, we think . . . we'll support an organization with such a noble calling. After all, we like animals.
But, let's take a look at PETA. Is it as high-minded as they would have us believe? We'll look at what critics allege is, at best, outlandish and outrageous tactics . . . and then we'll look at what PETA purports to be. What they have accomplished (which is a great deal), what their goals are . . . what they hope to accomplish - how, and working with whom.
A few things you should know about PETA:
PETA is not an animal welfare organization.
PETA spends less than one percent of its multi-million dollar budget actually helping animals. The group euthanized (killed) more than 1,900 animals in 2003 alone -- that's over 85 percent of the animals it received.
PETA's Dirty Secret
Hypocrisy is the mother of all credibility problems, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has it in spades. While loudly complaining about the "unethical" treatment of animals by restaurant owners, grocers, farmers, scientists, anglers, and countless other Americans, the group has its own dirty little secret.
PETA kills animals.
By the thousands.
From July 1998 through the end of 2005, PETA killed over 14,400 dogs, cats, and other "companion animals" -- at its Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters. That's more than five defenseless animals every day. Not counting the dogs and cats PETA spayed and neutered, the group put to death over 90 percent of the animals it took in during 2005 alone. And its angel-of-death pattern shows no sign of changing.
PETA kills an average of 85 percent of the animals it takes in, and finds adoptive homes for just 14 percent. By contrast, the Norfolk SPCA, whose shelter is located less than four miles from PETA's headquarters, found adoptive homes for 73 percent of its animals in 2003. Dana Cheek, the former (and most recent) director of the Norfolk SPCA, and whose facility is only four miles away from PETA’s location, wrote recently:
“I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will "find them a good home." Many of them are led to believe that the animals will be taken to a nearby shelter. Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner's home … PETA refuses to surrender animals they obtain to area shelters for rehoming. If only the celebrity "deep-pocket" donors on the west coast knew that their donations were going to kill adoptable cats and dogs here in Norfolk.”
PETA has given tens of thousands of dollars to convicted arsonists and other violent criminals. This includes a 2001 donation of $1,500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an FBI-certified “domestic terrorist” group responsible for dozens of firebombs and death threats. During the 1990s, PETA paid $70,200 to an Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activist convicted of burning down a Michigan State University research laboratory. In his sentencing recommendation, a federal prosecutor implicated PETA president Ingrid Newkirk in that crime. And PETA vegetarian campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich told an animal rights convention in 2001 that “blowing stuff up and smashing windows” is “a great way to bring about animal liberation.”
"We did it, we did it. We gave $1,500 to the ELF for a specific program," PETA's Lisa Lange admitted on the Fox News Channel. PETA has offered no fewer than eight different explanations of what the "specific program" was, but law enforcement leaders have noted that since the Earth Liberation Front is a criminal enterprise, it has absolutely no legal "programs" of any kind.
In 2003, ELF set fire to an unfinished, 200 unit condominium complex near San Diego. The arson caused $50 million in damage, and according to a San Diego Fire Captain: "It could have killed someone."
ELF left its calling card in the form of a twelve foot sign that read: "If you build it -- we will burn it -- the ELF's are mad."
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a violent, underground group of fanatics who plant firebombs in restaurants, destroy butcher shops, and torch research labs is considered by the FBI to be among America's most active and prolific terrorist groups, but PETA compares it to the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance. More than 20 years after its inception, PETA continues to hire convicted ALF militants and funds their legal defense.
PETA has given $2,000 to David Wilson, then a national ALF "spokesperson." The group paid $27,000 for the legal defense of Roger Troen, who was arrested for taking part in a burglary and arson at the University of Oregon. It gave $7,500 to Fran Stephanie Trutt, who tried to murder the president of a medical laboratory. It gave $5,000 to Josh Harper, who attacked Native Americans on a whale hunt by throwing smoke bombs, shooting flares, and spraying their faces with chemical fire extinguishers. All of these monies were paid out of tax-exempt funds, the same pot of money constantly enlarged by donations from an unsuspecting general public.
Most ominously, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk was involved in the multi-million-dollar arson at Michigan State University that resulted in a 57-month prison term for Animal Liberation Front bomber Rodney Coronado. At Coronado's sentencing hearing, U.S. Attorney Michael Dettmer said that PETA's Ingrid Newkirk arranged ahead of time to have Coronado send her a pair of FedEx packages from Michigan -- one on the day before he burned the lab down, and the other shortly afterward.
The first FedEx, according to the Sentencing Memorandum, was delivered to a woman named Maria Blanton, "a longtime PETA member who had agreed to accept the first Federal Express package from Coronado after being asked to do so by Ingrid Newkirk." The FBI intercepted the second package, which had been sent to the same address.
A search warrant executed at Blanton's home turned up evidence that PETA's other co-founder, Alex Pacheco, had also been planning burglaries and break-ins along with Rodney Coronado. The feds seized "surveillance logs; code names for Coronado, Pacheco, and others; burglary tools; two-way radios; night vision goggles; [and] phony identification for Coronado and Pacheco."
Shortly after Coronado's arrest, PETA gave $45,200 to his "support committee" and "loaned" $25,000 to his father (the loan was never repaid and PETA hasn't complained). Now free from jail, with an expired parole, and with the benefit of an expired Statute of Limitations on his many earlier arsons (to which he readily confesses in his standard stump
speech), Coronado stood before a crowd of hundreds of young people at American University in January 2003 and demonstrated how to turn a milk jug into a bomb. A few days later, ALF criminals tried to burn down a McDonald's restaurant in Chico, California, using a firebomb that matched Coronado's recipe.
The following month, Ingrid Newkirk told ABC News that Rodney Coronado is "a fine young man."
PETA has published a pamphlet, "Activism and the Law," in which PETA openly offers advice on "burning a laboratory building."
Perhaps Newkirk's most telling comment, though, came in a 2002 U.S. News & World Report feature. "Our nonviolent tactics are not as effective," she admitted. "We ask nicely for years and get nothing. Someone makes a threat, and it works."
Some of the strongest criticism of PETA comes as a result of their questionable marketing effort to kids. PETA's website for kids puts a skull and crossbones next to the logo of Disney's Animal Kingdom. It hands out trading cards to kids that allege drinking milk will make them fat, pimply, flatulent, and phlegm-ridden. PETA also sends "humane education lecturer" Gary Yourofsky into high schools -- and even middle schools -- to promote the "animal liberation" agenda. Yourofsky is a convicted ALF felon who has said he would support burning down medical research labs even if humans were trapped in the flames. In his speeches to adolescents, Gary Yourofsky regularly compares himself to Gandhi and Jesus Christ.
PETA has repeatedly attacked groups like the March of Dimes, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the American Cancer Society, for conducting animal testing to find cures for birth defects and life-threatening diseases.
Some quote by and about PETA:
"If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then, of course we're going to be, as a movement, blowing things up and smashing windows … I think it's a great way to bring about animal liberation … I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows ... Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it."
- Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegan campaign coordinator, at the "Animal Rights 2001" conference
"Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it."
- PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, in the September 1989 issue of Vogue
"It may have been ELF, but then, I sometimes get them confused with ALF, the Animal Liberation Front. And then there's Earth First! and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). There's a lot of cross-pollination between them, and some people here are probably members of two of those groups, or more."
- Santa Cruz Police Lt. Joe Haebe, speculating about those responsible for a crime spree, in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 11, 2003
"McVeigh's decision to go vegetarian groups him with some of the world's greatest visionaries."
- Bruce Friedrich praising Oklahoma City bomber and mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh, for choosing a vegetarian last meal.
When PETA learned that the photographs of Holocaust victims displayed in its roving exhibit -- entitled "The Holocaust on Your Plate" -- included Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel as a young man at the Buchenwald concentration camp, it shrugged. "Six million people died in concentration camps," laments Ingrid Newkirk, "but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."
When a grisly killing spree in Vancouver left 15 women dead, PETA tried to purchase full-page ads in local papers suggesting that this carnage was no worse than the killing of animals for food.
Disturbing a number of people is the acknowledged liaison between PETA and the Animal Liberation Front. This organization consists of small autonomous groups of people all over the world who carry out direct action according to the ALF guidelines. Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.
In a memorandum to supporters and potential supporters, the organization said:
If you are a member of an active A.L.F. cell, send us any clippings, or your own report, with date, time, place, and a few details about the action. Send your reports on plain paper, using block capital letters, or a public typewriter that many people have access to. Wear gloves at all times so your fingerprints are not on the paper, envelope, or stamp. Do not give your address, and don't lick the stamp or envelope; wet it with a sponge. Remember you should expect that all of our mail and any other support groups' mail is opened and read by the authorities.
Critics argue this is not the type of philosophy any responsible agency dealing with human or animal rights would support.
PETA seeks "total animal liberation," according to its president and co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk. That means no meat or dairy but it also means no aquariums, no circuses, no hunting or fishing, no fur or leather, and no medical research using animals. PETA is even opposed to the use of seeing-eye dogs.
The group, which raises more than $25 million a year from 1.6 million supporters, opposes any human use of animals, whether for food, fashion or research. In the more than two decades since its founding, it has become a major threat to medical researchers, meatpackers, fur sellers and others.
Back in 2004 PETA collected almost $29 million in donations, but few donors understood exactly where their money wasgoing. During the past ten years, PETA has spent four times as much on members of its staff and support crews who have criminal backgrounds, and their legal defense, than it has on shelters, spay-neuter programs, and other efforts that actually help animals.
Within the past several years PETA announced its plan to distribute "Buckets of Blood" to children outside middle schools, high schools, and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) restaurants. According to the Associated Press, these grotesque toys are filled with "fake blood and bones, a bloodied plastic chicken and a cardboard caricature of a blood-spattered Colonel Sanders holding a butcher knife toward a terrified-looking chicken."
PETA continues to lie in wait outside schools, distributing misleading anti-dairy trading cards to children as they walk home. The cards depict children suffering debilitating illnesses and embarrassing conditions, supposedly as a result of drinking milk. PETA's campaign is "based on sensationalism" and "a real tragedy," according to registered dietitian Deanna Rose. "It targets teenagers who really are calcium deficient and need to drink their milk."
Locally, former President and CEO of the Escondido Humane Society, Phil Morgan, said, “while I appreciate the concern they have for our planet and the animals that live on it, it is our view that we are a bit more of a moderate organization. We’re here to take care of animals; we’re thankful for people bringing animals to us. Others may be more judgmental than we are . . . but the general purpose is all the same. To provide for the animals.” Current Executive Director, Sally Costello, did not return our calls for comment.
Who, or What, is PETA?
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international nonprofit organization based in Norfolk, VA.
Founded in 1980, PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA educates policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promotes an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect.
There is no question but what PETA is a powerful organization. Many, however, question their tactics as well as their "all or nothing" approach.
They seem to have no trouble attracting funding, nor celebrity endorsements. Their financial statements as of 7/31/06 show Income of $31,394,691, expenses of $27,706,304.00 and a net worth of $ 15,899,813.
Opponents of PETA (and there are many) point to the high levels of income and acknowledge that PETA is "by far the most successful radical organization in America." The key word, they say, is radical. But where does all that money go?
PETA receives rock-bottom ratings from charity watchdogs.
Charity Navigator, the nation's largest nonpartisan evaluator of non-profit organizations, gives PETA a rating of one-star ("poor"). It says PETA "fails to meet industry standards and performs well below most charities in its cause." PETA's "Foundation to Support Animal Protection" -- now doing business as "The PETA Foundation" -- was one of just 23 organizations nationwide to receive zero stars ("exceptionally poor").
PETA, they say, spends less than one percent of its $27 million dollar annual budget actually helping animals. Critics also allege PETA prefers to spend its money on publicity stunts and legal defense fees for alleged criminals, rather than finding the animals suitable homes.
The publicity stunts are, however, brilliantly conceived, produced and efficiently distributed to the media getting maximum attention. Witness the "Run Pamploma Naked" campaign, witness the professional models who have posed nude in the "I'd Rather Be Naked than Wear Furs" campaign, witness the support of Pamela Anderson and others in a variety of well produced advertising/marketing campaigns.
PETA's leadership has compared animal farmers to serial killer (and cannibal) Jeffrey Dahmer. They proclaimed in a 2003 exhibit that chickens are as valuable as Jewish Holocaust victims. They announced with a 2001 billboard that a shark attack on a little boy was "revenge" against humans who had it coming anyway.
All of these allegations by critics, all of the acknowledged tie-ins with questionable organizations, have gotten plenty of notoriety for PETA.
But are they effective?
No matter how outrageous their tactics, PETA has accomplished a great deal in the area of animal rights. They have been responsible for the closure of the largest horse slaughterhouse in the United States, the closure of a military laboratory in which animals were shot, and stopping the use of cats and dogs in all wound laboratories. Us magazine reports, "PETA has had an enormous effect on the way corporations treat animals."
PETA uncovered the abuse of animals in experiments in 1981, launching the precedent-setting Silver Spring monkeys case. This resulted in the first arrest and conviction of an animal experimenter in the United States on charges of cruelty to animals, the first confiscation of abused laboratory animals, and the first U.S. Supreme Court victory for animals in laboratories.
PETA released 70 hours of videotape documenting the appalling treatment of primates at the University of Pennsylvania head injury laboratory, resulting in government fines and the end of primate use there.
PETA's undercover investigation of a huge contract testing laboratory in Philadelphia and their subsequent campaign led to Benetton's permanent ban on animal tests-a first for a major cosmetics company. Other leading companies, such as Avon, Revlon, and Estée Lauder, followed suit. L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics manufacturer, yielded after PETA's four-year international campaign. Gillette announced a moratorium on animal tests after PETA's 10-year campaign. PETA now lists more than 550 cosmetics companies that do not test products on animals.
PETA distributed an undercover video showing Las Vegas entertainer Bobby Berosini beating orangutans with a metal rod. The U.S. Department of the Interior revoked Berosini's captive-bred wildlife permit, making it illegal for Berosini to buy or sell orangutans.
PETA's undercover investigation of Boys Town National Research Hospital's experiments in which kittens' heads were cut into and cats were starved in order to study deafness spurred the National Institutes of Health to issue a report condemning Boys Town's animal care and use program. The USDA found that Boys Town failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act.
Investigative work, congressional involvement, consumer boycotts, and international media coverage frequently result in improvements in the quality of life for, and saves the lives of, thousands of animals.
According to The Washington Post, because of PETA, "labs have closed ... many designers have stopped using fur ... rules, laws have changed." PETA also has held several "Rock Against Fur" and "Fur Is a Drag" benefit concerts featuring The B-52's, k.d. lang, and others. Long-time supporter Paul McCartney invited PETA to set up literature tables on his world tour.
Supermodels Christy Turlington, Tyra Banks, and Marcus Schenkenberg, actor Kim Basinger, and others have posed for our "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" Campaign. PETA also persuaded top modeling agency Boss Models to announce that its models will no longer wear fur and received pledges from filmmakers including Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Rob Reiner to keep fur off movie sets. According to the San Francisco Chronicle "Protests by groups such as PETA have hobbled the fur business."
One of the biggest areas of publicity that PETA generated was over their battle to save the harp seals. Photos and videos of harp seal pups being beaten to death by fur hunters enraged animal lovers and has severely impacted the fur trade.
Clearly, PETA has done a great deal of good for animal rights. The question appears to be, why not rely on normal organizational strength rather than take such radical approaches that alienate people who might otherwise be supporters? Why implement outrageous, outlandish demonstrations and events that can only repel potential supporters? Why align yourself with organizations such as ELF and ALF? Organizations that the FBI has identified as terrorist and criminal organizations?
Critics merely shake their heads in wonder . . . but still acknowledge that PETA is a powerful force to reckon with. If you wish to contact PETA to express your views or to ask questions of them, you may reach them at:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone 757-622-7382 | Fax 757-622-0457 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org