I wrote an article on July 26 titled “Too Many Unwanted Animals.” In the comments, cherose and I made mention of our dislike of PETA. After thinking about it for a while, I thought I would clarify my comment a bit.
It was a whole different world when I was growing up. Many of the people I knew when I was young were farmers or lived on old farms. They had a very casual attitude about stray animals. Stray dogs were poisoned or shot. Stray cats were tolerated as barn cats, to eat mice and rats. No one ever thought of trapping and neutering the cats. When there were too many kittens they would simply be caught and killed. I remember hearing adults talk about drowning kittens in a bucket of water or taking them out to the road and running them over. I remember being very incensed with an uncle when I was about six years old. I had discovered a tiny kitten at my Grandma M.’s house. A tiny little pure white bundle of adorable fur. I was busy plotting how to sneak it into my parents’ car and sneak it home when my uncle found us. He grabbed it, said Grandma didn’t like pests around, and he killed it.
Even around my neighborhood, the attitude was very casual about cats and dogs. Pets ran freely through the neighborhood. We were the only family I knew who kept their dog totally indoors. Pet cats usually lived entirely outdoors or maybe slept in the garage. Pet dogs roamed wherever kids were. I remember I hated mowing the lawn with the push mower because I constantly had to be on the lookout for little gift piles left in the grass. Dad was always muttering about how those piles left dead patches. Dogs were always knocking over garbage cans at night so everybody sat out poison – usually a jar lid filled with antifreeze or rat poison. Those jar lids were all over the place, by the garbage, in garages. As kids, we all knew to keep away from those lids but it never really occurred to us that those lids of poison were a danger not just to “strays” but to our own free roaming pets. I remember being absolutely crushed when Frisky, a stray kitten we had adopted, was poisoned. A little old neighbor lady found Frisky and got my little sister and me (we were about four and eight years old). Poor little Frisky was buried under a lilac bush. We always wondered who the horrible, evil neighbor was who poisoned her. It never occurred to us that Frisky could have been killed by the poison our own families were setting out.
I first remember hearing about a movement for animal rights when I was in my teens. It was a few years yet until PETA itself actually formed in 1980. This baby animal rights movement seemed to be mostly college kids who would break into labs and free animals. I remember thinking it was all very daring but I didn’t think they really knew what to do with the freed animals. It seemed like the animals were just set loose to wander around and starve until they were recaptured. I remember hearing, at least once, that the lab animals were all killed in their cages. That didn’t seem very fair to me. I remember when protestors started throwing red paint or blood on women wearing fur coats. I thought the protestors were doing a good thing. I remember being rebellious and telling Mom that no one should wear fur even though I knew she had a fur coat that she loved. In those days a “mink” was a highly valued symbol of success, Mom only wore her “mink” a few times a year and kept it carefully covered in her closet the rest of the time.
That was all I really knew about animal rights and PETA. A few articles in the paper, a few segments on TV news. No one I knew ever joined PETA. PETA never operated near my home (I think they once raided a university lab in my state capital). I sort of agreed with them on some things, I thought they were trying to do the right thing, but I never really gave any thought to how they were growing and changing over the years.
Then the last few years, on the internet, I started to hear rumblings about PETA. People would make comments on forums but I was not connected enough to know any details. I kept hearing comments and rumors that just didn’t fit with the image I had of PETA. Then someone mentioned a specific website and I went to check it out and, wow, was my image of PETA blown.
I wasn’t able to find the exact website that first changed my mind about PETA when I was researching for this article but I found many other videos, blogs, and news articles that illustrate some of the same problems. PETA has literally millions of supporters. But there are also a lot of different people and organizations that have a lot of different problems with PETA. I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons, I’m just going to touch on the specific problems that changed my mind about PETA.
PETA was started as an animal rights movement, to improve living conditions for food animals, to stop animal testing, to stop unnecessary suffering and killing. Over the years, PETA added new concerns. I never knew, it never even occurred to me, until that stunning article, that PETA also operates as an animal shelter. To me, and I think to most people, an animal shelter takes in unwanted animals and tries to find new homes for them. Many shelters nowadays strive to be “No Kill” and ensure the animals some kind of life and home even if they don‘t get adopted. But that apparently doesn’t fit with PETA’s mission.
PETA’s Norfolk, Virginia headquarters is registered with the state of Virginia as a “humane society” and an “animal shelter.” But it has no adoption hours, no adoption promotions, no facilities to house animals, and no showing of animals available for adoption. According to PETA’s own records that they turned over to the state of Virginia, approximately 2,000 companion animals pass through the Norfolk headquarters every year. And every year approximately 90% of those animals are euthanized, killed, in the first 24 hours. Over the last 11 years, PETA’s headquarters has killed more than 29,426 cats, dogs, and rabbits.
Very few animals that PETA took in had any chance for adoption. Just 19 cats and dogs were adopted out in 2012. Just 24 in 2011. PETA claims these animals were all unadoptable but veterinarians and some of PETA’s own staff have called the doomed animals “adorable” and “perfect.” PETA opposes the “No Kill” shelter model. They call it “idealistic” and “unachievable.” PETA calls companion animals “slaves” and believes that supporters of “No Kill”, animal fostering and adoption, and TNR are “dangerous ‘slow-kill hoarders’ who want to put animals in ‘hellholes’.”
Now, to be fair, PETA’s 11 year death total of more than 29,000 is pretty small when you compare it to New York City’s death total of 31,701 in 2003 alone. But NYC is moving to “No Kill” and advocates spay/neuter and adoption and has improved its numbers and only euthanized 8,252 in 2012. Most of the shelters in the US are moving to “No Kill.“ PETA, in the words of its leader, Ingrid Newkirk, does not “advocate ‘right to life” for animals.” PETA’s own records show, that despite a $35 million budget, they have made no effort to find homes for the animals they take in. In fact, PETA’s kill numbers have INCREASED. PETA killed 72.6% of the animals they took in in 1998 but they killed 89.4% in 2012 and a staggering 95.9% in 2011.
PETA not only kills most of the companion animals they take in but they also take no care of the dead bodies. In 2005, in North Carolina, bags and bags of dead dogs and cats started turning up in a supermarket dumpster. Police investigated and, during a stakeout, caught two PETA staffers red-handed (literally). The two PETA staffers were driving a van around to pick up animals. The staffers had assured at least some of the people turning over the animals that the cats and dogs would be adopted out. But instead, the staffers took the animals into the van and immediately killed them with a deadly injection. The medicines were found in the van. Instead of disposing of the bodies correctly, the PETA staffers just dumped them in the supermarket dumpster. When they were arrested, the PETA staffers had just dumped 16 dead puppies and dogs in the dumpster and an additional 18 dead puppies and dogs and 14 dead kittens and cats were in the van. The deadly PETA staffers went to trial but unfortunately were acquitted because, under state laws, “shelters” can kill “owner relinquished” animals at almost any time for any reason and PETA is registered as a “shelter” in Virginia.
PETA’s own slogan is “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.” I don’t see how Ingrid Newkirk’s statement that PETA does “not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals” really fits in with that. Maybe PETA needs to amend their slogan to read “and pets are not ours to keep alive in any way.” One of the things PETA was formed to do was rescue lab animals from unnecessary suffering and death. But the world has changed and now PETA, itself, causes unnecessary suffering and death for the animals it claims to “shelter”. Maybe we need a new organization that will break into PETA headquarters and rescue the animals held there, if any are still alive.
So PETA may have started out with good intentions. They may still do some good in the world today. Certainly there are a lot of good intentioned people supporting PETA. But I repeat the warning I made in my comment for my earlier article: “if you have a homeless animal do not, never, ever, give it to PETA. Never. Ever, never. No.”