Confessions of a Former PETA Member

When I was younger, and less informed, I used to take pride in identifying with the bizarre tactics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  I cringed at every issue of their magazine that I received, though, so filled with photos of tormented animals; I used to wonder why they sent those photos to those of us who already cared about animals–it was distressing. Obviously, it helped keep their coffers filled, because they continue doing so today.  The fist and paw of Animal Liberation Front seemed to exemplify the radical changes that needed to take place. Free the Animals! Then, I did not question their tactics; I thought they were radicals and felt the torment of animals required extreme measures to get the attention of people. They did make the news and did make people think; unfortunately, what most people thought was that animal rights people were not to be taken seriously.

Now you can count me as a Vegan against PETA. They have made so many missteps that I cannot consider them a positive force in the fight for the liberation of animals.  A few months back, I was more concerned with in-fighting, disagreements and lawsuits between animal protection groups; that was before I landed squarely in the middle of one of their squabbles.  I felt then that if anyone was doing anything positive for animals, then good for them; why would I take a stand against a group that was trying to help?  But what I learned changed my perspective and increased my understanding of the problems with the largest groups, such as PETA, who take in millions of dollars yet do not seem to make any progress towards freeing animals from their horrible position on this planet. While they may stop a bad practice here or there, undoubtedly several more, often worse practices crop up to replace them.  At the root, there is no respect for animals.

Here are the reasons I am disappointed in you, PETA:

  1. You use tacky tactics.  Sexism, sizism, celebrity, appearance: all are superficial and do not represent the horror of what you know is happening to animals. Who cares who the sexiest vegetarian over 50 is? Why is it important to disparage a full-bodied female on your billboards?  And nudity?  Is that really necessary, when the reality is so very serious? How does that elevate the dialogue to save other species? What is happening to animals is no joke and it is offensive that you make cartoons while the reality is a nightmare in full living color.
  2. You are dishonest.  People trust you to do the right thing for animals. They entrust their companion animals to you, thinking you will find them homes. Then you destroy them before you have even tried to place them and spend thousands of dollars on a freezer to contain all the dead bodies. Ms. Newkirk, you have your photo taken with dogs and cats, yet you are not working to find homes for animals. That is inherently dishonest, using the media to present a false sense of who you are and what you represent.
  3. You support some of the most egregious companies by owning stock in them, companies that torment and slaughter millions of animals. How could you?
  4. You partner with companies who show no conscience, who cause some of the worst suffering imaginable; yet you partner with them if they make some useless gesture towards animal “welfare.”  If you end up getting slaughtered, there is no welfare involved.
  5. You have a scary attitude towards rescue that ends in death.  You have charged other animal organizations of not providing adequately for the animals in their care, but you kill the animals entrusted to your care. How is that better?
  6. Your kill ratios are getting higher each year.  What are you doing with all your millions of dollars, if you do not respect the individual lives of animals? Ms. Newkirk, you have said that the kindest thing you can do for a homeless animal is to kill them. That is not kindness, it is psychopathology.  The kindest thing would be to provide them a home.
  7. You refuse challenges.  Adam Kochanowicz recently challenged you, Ms. Newkirk, in an open letter to debate with Gary L. Francione.  Mr. Francione, a Rutgers University professor, agreed to the debate.  There is now a petition circulating on Twitter to request the same of you.  Why have you refused to respond?
  8. You have become a destructive force.  You support the failed welfarist policies that do nothing to increase respect for animals. Indeed, you show very little respect for them yourself.  Not just the dogs and cats found half frozen and dead in dumpsters, but the fact that you do NOTHING to try to place the animals entrusted to you before you murder them.  They are innocent, loving, feeling beings and you never give them a fighting chance. While you may not be able to save them all, you could at least try. For $32 million a year, you could certainly try.  Your lack of will is fatal.

Your kill statistics from last year, 2008, show only 7 animals placed and nearly 2,000 killed.  That is lower than any neighboring shelter and a higher kill ratio than in any year in your past.  You have an income of over $30 million per year, yet most of us could do better than those odds working with a zero dollar budget and a home computer.  The news that two PETA workers killed dozens of animals within minutes of being surrendered was defended by you, Ms. Newkirk.  You supported the workers (possibly because they were following PETA policy?) stating that they did not cause suffering.  You seem to have a pathological concern that living animals are vulnerable and the safest way to protect them is to kill them.  Your group kills healthy, very young animals – a veterinarian performed an autopsy on one of the dogs found in a dumpster who had been killed and he was only a six month old puppy, a beautiful and perfectly healthy young dog that would have been easier than most to place. Nor did PETA keep these animals in shelter for six months, thirty days, a week, or a day – but only for minutes, before they were killed.

That is why I am a Vegan against PETA.  I am glad you do some good with your money; you should.  But you also cause harm. You give Animal Rights a certain bizarre reputation that is ill-deserved. Gary Francione, Roger Yates, Randy Sandberg, Elizabeth Collins, Adam Kochanowicz, Dan Cudahy and numerous others are Animal Rights people that do not behave in an adolescent fashion. They do not use the media and celebrities for questionable purposes.  The work ahead of us is far too important to have it reduced to a cartoon, to have insulting billboards spread out across our highways that offend a good portion of our citizens, to have nudity used to lower the bar of our cause and make us look vulgar and insignificant, while billions of animals are killed every year, and while PeTA is busy killing thousands themselves.

I know there are earnest hearts who work for PeTA and truly care about animals.  And there are many millions of people who believe in PeTA. But I am no longer one of them.