Field Guide to PETA

PETA advertises itself as the leading animal rights organization in the world, dedicated to the protection of nearly every creature under the sun. And yet, no-kill shelters are apparently not part of their agenda. According to a recent article by Jezebel, PETA is refusing to switch to a no-kill shelter model, despite New York’s rising number of no-kill facilities.

There are plenty of reasons to endorse no-kill shelters. Overpopulation of shelters can often lead to crowded cages and downright disgusting living conditions. (Imagine a packed college dormitory where defecating on the floor and sitting in it for a few hours was the norm, and you’d have an image very similar to an undersized animal home.) Although I’m always for the option that results in less animal deaths, I can understand the alternative. That’s not the problem here. The issue is PETA’s history, 90% of which contradicts its argument against no-kill shelters. (There are even documents to prove that they’re euthanasia-happy.) Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

What exactly is PETA?

In 1980, Ingrid Newkirk and four others launched the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in an attempt to establish an animal rights group unlike the ineffective conservative ones that existed at the time. Well-behaved animal advocates never make history, right?

Also, PETA is an animal rights groups, not an animal welfare group. Animal rights groups fight for the rights for animals as if they were human. (i.e. They consider keeping pets as animal enslavement.) Animal welfare groups focus more on the care of animals and aim to reduce cruelty to animals.

What are their main concerns?

The group focuses on four main issues:

1)   Factory Farming: raising livestock in large groups in confined spaces

2)   Fur Farming: raising animals for the purpose of taking their fur

3)   Animal Testing: speaks for itself

4)   Animals In Entertainment: using animals as props (which I’ve written about before, if you really want to know)

How did they get started?

During his time at a Behavioral Research institute, PETA co-founder Alex Pacheco witnessed a process called deafferentation, which involved severing different nerve endings in an animal’s body so that they could not feel their limbs and forcing them, either by starvation or other extreme methods, to redevelop sensation in those areas. After releasing images of some monkeys being subjected to these procedures, Pacheco and his PETA buddies staged a raid of the facility, which brought national attention to the case and even inspired government animal protection acts. Ahhh, effective radicalism. My favorite.

When did “radical” turn into “crazy”?

Simple: when truthful, relevant ad campaigns turned into this:

These don’t include the sexist “I’d rather go naked” advertisements or the girlfriend sex ad, which I don’t even want to get into.

Oh, and let’s not forget:

But PETA has done some good…

Sometimes, though, they actually do help animals. Over the years, PETA has spread awareness about practices like foie gras (force feeding ducks until their livers are fattened, then cutting them out and feeding them to overpaid humans at fancy restaurants) and “live goldfish shots.” They’ve also publically opposed the use of testing cosmetics on animals and have encouraged many people to go vegan.

So what?

My point is, the focus of their marketing used to be on protecting animals. Now, it’s on producing ideas that will make people like me want to write articles like this. AKA, PETA has started to care more about producing the awe factor, the double take, the looks of disgust, than about inspiring people to take action and stop the crimes. I understand the aggressive angle they’re shooting for, that in-your-face sort of outlandishness that can sometimes incite change but when that’s what you become most known for, you as a company lose the respect you need to make that change possible. You can’t be all crazy. Nobody wants crazy. Except maybe Hunter Hayes.

In the end, PETA is hypocritical in their beliefs, outrageous in their practices, and ridiculous in my mind. Luckily, there are alternatives to the organization for people who want to help animals but don’t want to get involved with such an unreliable company:

– No Kill Advocacy Center

– National Animal Interest Alliance

– International Coalition for Animal Welfare

– World Society for the Protection of Animals

And one last thing. I’ve never understood PETA’s insistence on the lower case E in their logo (PeTA). I chose to ignore their request throughout this article because not only is it grammatically incorrect to not capitalize “Ethical” in that title, but it looks like they’d be the kind of people to TaLk LiKe tHiS, and I’m not particularly fond of those kinds of people. But anyway.

Image via

Filed Under