Nearly everyone has heard about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); they’re almost synonymous with animal rights, vegetarianism, and veganism — or so they say they are. PETA actually has an incredibly tainted history when it comes to the treatment of animals (ironically), as well as the treatment of humans.
While PETA touts itself as an organization that tries to end animal cruelty perpetuated through fur, agricultural, cosmetic, and scientific mistreatment of animals, PETA’s own history shows that they’re all talk and no action. PETA itself has a shelter where they take in a variety of pets including cats, dogs, rabbits, and reptiles, most of which are relinquished by their owners.
However, PETA’s shelter is not set up like an actual shelter and receives little to no money from the $45 million PETA makes annually to advertise the shelter, meaning that about 85% of mostly perfectly healthy animals are killed annually by PETA. The PETA shelter even has a special freezer, which cost nearly $10,000, made specifically for keeping the bodies of dead animals in it due to the volume at which they are killed.
If running a hidden kill shelter with a freezer made for hiding the bodies of dead animals isn’t the exact opposite of ethical treatment, I’m not sure what is. But this is coming from the organization whose president, Inrgid Newkirk, allegedly hates people having pets (Newkirk has been accused of writing a postcard to Nathan Winograd stating that “[PETA] does not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals”).
In addition to supposed PETA beliefs that animals don’t have the right to live, a former PETA employee accused Newkirk of pressuring her to steal and euthanize pets living with loving owners who could live long, happy lives. This may sound sketchy, but the woman making the accusation is Heather-Harper Troje, an animal welfare activist and the wife to an American diplomat in Honduras, and she worked firsthand with PETA when they were developing a fledgling version of their “shelter.”
PETA never denied Troje’s accusations that she was cornered into stealing animals and falsifying records to ensure more animals could be euthanized off the books.
On top of slaughtering animals at their shelter, PETA also shows a lax attitude towards the morals of celebrities they choose to endorse as well as those they give grants to. Steve-O and Dita Von Teese, two celebrities who have participated in PETA campaigns against fur, have committed actions going against PETA’s supposed moral code, such as abusing small animals (like Steve-O who said to “Cut class, not frogs!” and yet continued to abuse and endanger reptiles by dumping them into icy water on film for Killer Karaoke) and wearing fur (like Dita Von Teese, who advocated spaying and neutering pets but continues to wear fur).
PETA has also given support to violent anarchist groups, most prominently Animal Liberation Front, which encourages ecoterrorism to bring about animal liberation; the FBI says the ALF characterizes “special interest extremism.” PETA doesn’t look at ALF’s ecoterrorism as bad, however, saying that they are “[breaking] the law to fight injustice.”
While radical action is sometimes a good way to bring about change, damaging property and livelihoods in the name of helping animals is no way to find people to support your cause. Having celebrities who don’t truly support your cause is another terrible way to make people see things your way.
If you’re part of a population at risk for exploitation by the media, PETA really isn’t your friend. If you aren’t a white Anglo-Saxon, you will most likely be a target for PETA’s manipulation. PETA has a long history of racism, including times when they compared factory farming directly to slavery and the Holocaust, as well as Westminster dog show trainers to members of the KKK (because apparently a good ploy for sympathy towards animal rights is to compare farming and showing dogs to human tragedies, right?). Well, absolutely not, but try telling PETA that.
Alongside PETA’s borderline racist rhetoric and pictures, there’s also their terrible treatment of women. If you’re a woman who PETA chooses to use for an ad, you will most likely be naked. Even if the ad is about male impotence because of an omnivorous diet, the women featured will be mostly naked, or doing sexual things involving vegetables, or maybe both. How fun!
While the women who are in the ads consented to participate in the pictures and commercials, their content is still objectifying, just as when women are featured as a prop for men’s cologne or a burger.
Objectification of women runs rampant through the PETA camp, and it gives vegans and vegetarians a bad name, seeing as PETA is one of the larger (if not the largest) organizations that people associate with animal rights, veganism, and vegetarianism.
The above is incredibly disheartening, as PETA is a well-known veg and animal advocacy organization, but if you want to support organizations enabling a meat-free lifestyle and supporting animal rights without racism and sexism, don’t fear! There are
decent exceptionally good and worthy groups who actually care about animals and don’t promote offensive publicity campaigns in efforts to make money instead of helping causes that are important.
If you want to help animals and spread the positive, world-changing effects of veganism and vegetarianism, check out Mercy For Animals, the ASPCA, Friends of Animals, and the Movement For Compassionate Living, which are organizations doing amazing work towards protecting animals through kindhearted actions, volunteer work, and grassroots movements.
At the end of the day, PETA may be a well-known, trusted organization that is just a sham for profit, causing harm to women, non-white people, and animals. There are still trustworthy and worthwhile people and groups fighting the good fight and looking to make the world better for animals and people alike, without harming anyone. Though PETA may be heinous, don’t let one bad apple ruin the bunch—in the words of Desmond Tutu, “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”