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Why I can No Longer Support PeTA: Killing animals for homelessness, targeting pit bulls

I've had some issues with PeTA over the years -- their sexist portrayal of women, their constant chasing of funds, their rumored stance on pit bulls. But I've also known many very dedicated people who worked with them, and they were at least doing something for the animals. I think there have been a lot of good things coming from PeTA, in spite of all the problems. And, I have a lot of friends who fight for the animals, who have pointed out that PeTA might not be perfect, but they are one of the very few organizations who cares about animals and we should not criticize them. Until very recently, I agreed with them about that. Let me tell you why I changed my mind.
I went to the Let Live conference last month. First, I want to say that the people who put on the conference, and those who set up tables and took the time to give workshops, did an excellent job. Even the sweet young man from PeTA who took the time to talk to me about some of my concerns. I really believe that he, like many PeTA volunteers, really cares about what he is doing. But, like many volunteers, I do not think he understands how PeTA's position on some issues impacts the rest of us who struggle for the rights and dignity and lives of animals.

I began by asking about PeTA's position on pit bulls. "Well," he began cautiously, "That's one of our more controversial stances."

I had so hoped that all the rumors were wrong, that the statement attributed to Ingrid Newkirk on the internet, condemning pit bulls, was false. This is why I had asked in the first place, because it's always better to check with the source than just to assume. I wanted this friendly activist to tell me that, like the pit bull itself, that PeTA had simply gotten a bad rap over this issue, and that they would defend pit bulls as much as any other oppressed animal. But I quickly learned the truth: PeTA does, in fact, support breed-specific legislation against these dogs. To be fair, the man explained, "Any breeding of dogs is wrong. It fills up shelters, and there are so many homeless dogs around." I agree with that. Why, then, I asked, does PeTA not support a ban on breeding any animals for profit, rather than a breed-specific ban on pit bulls. Don't they realize that these dogs are already so maligned and stereotyped, that PeTA's stand is just adding to their plight? Do they not realize that, without exception, every single community that has instituted breed-specific legislation against pit bulls has led to the deaths of hundreds of animals? "Well," he explained, "That's why we support a grandfather claus. So that animals that are already here could be here, but they just could not breed any more." (And if they wind up in a shelter, here or not, they would be "euthanized.")

He then went on to explain to me that a ban on pits would help all the other dogs and cats, because there are so many homeless pit bulls that shelters fill up with them and there is no room for other animals. I pointed out as tactfully as I could that the reason shelters are so full of pits is that people are afraid to adopt them, due in large part to the very hysteria being whipped up by PeTA with their support for breed-specific legislation targeting this breed. To my horror, I then realized that this man was not only in favor of banning the breed, but he actually expressed support for the practice of killing pits who come into shelters, in order to make room for other, apparently "more deserving" in his eyes, dogs. Does he really believe, I asked, that pit bulls are more aggressive than other breeds, that they are a danger to society? No. He simply thinks there are "too many" of them in shelters.

So this is where I begin. You see, some of the work that I do on behalf of animals is this. I help to rescue pit bulls.

There is a great deal of misinformation and abuse directed at these dogs. In truth, they are like any other dogs: They are intelligent and have their own personalities. They can be loving and sweet, and if abused they can develop aggression problems, usually against other dogs, and only in very rare instances against humans. ANY dog will develop aggression problems if mistreated. But so many people are so mistaken about this particular breed that it is costing countless animals their very lives. (Few people realilze that, statistically, pit bulls are actually less likely to behave aggressively toward humans than most other breeds. Instead of educating themselves on the issue, though, people are all too willing to repeat false, misleading, and incorrect anecdotes gleaned from the latest hype over the corporate media.)

So my work in this regard is very hard. There are shelters out there that routinely kill any pit or suspected pit that is brought in, without ever even attempting to place them. Pits are the most abused breed of dog in the country. Often abused and neglected, and often totrured in fighting rings, these dogs deserve better. It's hard to fight for them, because people are so misinformed that it's almost painful. Their ignorance is literally killing the animals I'm trying to save. And to have an organization like PeTA, an organization that we have been given to understand is a friend to the animals, to have them going around fostering the impression that there is something inherently wrong with this breed, that it is all right to kill them to make room for "other, more deserving dogs," well as you can imagine, this makes my job much, much harder. Because people quote Newkirk to me all the time. Every time I try to educate someone about the inaccuracies surrounding the hype against pit bulls, every time I try to convince someone to give these dogs a break, every time I ask that breed specific legislation not be considered, someone inevitably brings up PeTA. "Even PETA says they can't be trusted," "Well PETA supports animals and even THEY say there should be a ban on them," "well a ban can't be bad because PETA supports it."

Do you see my point? We have been asked to support PeTA all this time, because supposedly, they are friends to the animals. I, personally, have avoided criticizing them publically for far too long. As long as PeTA volunteers and leadership refuse to become educated on this issue that impacts the lives and well being of thousands of animals all over the world, I can no longer give them any of my support and anyone who cares about dogs should think twice about supporting them as well. But it isn't only this issue that caused this change of heart for me after the Let Live conference. There was another.

While at the conference, I picked up a copy of The Animal's Voice magazine. (The winter, 2007 issue.) On page 14, I found a small piece entitled, "PETA Workers Cleared of Animal Cruelty." In reading the article, I learned that two "animal rights workers," a very loose term indeed if it applies here, had been acquitted for cruelty charges, but convicted of "littering," after they went around to shelters in North Carolina picking up dogs and cats and then killing them in the back of their van and dumping the bodies in dumpsters around town. Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, both listed as "employees of PETA," said that they "euthanized" the animals in the back of their van to "end their suffering." They dropped the bodies in dumpsters around town, but were caught by police dumping a bag of dead cats and dogs behind a grocery store. When police searched their van, they found more dead cats and dogs.

These are animal rights workers? What could have possessed them??? I was about to learn that it was not just an errant incident involving rogue extremists. This incident grows directly from the heart of PeTA's own policies. Read on.

I had heard rumors of PeTA workers murdering animals out of shelters and dumping their bodies, but I had always thought it was a story put out by people who don't like animal rights activists. Sadly, this is where I usually heard it from. On websites and blogs that I monitor, as part of some of the rescue work that I do, I often come across ranting posts about "those PETA people who don't really care about animals," "Those PETA people who kill thousands of animals needlessly and then dump their bodies, and then pretend to care about animals." I had always thought, hoped, prayed, it was a lie. So this short piece struck a nerve. Could it be true? No way. These had to be a couple of nuts, thinking they heard voices telling them to do this or something. No way that PeTA would ever condone such a thing. This must be where all those stories came from, but the actions of a couple of nuts can't possibly reflect the entire organization. Right?

How I wanted to keep on believing that.

But then, I accidentally came upon this. Yesterday, while looking for something else, I clicked on an article that I had thought was from the Humane Society. Instead, it was from PeTA's own website. And it was chilling to the bone. It's called "The Disturbing Facts About 'No-Kill Shelters," and it's a long, sick rant about how much better shelters that put animals to death are than no-kill shelters. It dismissivly refers to no-kill shelters as "no-clue" shelters, and implies that people who give their time and resources to such a shelter are naive, foolish, or uncaring. It begins with a horrific anecdote about a crazy man who tried to drop a dog off at a no-kill shelter and was told that the shelter was full and he should come back in 2 weeks. Instead, the man allegedly drove the dog to the nearest intersection, threw the dog in the road, and ran over it with his truck. Peta commits an unforgivable and intentional logical fallacy at this point by implying that this bizarre and awful behavior of an obviously very sick and deviant human being, if he exists at all, represents the natural consequences of all no kill shelters. The whole point of the story: It's better to kill animals for the crime of homelessness than to keep them alive. Don't take my word for it, read it here, on PeTA's own website, extolling the virtues of "cruelty-free living":  http://www.peta.org/Living/AT-Fall2005/nokill.asp

I did a little more research, and discovered that PeTA's own statistics for 2006 in the State of Virginia show that they "rescued" around 3000 animals, and that of those, PETA workers put to death a staggering 97% of them. These numbers are, in fact, so staggering that they inspired one animal activist to diagnose the entire Peta organization with a mental illness usually exhibited by nurses who kill their own patients. (See the article, "Munchausen by PETA," by Nathan Winograd.) The author of that diagnosis reports:


"By the numbers:

* PETA killed 1,942 of the 1,960 cats, finding homes for only 2.
* PETA killed 988 of the 1,030 dogs finding homes for only 8.
* PETA killed 50 of the 52 other companion animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.), finding homes for only 2.
* PETA killed the chicken they took in."

There is nothing "ethical" about treatment like that. To read this entire article, please see:  http://nathanwinograd.blogspot.com/2008/04/munchausen-by-peta-revised.html

The more research I do, the more stark and clear it becomes to me: Those of us who care about animals can no longer support PeTA. I was willing to turn my back on rumors and innuendo, but I am not willing to turn my back on facts. PeTA is responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals in this country. Those animals did nothing wrong. They stand accused of being the wrong breed, or daring to be homeless. This is simply not right, and as long as we pretend it is, we are making the work of real animal rights activists harder. I'm done with them. I am thankful for the rare good things that PeTA volunteers have done, but I am no longer willing to pretend that these things outweigh the deaths of thousands of cats, dogs, and other animals that can be directly attributed to PeTA.

Peta link 09.Jul.2008 12:35

Peta kills

This is from Diane Jessup's site. I don't always agree with Jessup, but she's spot on about this.  http://www.workingpitbull.com/truthaboutpeta.htm

Validity and Deceit 09.Jul.2008 12:58

--

PETA's stands are not completely without reason. Of course they should support a ban against all breeding, but just like we attack fois gras first and all meat later, or at another time, it's reasonable to start with the breed that numerically is having the most trouble.

I'm not saying I agree with the standpoint, just that there's some reason for it.

Similarly, there is a lot of reason to be suspicious of no-kill shelters. Many of them end up overcrowded. We can debate whether a life in a crate is better than being euthanized--we will have different opinions.

PETA is one woman's organization. If you don't agree with the policies, don't support it. But don't use it to thow a wedge into the movement. Many questions about what kind of life has value and what kind of death is merciful will never truly be answered.

Also, making any statement about (all) PETA volunteers is a form of sterotyping. I'm sure they all have different ideas and concepts of their organization.

I don't know what happened in the event referred to above. Before making a judgement, I would like more details. The author above doesn't seem to have them either, as she says, "What could have possessed them?" That IS the question.

It's fine that call a strategy ineffective, sexist, or unethical. But if you support animals, don't draw a line in the sand, telling us who we must or must not support.

Peta is a wedge 09.Jul.2008 15:38

not Peta

"But don't use it to throw a wedge into the movement."

I disagree. I think Peta's policies are, in themselves, a "wedge in the movement." I do not think that pointing out the problems with this group that claims to be an animal rights group is a wedge. It's the group itself that presents a problem, making it hard for the rest of us.

I have fought for animals for many years, and I can't even begin to tell you how many times I come across people who accuse me of being PETA, and then tell me how PETA doesn't care about animals because they kill so many of them, and then they imply that I must not care either because that's how animal rights people are. That's a wedge. I never believed that the stories were true, until I read the articles linked to above. If they are really going around killing animals for no reason, and recommending that animals be killed for no reason, then they are creating the wedge and it should be stopped. And their own website indicates that this is exactly what they are doing.

My words are not meant to put down people who volunteer with Peta. They are meant to be a wake up call to them. Either force the group to change, or leave it for a group that does not kill animals.

To the comment about how we should be suspicious of no kill shelters, and then asks whether life in a crate is better than death, I would have to ask you whether you would attack the homeless situation among people that way? Would you? Do you think it would be better to kill people who are homeless, rather than to just leave them the fuck alone? If you would not treat people that way, then why would you treat dogs and cats that way? Listen, if you can't solve a problem humanely (say, by placing these animals in loving homes), then you have no business offering fake and final "solutions." A needle of death in the back of a van is not a solution. It is not humane. It does not help. It only hurts animals. If you can't do better than that, you have no business picking them up. I can't believe anyone who supports animals could pretend otherwise.

And on the issue of pit bulls, here is a really good article:  http://nathanwinograd.blogspot.com/2008/07/do-pit-bulls-get-bad-rap.html

euthanized for what? 10.Jul.2008 08:15

truther

P-eople E-uthanizing T-iny A-nimals

Petition? 10.Jul.2008 11:55

cnr

Maybe we should start a petition to get PETA to perform catch/fix/release on strays instead of killing them?

I mean, instead of just complaining in private on the interwebs constantly, but never really confronting the organization itself.

PETA had several reps in town a few weeks ago, I spoke with them about several complaints and they said that no one in PDX had complained their entire trip.

More Thoughts On PETA 10.Jul.2008 13:54

--

With all due respect to "I have been an activist and vegan in this movement for 13 years," but I've been an activist and vegetarian in this movement for 30 years (I was later to become vegan), and when I became a vegetarian, I was pretty much the only vegetarian I knew.

So I think the age difference is part of the disagreement.

I've seen the changes brought about by PETA over the years, they have totally popularized (made the mainstream familiar) with the concept of animal rights, factory farms, etc. Many of their undercover investigations have been stupendous and have made major media. They have been tenacious over the years, and there have been changes--such as the cosmetics market. True these changes have been much too small, much too slow. But over the past decades, PETA has been the primary mover of animal rights, whether you like their strategies or not.


About euthanasia, I'm all in favor of no kill, but I'd like to see you make it work.

Some no kill advocates are really low kill advocates, who point out that more dedicated techniques will result in more placed or fewer abandoned animals. Any ARA would get behind that. But being against euthanasia means all these animals have to go somewhere. I've adopted a LARGE number of rescued animals. I love them, but to be honest, the financial burden is astronomical, and physically I must care for them twice a day, whether I am tired, sick, depressed, or simply aging. The point is that EACH MONTH, I could EASILY double, triple, quadruple their numbers. And I agonize over every animal I can't take in--not to mention that the strain of coping with each other arguably diminishes the quality of each animal's life as more are taken in.

So my question to you is, how many non-human lives are you sustaining? And what in the world do you propose shelters do with all those animals, including the ones not currently being taken in?


A friend, who is sadly not an ARA, commented that to achieve no kill, there would have to be some pretty serious laws: like all animals would have to be microchipped and their guardians held responsible for their well-being for life. I think that's pretty much correct, and I'm all for it. I believe we can legitimately dis shelters for euthanizing too many or unnecessarily, but not for euthanizing.

Now what I'm wondering is whether an old-timer who was raised on the necessity of euthanasia and who became vegetarian to protest killing free range animals (factory farms didn't exist yet) will be welcome in a younger group with more extensive ideals.

Go for no kill, please, but you can't have a very realistic view if you don't understand the nuances of where we've been and consequently of where we are now.

Nuances??? 10.Jul.2008 17:43

me

This is a word I usually find bandied about by apologists. No offense, but there is nothing "nuanced" about finding yourself at the wrong end of the needle, just because someone can't figure out what to do with you. Fuck that.

Aside from the somewhat pedantic and questionable comment about understanding nuances, the above poster says this:

"I believe we can legitimately dis shelters for euthanizing too many or unnecessarily, but not for euthanizing." This statement is made, not in the context of reminding us that euthanasia should not be written off in cases of suffering, but is instead given to remind us that there are lots and lots of homeless animals around. No kidding. But how does this fact translate to the "need" to kill animals whom we cannot place in human homes? I don't get this mindset. It lacks creativity, compassion, and imagination. It's a scary position, to me. It excuses needless killing as "necessary." That's nonsense, and it's time to recognize that fact.

Since when do we, as animal rights activists, give in to the thoughtless assumption that the lives of non-human animals are worthless unless they are controlled by humans? Why do we "need" to kill homeless animals? Why do we "need" to either find homes for them or kill them? Why don't we simply do this: If we have no place to put an animal, then leave it alone. I know, that sounds so naive. But, you know, maybe this deserves some thought. I'm not talking about animals that are in the hands of people who are abusing them, though. I'm talking about animals that are rounded up by dog catchers and incarcerated in the pound every day, simply because they have the temerity to be walking around loose in the world, without a chain around their necks. Why do we do that?

I've had people tell me it would be cruel not to round up strays, because they don't get proper vet care out there on their own. Well neither do bob cats. When did we forget that vet care is not a part of the natural environment? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for vet care when it can be provided. But if the choice is death or freedom without vet care, I think most animals would choose freedom. Even if it came without vet care.

I'm also all for spaying and neutering, and yes, Peta has done some great work in this regard. So have feral cat coalitions. I support this because dogs and cats could be hard on the environment if they were breeding randomly out there. But just narrowing our choices to life under human control or death? That's not very useful. There are a lot of other ways to do things out there. Why not start thinking about them?

Check Your Sources 10.Jul.2008 18:36

--

This is a great dialogue, and I'd like to step back and hear additional voices. But first . . .

Feral cats cannot hunt sufficiently to sustain themselves, unlike bobcats in their natural environment. The belief that cats can hunt sufficiently accounts for many dumped cats. I live in a rural dump spot, and I know for a fact that if those cats don't have human intervention (me), they die.

Additionally, urban ferals especially face hardships. I was recently asked to help trap 1 feral which turned into 5 ferals. The two which were 4+ years were in bad shape. Both were FIV+ and one had broken both his K-9's, had scars from catfights, and had bones that had been broken and healed irregularly, presumably from being hit by a car (according to my vet). Three cats around the age of two were in good shape. I took this as a real education about what feral cats face over the years (their average lifespan without care is 5 years).

But the main reason I wanted to post is that I followed the links in the article above. I have nothing against Nathan Winograd, although his attack on Newkirk is an ad hominem, attacking her mental state. He also argues the issue, but using "mud-slinging" doesn't do him any credit.

I followed the link for more information and found an article on by Gina Spadafori on the Pet Connection site. These folks are supported by a grant by Pfizer Animal Health, who advertises that "At Pfizer Animal Health, a passion for the health and wellness of animals - and a commitment to research - combine to help protect the health of pets and farm animals and the productivity of livestock."

Further, Gina Spadafori says, "You can read that letter from the Commonwealth of Virginia to PETA here. (And here's an expansion -- thanks, Patrick of what that letter means, with regard to the animals surrendered to PETA.)"

Following the link to good Patrick's analysis gave me his home site which supports working animals, hunting, sledding, and other horrors, at least those are the links he's chosen to place on his site. I visited some of them, like "Gun Dog Magazine."

So I have to seriously question these people's motives. Nathan Winograd should be more careful about whose opinions he is trumpeting.

I respect you guys, but the conditions under which PETA took those animals are unclear, and many people have good reason to want PETA discredited, people who are NO friends of animals.

Best wishes for achieving your goals, but be careful where your enthusiasm takes you. There are many who would be just as happy to slander your organization.

No Kill and No Vivisection 11.Jul.2008 07:57

mememe

"These folks are supported by a grant by Pfizer Animal Health, who advertises that "At Pfizer Animal Health, a passion for the health and wellness of animals - and a commitment to research - combine to help protect the health of pets and farm animals and the productivity of livestock."

Yikes. I recently got some medicine for my cat's ear mites at the vet, and when I got home and read the package, it said that it had been determined "safe" through the following procedure: Doses of 1, 6, 8 and 10 times the normal dose were given to month old kittens and puppies. It was made by Pfizer. So I would definitely have issues with anything they say.

But about feral cats. Yes, they often can sustain themselves through hunting. Not that anyone should dump them! They should not! But I work with a feral cat coalition, catching, spaying/neutering, and then re-releasing them. It is not necessary to put these cats in the pound and then kill them if homes can't be found. Homes will never be found for them, so it's better to let them be.

feral cats 13.Jul.2008 13:16

-0-

I don't think the feral cat coalition supports tnr without a caregiver.

PETA, a lot like Norman Mailer 15.Jul.2008 15:46

Shy V.

The main reason I will not support PETA: they hate women.
We are 51% of the planet. We do the invisible labor, own 1% of the property.
Everybody, and I mean every body has a mother.
Ciao PETA.