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.
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article