The Dark Side of PETA

The Dark Side of PETA

By Ryan Ricks

Here’s a question: when you think of an organization that supports animal rights and veganism, an organization that fights against animal cruelty, which organization do you think of?

Chances are you thought of PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This organization is one of the largest and most popular animal advocacy groups in the world. It is also known for its boldness in its ad campaigns and persistent pleas for everyone to go vegan.

But, there may be a side to PETA that you aren’t aware of. One that is tainted with animal cruelty, dishonesty, and disgusting behavior.

To begin this long exploration of the dark side of PETA, we should first know about what PETA stands for. What does it advocate? On its website, PETA says it believes that animals are not “ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, abuse, [or] exploit.” They acknowledge that they are controversial, but that they still are “true to their driving mission.”

If this is what PETA wants to do, has it followed through? Do the organization’s actions correspond with its statements?

Let’s consider some numbers first.

PETA spent $56,369,581 last year, but only 35% of that money went to “research, investigation, and rescue.” 45% went to advertising and educational campaigns and 18% went to “membership development” and general expenses. That much money going to advertisements and education does not seem like a bad thing, but those ads, as I will talk about later, are actually very problematic.

According to records submitted to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA’s Virginia shelter accepted 2,513 animals in 2017. 74% of them were euthanized. Does this reflect the mission of PETA stated on their website? Does this match their belief that animals are not ours to “abuse?” Are they rescuing animals here?

Numbers on their own don’t tell a story. We should see why they euthanize, and why that rate is so high. As to their reasons for resorting to euthanasia, in PETA’s own words, they “…will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved, or homeless animals—even if the best we can offer them is a painless release…”

If euthanasia is really their last resort, if it is really for neglected and homeless animals, then why are there examples of otherwise? In 2014, Maya, the healthy chihuahua of the Zarate family, was taken by two PETA workers and killed. This dog was nowhere near homeless or dying, and thus it was one of the “needless killings” PETA so staunchly advocates against.

In addition, how can euthanizing animals without even giving them a chance even be considered “ethical,” as their name says? At the PETA headquarters (and shelter) in Virginia, an inspection revealed that 90% the 273 animals euthanized at that point in the year were euthanized within the first 24 hours of custody.

These animals are never given a chance to be adopted into a loving family. Is this what it means to treat them ethically? As shelters across the nation shift to “No-Kill” models, focusing all their efforts on placing their animals in homes, PETA remains stagnant, with extremely high levels of euthanasia.

Before we move on, let’s revisit PETA’s reported costs of last year. Which category would this massive killing of animals fit into? The drugs used for it must cost money, so where exactly is this cost defined? Is it part of the “rescue” of animals that accounts for 35% of the budget? Or is it just part of the general expenses? Either way, PETA spends over $50 million a year, at this point they should be past such mass killing.

Beyond the euthanasia rates, PETA is still an immoral and dishonest organization. Much of this reputation comes from its infamous ad campaigns.

Some of PETA’s advertisements have been blatant lies. In 2017, the organization tried to have Mashable, a digital media website, write about a video that they would anonymously publish on Youtube. The video, showing a cat suffer at the hands of its owner, would have been difficult to watch. The video was also fake. PETA wanted Mashable to publish an article about the video that wouldn’t mention that PETA made it. This would have been a blatant lie to the public, one designed to manufacture outrage. Mashable refused to do it, instead going public about the pitch instead.

While small lies like that are bad, PETA gets much worse.

In 2014, it ran an ad campaign called “Got Autism?” that called for people to stop drinking cow’s milk because there was a link between it and autism. Other than stigmatizing autism (similar to the anti-vaxxers so prevalent today), it is full of lies. The two studies it used to support its claim had tiny sample sizes, were over a decade old, and didn’t even assert that milk was linked to autism.

In multiple instances, PETA has compared the killing of animals with the suffering of black people. In 2011, PETA sued SeaWorld for violating the “constitutional rights” of orcas. Somehow the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld is comparable to the decades of torture, rape, and lynching black slaves faced because, to PETA’s president Ingrid Newkirk, “orcas are, by definition, slaves.”

PETA’s delusions go farther than that. More than once, PETA has compared the American Kennel Club to the Ku Klux Klan, the terrorist group infamous for its heinous actions against African Americans. While the AKC has done horrible things to dogs for the sake of having purebred canines, there is just no equating it with the KKK without some serious mind-bending and probable racism.

After the racism, PETA has a serious problem with misogyny. In many of its ads, it exploits women (and no, we shouldn’t ignore the irony that PETA states that animals aren’t ours to exploit yet they exploit human beings), using their bodies as ways to advance their cause.

One ad depicted a woman as pieces of meat, while another showed a grotesque image of a woman with chicken wings. In a 2016 tweet, PETA likened women to chickens.

In probably its worst ad of all, PETA compared cows, chickens, and pigs with rape victims. Yes, survivors of sexual assault were equated with animals born for the purpose of consumption. Beyond exploiting the survivors of sexual assault, beyond dismissing the significance of human sexual assault, PETA is dehumanizing those survivors by comparing them to animals.

Maybe the ads and the numbers aren’t enough. Maybe PETA doesn’t seem that bad to some readers of this article.

If so, fear not, because PETA still has atrocious actions left to be explored.

A few years ago, PETA supported and congratulated Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for taking meat off the menu in jails. Whether or not they knew that the real reason for doing so was actually because it cut costs by $200,000, not because he wanted to advocate a vegan lifestyle, matters not.

What matters is that PETA supported a blatantly racist, xenophobic, and sexist man. In 2011, the Department of Justice found that Arpaio “oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agent in history,” violating the rights of thousands of Latinos. He has also done some pretty unspeakable things involving the assault of pregnant women that won’t be detailed in this article.

At best, this looks like a blunder by the PR team in running a background check. At worst, it looks like PETA putting human rights (or at least non-white male humans) below animal rights in every single way.

How can we condone this type of behavior? How can we support this company when all it has done is use people, lie, and promote horrible things?

Recently, PETA has been only slightly more tame in its marketing campaigns. It has put up ads that gatekeeped being a feminist, because apparently, you can’t really be a feminist if you aren’t vegan. A few weeks ago it criticized the late Steve Irwin, on his birthday no less, because they couldn’t be bothered to respect a dead man who educated millions.

We need to stop supporting this organization. If the lies, disrespect, and blatant racism and sexism aren’t enough, then what is? At this point, PETA is an embarrassment to animal advocacy.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

About author