Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PETA death squads

You've heard about PETA, People for [Allegedly] Ethical Treatment of Animals. Of course you have. They raid laboratories that conduct tests on animals, spray-paint fur coats, that kind of thing. PETA members are themselves a kind of animal species — publicity hounds.

Despite their over-the-top shenanigans, I've occasionally summoned up a drop of sympathy. For one thing, some of the people who bash them appear to be the sort who think it's ridiculous to worry about the feelings of mere animals. Only people matter, they say.

And I believe researchers who deliberately give mice, rats, rabbits, and sometimes even cats terrible diseases and injuries to test possible cures (half the animals so treated, the control group, are certain not to have their condition alleviated) do become desensitized to suffering. Somebody needs to slap them around periodically, whisper in their ears the lines from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as beautiful as anything I know in English literature:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small ;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Now comes this:

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) published documents online showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters.

According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.

Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.

PETA replies:

The source of the information posted is the deceitfully-named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). CCF is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year, not out of compassion, but out of greed (see BermanExposed.org and ConsumerDeception.com).

Most of the animals we took in and euthanized were not adoptable, and in fact, were taken in precisely because they were unadoptable. They could hardly be called "pets," as they had spent their lives on heavy chains or isolated pens, for instance. They were severely unsocialized, having gone mad from confinement or made aggressive.

Others were indeed someone's companions, but they were aged, sick, injured, or dying, and PETA offered them a release from suffering, with no charge to their owners or custodians. We offer our services to many impoverished residents who often can’t afford to provide for their animals even a dignified exit.

Okay, they score a few points (please read their whole rebuttal). This CCF outfit is not disinterested; it's a lobbying group, and its bills aren't paid by any humane society. PETA accomplishes a few good things, if its own claims are true. And of course, for some poor creatures euthanasia is the only compassionate treatment. I know; two of our cats with incurable diseases had to be put to sleep.

But the Web site Terrierman.com offers a more detailed, and convincing, indictment:

PETA injects killing solutions into almost all the animals handed over to the them, and then it contracts with a waste disposal company to have several tons of animals a month trucked away, out of sight and out of mind.

Why? Simple: they believe a dog in a shelter is better dead than kenneled for even a few days or a few weeks, and they oppose pet ownership entirely. PETA's Norfolk staff cannot be bothered to take time away from media-whoring in order to do the tough work involved in actually rehoming animals.

This, too, should be read in its entirety.

PETA may not be entirely evil, and among its stunt performers there are probably some kind-hearted but naive people. But PETA will never get a donation from me. They are not the only organization that spays and neuters animals to help prevent overpopulation — every animal shelter does. I'd rather support no-kill shelters.



Dennis Mangan said...

Pretty shocking story. However, those who are anti-PETA are using this story to discredit the entire animal rights movement - it's as if one were to assert that Catholic doctrine is wrong because some the priests were pedophiles.

The notion of animal rights is paradoxical. It seems that humans need to eat meat to survive - or at least prosper - and even if they don't it's certainly how we got where we are today. Yet if animals have no rights, why do humans?

Rick Darby said...


Animal rights is a bad name for the movement. It seems to make it into just one more case of conflicting "rights," and invites the inevitable response that human rights are more important. I'd rather call it animal protection or humane treatment.

It would be quixotic to urge everyone to swear off using them for food. Many people around the world have little or no alternative, and most people, for better or worse, like animal food. And of course in a state of nature many animals would be eaten anyway by predatory species.

But we can work to change social norms so animals are treated more kindly, even if we put them to work for us or raise them to wind up on someone's plate.