People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Peta logo.svg
Founder(s) Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco
Type 501(c)(3)
Founded March 1980
Location Norfolk, Virginia
Focus Animal rights
Revenue $34 million in 2009
Employees 300
Members 2,000,000
Motto "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. A non-profit corporation with 300 employees and two million members and supporters, it claims to be the largest animal rights group in the world. Its slogan is "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment."[1]

Founded in March 1980 by Newkirk and fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco, the organization first caught the public's attention in the summer of 1981 during what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case, a widely publicized dispute about experiments conducted on 17 macaque monkeys inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The case lasted ten years, involved the only police raid on an animal laboratory in the United States, triggered an amendment in 1985 to that country's Animal Welfare Act, and established PETA as an internationally known organization.[2] Since then, in its campaigns and undercover investigations, it has focused on four core issues—opposition to factory farming, fur farming, animal testing, and animals in entertainment—though it also campaigns against fishing, the killing of animals regarded as pests, the keeping of chained backyard dogs, cock fighting, dog fighting, and bullfighting.[3]

The group has been the focus of criticism from inside and outside the animal rights movement. Newkirk and Pacheco are seen as the leading exporters of animal rights to the more traditional animal protection groups in the United States, but sections of the movement nevertheless say PETA is not radical enough—law professor Gary Francione calls them the new welfarists, arguing that their work with industries to achieve reform makes them an animal welfare, not an animal rights, group.[4] Newkirk told Salon in 2001 that PETA works toward the ideal, but tries in the meantime to provide carrot-and-stick incentives.[5] There has also been criticism from feminists within the movement about the use of scantily clad women in PETA's anti-fur campaigns, and criticism in general that the group's media stunts trivialize animal rights. Newkirk's view is that PETA has a duty to be "press sluts".[6]

Outside the movement, the confrontational nature of PETA's campaigns has caused concern, as has the estimated 85% of animals it euthanizes.[7] PETA was further criticized in 2005 by United States Senator Jim Inhofe for having given grants several years earlier to Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activists, two groups that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified as agents of domestic terrorism.[8] PETA responded that it has no involvement in ALF or ELF actions and does not support violence, though Newkirk has elsewhere made clear that she supports the removal of animals from laboratories and other facilities, including as a result of illegal direct action.[9]



Ingrid Newkirk

Newkirk talking about herself and her legacy

Newkirk was born in England in 1949 and raised in Hertfordshire, and later New Delhi, India, where her father—a navigational engineer—was stationed. Newkirk, now an atheist, was educated in a convent, the only British girl there. She moved to the United States as a teenager, first studying to become a stockbroker, but after taking some abandoned kittens to a shelter in 1969, and appalled by the conditions she found there, she chose a career in animal protection instead.[10] She became an animal protection officer for Montgomery County, then the District of Columbia's first woman poundmaster. By 1976 she was head of the animal-disease-control division of D.C.'s Commission on Public Health, and in 1980 was among those named as Washingtonian of the Year.[11] She told Michael Specter of The New Yorker that working for the shelters left her shocked at the way the animals were treated:

I went to the front office all the time, and I would say, "John is kicking the dogs and putting them into freezers." Or I would say, "They are stepping on the animals, crushing them like grapes, and they don't care." In the end, I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn't stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day. Some of those people would take pleasure in making them suffer. Driving home every night, I would cry just thinking about it. And I just felt, to my bones, this cannot be right.[12]

In 1980, she divorced Steve Newkirk, whom she had married when she was 19, and the same year met Alex Pacheco, a political major at George Washington University. Pacheco had studied for the priesthood, then worked as a crew member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's first ship.[13] He volunteered at the shelter where she worked, and they fell in love and began living together, though as Kathy Snow Guillermo writes they were very different—Newkirk was older and more practical, whereas Pacheco could barely look after himself.[14] He introduced Newkirk to Peter Singer's influential book, Animal Liberation (1975), and in March 1980 she persuaded him to join her in forming People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, at that point just five people in a basement, as Newkirk described it. They were mostly students and members of the local vegetarian society, but the group included a friend of Pacheco's from the UK, Kim Stallwood, a British activist who went on to become the national organizer of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection . Pacheco was reluctant at first. "It just didn't sound great to me," he told The Los Angeles Times in 1992." I had been active in Europe ... and I thought there were just too many formalities. I thought we should just do things ourselves. But she made a convincing case that Washington needed a vehicle for animals because the current organizations were too conservative."[15]

Silver Spring monkeys

PETA distributed images of the monkeys with the caption, "This is vivisection. Don't let anyone tell you different."[16]

The group first came to public attention in 1981 during the Silver Spring monkeys case, a dispute about experiments conducted by researcher Edward Taub on 17 macaque monkeys inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The case led to the first police raid in the United States on an animal laboratory, triggered an amendment in 1985 to the United States Animal Welfare Act, and became the first animal-testing case to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court,[2] which upheld a Louisiana State Court ruling that denied PETA's request for custody of the monkeys.[17]

Pacheco had taken a job in May 1981 inside a primate research laboratory at the Institute, intending to gain firsthand experience of working inside an animal laboratory.[18] Taub had been cutting sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to the monkeys' fingers, hands, arms, and legs—a process called "deafferentation"—so that the monkeys could not feel them; some of the monkeys had had their entire spinal columns deafferented. He then used restraint, electric shock, and withholding of food and water to force the monkeys to use the deafferented parts of their bodies. The research led in part to the discovery of neuroplasticity and a new therapy for stroke victims called constraint-induced movement therapy.[19]

Pacheco visited the laboratory at night, taking photographs that showed the monkeys living in what the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research's ILAR Journal called filthy conditions.[20] He passed his evidence to the police, who raided the lab and arrested Taub. Taub was convicted of six counts of animal cruelty, the first such conviction in the United States of an animal researcher, overturned on appeal.[21] Norm Phelps writes that the case followed the highly publicized campaign of Henry Spira in 1976 against experiments on cats being performed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Spira's subsequent campaign in April 1980 against the Draize test. These and the Silver Springs monkey case jointly put animal rights on the agenda in the United States.[22]

The ten-year battle for custody of the monkeys—described by The Washington Post as a vicious mud fight, during which both sides accused the other of lies and distortion— transformed PETA into a national, then international, movement. By February 1991, it claimed over 350,000 members, a paid staff of over 100, and an annual budget of over $7 million.[23]

Philosophy and activism


Along with Newkirk, Dan Matthews (above) is one of PETA's key players.[12]

PETA writes that it is an animal rights organization, and as such it rejects speciesism and the idea of animals as property, and opposes the use of animals in any form: as food, clothing, entertainment, or as research subjects.[24] One oft-cited quote of Newkirk's is: "When it comes to feelings like hunger, pain, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."[12] The group has been criticized by other animal rights advocates for its willingness to work with industries that use animals—a position many animal rights advocates find problematic (see below). Newkirk rejects the criticism, and has said of the group that it is here to hold the radical line.[25]

PETA lobbies governments to impose fines where animal-welfare legislation has been violated, promotes a vegan diet, tries to reform the practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses, goes undercover into animal research laboratories, farms, and circuses, initiates media campaigns against particular companies or practices, helps to find sanctuaries for former circus and zoo animals, and initiates lawsuits against companies.[26]

The group has two million members and supporters, it received donations of over $32 million for the year ending July 31, 2009, and its website was receiving four million hits a month as of November 2008. Over 80 percent of its operating budget was spent on its programs in 2008-2009, 15 percent on fundraising, and four percent on management and general operations. Thirty-two percent of its staff earned under $30,000, 24 percent over $40,000, and Newkirk just under $37,000.[27]

Pacheco left the group in 1999 and since then, two key staff members next to Newkirk have been Tracy Reiman, Executive Vice President, and Dan Mathews, Senior Vice-President of campaigns.[28]

Campaigns and consumer boycotts

PETA's trademark "Lettuce ladies" in Columbus, Ohio

The organization is known for its aggressive media campaigns, combined with a solid base of celebrity support—Pamela Anderson, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, John Gielgud, Bill Maher, Stella McCartney, and Alicia Silverstone have all appeared in PETA ads.[12] Every week, Newkirk holds what The New Yorker calls a war council, with two dozen of her top strategists gathered round a square table in the PETA conference room, no suggestion considered too outrageous.[12] PETA also gives a yearly prize, called the Proggy Award (for "progress"), to individuals or organizations dedicated to animal welfare or who distinguish themselves through their efforts within the area of animal welfare.[29]

Many of the campaigns have focused on large corporations. Fast food companies such as KFC, Wendy's, and Burger King have been targeted. In the animal-testing industry, PETA's consumer boycotts have focused on Avon, Benetton, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Chesebrough-Pond's, Dow Chemical, General Motors, and others. Their modus operandi includes buying shares in target companies such as McDonald's and Kraft Foods in order to exert influence.[30] The campaigns have delivered results for PETA. McDonald's and Wendy's introduced vegetarian options after PETA targeted them; Petco stopped selling some exotic pets; and Polo Ralph Lauren said it would no longer use fur.[31] Avon, Estee Lauder, Benetton, and Tonka Toy Co. all stopped testing products on animals, the Pentagon stopped shooting pigs and goats in wounds tests, and a slaughterhouse in Texas was closed down.[13]

Steve-O during PETA's "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign

As part of its anti-fur action, PETA members have infiltrated hundreds of fashion shows in the U.S, Europe, and once in China, throwing red paint on the catwalks, and unfurling banners. Celebrities and supermodels have posed naked for the group's "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign—some men, but mostly women—triggering criticism from feminist animal rights advocates (see below).[32] The New Yorker writes that PETA activists have crawled through the streets of Paris wearing leg-hold traps and thrown around money soaked in fake blood at the International Fur Fair.[12] They regularly engage in pie-throwing—in January 2010, Canadian MP Gerry Byrne compared them to terrorists for throwing a tofu cream pie at Canada's fishery minister Gail Shea in protest at the seal hunt, a comment Newkirk called a silly chest-beating exercise.[33] "The thing is, we make them gawk," she told Satya magazine, "maybe like a traffic accident that you have to look at."[34]

PETA has also objected to the practice of mulesing (removing strips of wool-bearing skin from around the buttocks of a sheep).[35] In October 2004, PETA launched a boycott against the Australian wool industry, leading some clothing retailers to ban products using Australian wool from their stores.[36] In response, the Australian wool industry sued PETA, claiming among other things that mulesing prevents flystrike, a very painful disease that can affect sheep. A settlement was reached, and PETA agreed to stop the boycott, while the wool industry agreed to seek alternatives to mulesing.[37]

In 2011, Patricia de Leon worked with PETA to reduce support for bullfighting among Hispanic people, and was photographed by Kike San Martín for an anti-bullfighting campaign.[38][39][40]

Some campaigns have been particularly controversial. Newkirk was criticized in 2003 for sending a letter to PLO leader Yasser Arafat asking him to keep animals out of the conflict, after a donkey was blown up during an attack in Jerusalem. The group's 2003 "Holocaust on your Plate" exhibition—eight 60-square-foot (5.6 m2) panels juxtaposing images of Holocaust victims with animal carcasses and animals being transported to slaughter—was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League. In July 2010, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that PETA's campaign was not protected by free speech laws, and banned it within Germany as an offense against human dignity.[41] In 2005, the NAACP complained about the "Are Animals the New Slaves?" exhibit, which showed images of African-American slaves, Native Americans, child laborers, and women, alongside chained elephants and slaughtered cows.[42]

PETA has been criticized for aiming its message at children.

PETA's "It's still going on" campaign features newspaper ads comparing widely-publicized murder-cannibalization cases to the deaths of animals in slaughterhouses. The campaign has attracted significant media attention, controversy and generated angry responses from the victims' family members. Ads were released in 1991 describing the deaths of the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, in 2002 describing the deaths of the victims of serial killer Robert William Pickton,[43] and in 2008 describing the murder of Tim McLean.[44] In several cases, newspapers have refused to run the ads.

The group has also been criticized for aiming its message at young people. "Your Mommy Kills Animals" features a cartoon of a woman attacking a rabbit with a knife.[45] To reduce milk consumption, it created the "Got Beer?" campaign, a parody of the dairy industry's series of Got Milk? ads, which featured celebrities with milk "mustaches" on their upper lips. When the mayor of New York, Rudolf Giuliani, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, PETA ran a photograph of him with a white mustache and the words "Got prostate cancer?" to illustrate their claim that dairy products contribute to cancer, an ad that caused an outcry in the United States.[46] After PETA placed ads in school newspapers linking milk to acne, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and strokes, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and college officials complained it encouraged underage drinking; the British Advertising Standards Authority asked that the ads be discontinued after complaints from interest groups such as The National Farmers' Unions.[47]

In August 2011, it was announced that PETA will be launching a soft pornography website in the .xxx domain. PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt told the Huffington Post, “We try to use absolutely every outlet to stick up for animals,” adding that “We are careful about what we do and wouldn’t use nudity or some of our flashier tactics if we didn't know they worked.” PETA also used nudity in its "Veggie Love" ad which it prepared for the Super Bowl only to have it banned by the network. PETA's work has drawn the ire of some feminists who argue that the organization sacrifices women's rights to press its agenda. Lindsay Beyerstein criticized PETA saying “They're the ones drawing disturbing analogies between pornography, misogyny and animal cruelty."[48]

Other campaigns are less confrontational and more humorous. In 2008, it launched the "Save the Sea Kittens" campaign to change the name of fish to "sea kittens" to give them a positive image, and it regularly asks towns to adopt a new name. It campaigned in 1996 for a new name for Fishkill, New York, and in April 2003 offered free veggie burgers to Hamburg, New York, if it would call itself Veggieburg.[49] PETA has also produced various Flash games showcasing their campaigns, including parodies of Cooking Mama,[50] Super Mario Bros.,[51] and Super Meat Boy.[52]

Undercover investigations

PETA sends its staff undercover into research laboratories, factory farms, and circuses to document the treatment of animals, requiring them to spend many months as employees of the facility, making copies of documents and wearing hidden cameras.[13] By 2007, it had conducted 75 such investigations.[53] It has also produced videos based on material collected during ALF raids. Some investigations have led to lawsuits or government action against the companies or universities. PETA itself faced legal action in April 2007 after the owners of a chinchilla ranch in Michigan complained about an undercover inquiry there, but the judge ruled in PETA's favor that undercover investigations can be legitimate.[54]

Notable cases include the 26-minute film PETA produced in 1984, Unnecessary Fuss,[55] based on 60 hours of researchers' footage obtained by the ALF during a raid on the University of Pennsylvania's head injury clinic. The footage showed researchers laughing at baboons as they inflicted brain damage on them with a hydraulic device intended to simulate whiplash. Laboratory animal veterinarian Larry Carbone writes that the researchers openly discussed how one baboon was awake before the head injury, despite protocols being in place for anaesthesia.[56] The ensuing publicity led to the suspension of funds from the university, the firing of its chief veterinarian, the closure of the lab, and a period of probation for the university.[57]

In 1990, two PETA activists posed as employees of Carolina Biological, where they took pictures and video inside the company, alleging that cats were being mistreated.[58] Following the release of PETA's tapes, the USDA conducted their own inspection and subsequently charged the company with seven violations of the Animal Welfare Act.[59] Four years later, an administrative judge ruled that Carolina Biological had not committed any violations.[60]

PETA filmed HLS staff in the UK beating dogs, broadcast in 1997 by Channel 4 in the UK as It's a dog's life.[61]

In 1990, Bobby Berosini, a Las Vegas entertainer, lost his wildlife license, as well as (on appeal) a later lawsuit against PETA, after the group broadcast an undercover film of him slapping and punching orangutans in 1989.[62] In 1997, a PETA investigation inside Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a contract animal-testing company, produced film of staff in the UK beating dogs, and what appeared to be abuse of monkeys in the company's New Jersey facility. After the video footage aired on British television in 1999, a group of activists set up Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty to close HLS down, a campaign that continues.[63]

In 1999, a North Carolina grand jury handed down indictments against pig-farm workers on Belcross Farm in Camden County, the first indictments for animal cruelty on a factory farm in the United States, after a three-month PETA investigation produced film of the workers beating the animals.[64] In 2004, PETA published the results of an eight-month undercover investigation in a West Virginia Pilgrim's Pride slaughterhouse that supplies chickens to KFC. The New York Times reported the investigation as showing workers stomping on live chickens, throwing dozens against a wall, tearing the head off a chicken to write graffiti, strangling one with a latex glove, and squeezing birds until they exploded. Yum Brands, owner of KFC, called the video appalling, and threatened to stop purchasing from Pilgrim's Pride if no changes were made; Pilgrim's Pride fired 11 employees, and introduced an anti-cruelty pledge for workers to sign.[65]

A monkey in a restraint tube filmed by PETA inside Covance, Vienna, Virginia, 2004–2005[66]

In 2004 and 2005, PETA shot footage inside Covance, an animal-testing company in the United States and Europe, that appeared to show monkeys being mistreated in the company's facility in Vienna, Virginia. According to The Washington Post, PETA said an employee of the group filmed primates there being choked, hit, and denied medical attention when badly injured.[67] After PETA sent the video and a 253-page complaint to the United States Department of Agriculture, Covance was fined $8,720 for 16 citations, three of which involved lab monkeys; the other citations involved administrative issues and equipment. The company said none of the issues were pervasive or endemic, and that they had taken corrective action.[68] In 2005 Covance initiated a lawsuit charging PETA with fraud, violation of employee contract, and conspiracy to harm the company's business, but did not proceed with it.[67]

PETA also goes undercover into circuses. In 2006, they filmed trainers at Carson & Barnes Circus—including Tim Frisco, the animal-care director—striking elephants while shouting at them; The Washington Post writes that the video shows Frisco shouting "Make 'em scream!" A company spokesman dismissed PETA's concerns as 'Utopian philosophical ideology," but said the circus would no longer use electric prods.[69]


On direct action and the ALF

Newkirk is outspoken in her support of direct action, writing that no movement for social change has ever succeeded without what she calls the militarism component: "Thinkers may prepare revolutions," she wrote of the ALF in 2004, "but bandits must carry them out."[70]

Not until black demonstrators resorted to violence did the national government work seriously for civil rights legislation ... In 1850 white abolitionists, having given up on peaceful means, began to encourage and engage in actions that disrupted plantation operations and liberated slaves. Was that all wrong?

—Ingrid Newkirk, 2004[70]

In 2004 The Observer described what it called a network of relationships between apparently unconnected animal rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic, writing that, with assets of $6.5 million, and with the PETA Foundation holding further assets of $15 million, PETA funds a number of activists and groups—some with links to militant groups, including the ALF, which the FBI has named as a domestic terrorist threat. American writer Don Liddick writes that PETA gave $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front in 2001—Newkirk said the donation was a mistake, and that the money had been intended for public education about destruction of habitat, but Liddick writes that it went to the legal defense of Craig Rosebraugh, an ELF spokesman. That same year, according to The Observer, PETA gave a $5,000 grant to American animal rights activist Josh Harper, an advocate of arson.[71]

PETA and ALF activist Rod Coronado are alleged to have substantial links.[72]

According to Liddick, PETA has substantial links with Native American ALF activist Rod Coronado. He alleges that two Federal Express packages were sent to an address in Bethesda, Maryland, before and after a 1992 fire at Michigan State University that Coronado was convicted of setting, reportedly as part of "Operation Bite Back," a series of ALF attacks on American animal testing facilities in the 1990s. The first package was picked up by a PETA employee, Maria Blanton, and the second intercepted by the authorities, who identified the handwriting as Coronado's. Liddick writes that the package contained documents removed from the university and a videotape of one of the perpetrators. When they searched Blanton's home, police found some of the paraphernalia of animal liberation raids, including code names for Coronado and Alex Pacheco—PETA's co-founder—burglary tools, two-way radios, and fake identification. Liddick also writes that PETA gave Coronado $45,000 for his legal bills and another $25,000 to his father.[72]

Newkirk is a strong supporter of direct action that removes animals from laboratories and other facilities—she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992 that when she hears of anyone walking into a lab and walking out with animals, her heart sings.[13] In an interview for Wikinews in 2007, she said she had been asked by other animal protection groups to condemn illegal acts. "And I won't do it, because it were my animal I'd be happy." But she added that she does not support arson. "I would rather that these buildings weren't standing, and so I think at some level I understand. I just don't like the idea of that, but maybe that's wishy-washy of me, because I don't want those buildings standing if they hurt anyone ... Why would you preserve [a building] just so someone can make a profit by continuing to hurt and kill individuals who feel every bit as much as we do?"[73]

On neutering, backyard dogs, working animals, and pets

In 2008 PETA provided 300 dog houses and 1,200 bales of straw for chained backyard dogs.[74]

PETA runs several programs though its Community Animal Project that helps cats and dogs in poorer areas of Virginia, near its headquarters.[75] In 2008 they neutered 7,485 cats, dogs, and rabbits in that area, including pit bulls and feral cats, at a discounted rate or free of charge. They help neglected dogs and cats who are ill and injured, and pursue cruelty cases. Each year they set up hundreds of dog houses with straw bedding for dogs chained outside all winter.[76] They urge population control through neutering and adoption from shelters, and campaign against organizations such as the American Kennel Club that promote the selection of purebred breeds.[77]

PETA argues that it would have been better for animals had the institution of breeding them as "pets" never emerged, that the desire to own and receive love from animals is selfish, and that their breeding, sale, and purchase can cause immeasurable suffering. They write that millions of dogs spend their lives chained outside in all weather conditions or locked up in chain-link pens and wire cages in puppy mills, and that even in good homes animals are often not well cared for. They would like to see the population of dogs and cats reduced through spaying and neutering, and for people never to purchase animals from pet shops or breeders, but to adopt them from shelters instead.[78] PETA supports hearing dog programs where animals are taken from shelters and placed in appropriate homes, but does not endorse seeing-eye-dog programs because, according to one of their Vice Presidents, "the dogs are bred as if there are no equally intelligent dogs literally dying for homes in shelters."[79] PETA also opposes the keeping of fish in aquarium tanks, suggesting that people view computer videos of fish instead.[80]

On euthanasia

PETA opposes the no kill movement, and euthanizes an estimated 85% of the animals it takes in.[7] The group takes in feral cat colonies with diseases such as feline AIDS and leukemia, stray dogs, litters of parvo-infected puppies, and backyard dogs, and says that it would be unrealistic to follow a no-kill policy in such instances.[81] They offer free euthanasia services to counties that kill unwanted animals via gassing or shooting—they recommend the use of an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital if administered by a trained professional, and for severely ill or dying pets when euthanasia at a veterinarian is unaffordable.[82] They recommend euthanasia for certain breeds, such as pit bull terriers, and in certain situations for animals in shelters: for example, for those living for long periods in cramped cages.[83]

Two PETA employees were acquitted in 2007 of animal cruelty after at least 80 euthanized animals were left in dumpsters in a shopping center in Ashoskie over the course of a month in 2005; the two employees were seen leaving behind 18 dead animals, and 13 more were found inside their van. The animals had been euthanized after being removed from shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties.[84][85] The group said it began euthanizing animals in some rural North Carolina shelters after it found the shelters killing animals in ways PETA considered inhumane.[86]

On wildlife conservation personalities

PETA argues that conservation personalities, such as Steve Irwin, place animals under stress.[87]

PETA is critical of television personalities they call self-professed wildlife warriors, arguing that while a conservationist message is getting across, some of the actions are harmful to animals, such as invading animals' homes, netting them, subjecting them to stressful environments, and wrestling with them—often involving young animals the group says should be with their mothers.[88] In 2006 when Steve Irwin died, PETA's vice-president Dan Mathews said Irwin had made a career out of antagonizing frightened wild animals.[87] Australian Member of Parliament Bruce Scott said PETA should apologize to Irwin's family and the rest of Australia.[89]

On animal testing

PETA opposes animal testing—whether toxicity testing, basic or applied research, or for education and training—on both moral and practical grounds. Newkirk told Vogue magazine in 1989 that even if it resulted in a cure for AIDS, PETA would oppose it.[90] The group also believes that it is wasteful, unreliable, and irrelevant to human health, because artificially induced diseases in animals are not identical to human diseases. They say that animal experiments are frequently redundant and lack accountability, oversight, and regulation. They promote alternatives, including embryonic stem cell research and in vitro cell research.[91] PETA employees have themselves volunteered for human testing of vaccines; Scott Van Valkenburg, the group's Director of Major Gifts, said in 1999 that he had volunteered for human testing of HIV vaccines.[92]

PETA Asia-Pacific

PETA Asia-Pacific was founded by Ingrid Newkirk in Hong Kong in 2005 to support animal rights programs and campaigns in Asia. Jason Baker, a former staff member of PETA who was involved in setting up PETA India and PETA Australia, is PETA Asia Pacific's first director. Its offices are in Hong Kong and Manila. It works through public education, animal cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns. Its campaigns cover countries including China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.[93]

Vegetarian/vegan/factory farming

Lettuce Ladies in Guangzhou, China

PETA Asia-Pacific promotes vegetarian and vegan diets through three specific campaigns: education about the benefits of a vegetarian diet,[94] demonstrations and celebrity involvement against fast food outlets,[95] and undercover investigations of animals used for live transport and traditional religious slaughter. The organization has also used the PETA Lettuce Ladies in local demonstrations.[96] PETA Asia-Pacific regularly demonstrates against KFC outlets to promote better treatment of chickens used by the company.[97]


PETA AsiaPacific "naked" demo during Hong Kong fashion week

PETA Asia-Pacific supports the PETA campaign "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur", in which celebrities appear nude to express their opposition to wearing fur.[98] The group also stages anti-fur events to publicize their opposition to fur.[99] PETA Asia-Pacific has been involved in several undercover investigations of fur farms in China.[100]

Animals used for entertainment

PETA AsiaPacific anti-zoo demonstration

The group regularly protests the use of animals in entertainment, including circuses. These demonstrations are specific to the area, including anti-bull riding,[101] not keeping wild animals in chains,[102] and stopping human–animal wrestling matches.[103]


PETA Asia Pacific also coordinates protests against other uses of animals which it believes are abusive, such as improving the treatment of rats,[104] and it advocates for improvements for companion animals.[105]

Domain name disputes

In February 1995, a parody website calling itself "People Eating Tasty Animals" registered the domain name "". PETA sued, claiming trademark violation, and won the suit in 2001.[106] While still engaged in legal proceedings over "", PETA themselves registered the domains "" and "", using the sites to accuse Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Vogue of animal cruelty. PETA later surrendered the domains under threat of similar legal action over trademark infringement.[107][108]

Position within the animal rights movement

Model Christy Turlington posing for PETA. The series of ads triggered criticism from feminist animal rights advocates.[109]
Newkirk on clashes with other animal rights organizations and her feelings about the Animal Liberation Front.

Robert Garner of the University of Leicester writes that Newkirk and Pacheco are the leading exporters of animal rights to the more moderate groups in the United States—both members of an animal rights elite that he argues has shaken up the animal rights movement, setting up new groups and radicalizing old ones.[110]

There is criticism of PETA from both the conservative and radical ends of the movement. Michael Specter writes that it provides for groups such as the Humane Society of the United States the same dynamic that Malcolm X provided for Martin Luther King, or Andrea Dworkin for Gloria Steinem—someone radical to alienate the mainstream and make moderate voices more appealing.[12] The failure to condemn the Animal Liberation Front triggers complaints from the conservatives, while the more radical activists say the group has lost touch with its grassroots, is soft on the idea of animal rights, and that it should stop the media stunts, the pie-throwing, and the targeting of women. "It's hard enough trying to get people to take animal rights seriously without PETA out there acting like a bunch of jerks," one activist told writer Norm Phelps.[111]

The ads featuring barely clad or naked women have appalled feminist animal rights advocates. When Ronald Reagan's daughter Patti Davis posed naked for Playboy, donating half her $100,000 fee to PETA, the group issued a press release saying Davis "turns the other cheek in an eye-opening spread," then announced she had been photographed naked with Hugh Hefner's dog for an anti-fur ad. In 1995, PETA formed a partnership with Playboy to promote human organ donation, with the caption "Some People Need You Inside Them" on a photograph of Hefner's wife.[112] The long-standing campaign, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur," in which celebrities and supermodels strip for the camera, generated particular concern.[113]

Newkirk has replied to the criticism that no one is being exploited, the women taking part are volunteers, and if sexual attraction advances the cause of animals, she is unapologetic.[111] Asked by Wikinews how she feels when criticized from within the movement, she said: "Somebody has to push the envelope. If you say something that someone already agrees with, then what's the point, and so we make some more conservative animal protection organizations uncomfortable; they don't want to be associated with us because it will be embarrassing for them, and I understand that. Our own members write to us sometimes and say, 'Oh why did you do this? I don't want anyone to know I'm a PETA member.'"[73]

Gary Francione argues that PETA are "new welfarists," not animal rights advocates.
If anybody wonders 'what's this with all these reforms?', you can hear us clearly. Our goal is total animal liberation, and the day when everyone believes that animals are not ours to eat, not ours to wear, not ours to experiment [on], and not ours for entertainment or any other exploitive purpose.

—Ingrid Newkirk, 2002[114]

Gary Francione, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, argues that PETA is not an animal rights group—and further that there is no animal rights movement in the United States—because of their willigness to work with industries that use animals to achieve incremental change. This makes them an animal welfare group, in Francione's view: what he calls the new welfarists. A proponent of abolitionism, Francione argues that PETA is trivializing the movement with what he calls the "Three Stooges" theory of animal rights, making the public think progress is underway when the changes are only cosmetic.[115]

Like Francione, PETA describes itself as abolitionist.[12] Newkirk told an animal rights conference in 2002 that PETA's goal remains animal liberation: "Reforms move a society very importantly from A to B, from B to C, from C to D. It's very hard to take a nation or a world that is built on seeing animals as nothing more than hamburgers, handbags, cheap burglar alarms, tools for research, and move them from A to Z ..."[114]

Francione has also criticized PETA for having caused grassroots animal rights groups to close, groups that he argues were essential for the survival of the animal rights movement, which rejects the centrality of corporate animal charities. Francione writes that PETA initially set up independent chapters around the United States, but closed them in favor of a top-down, centralized organization, which not only consolidated decision-making power, but centralized donations too. Now, local animal rights donations go to PETA, rather than to a local group.[116]

See also


  1. ^ For its focus, and that it says it's the largest AR group in the world, see "PETA's mission statement", PETA, accessed July 3, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Schwartz, Jeffrey M. and Begley, Sharon. The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Regan Books, 2002, p. 161ff.
    • Pacheco, Alex and Francione, Anna. The Silver Spring Monkeys, in Peter Singer (ed.) In Defense of Animals, Basil Blackwell 1985, pp. 135–147.
  3. ^ "PETA's mission statement", PETA, accessed July 3, 2010.
  4. ^ For Newkirk and Pacecho being the leading exporters of AR, see Garner, Robert. Animals, politics, and morality. Manchester University Press, 1993; this edition 2004, p. 70.
    • For Francione's criticism, see Francione, Gary. Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. Temple University Press, 1996, pp. 67–77.
  5. ^ Brandt, Peter. "PETA's Ingrid Newkirk", Salon, April 30, 2001. The full quote:

    "What I say to myself all the time is that we have our heads in the clouds looking for Utopia, but we have our feet firmly planted on the ground dealing with reality. We make no bones about the fact that we want an end to all cruelty to animals. But I think the meat industry and the leather industry and the experimenters understand, especially if we're fighting them, that we will back off if they move society and their industry a step forward. We're not going to stop everything overnight, so while we work for the ideal we certainly wish to provide the carrot-and-stick incentives to move along toward that goal.

    "Animals are going to die by the millions today in all sorts of ugly ways for all sorts of ridiculous, insupportable reasons. If one animal who is lying in a battery egg farm cage could have the extra room to stretch her wing today because of something you've done, I think she would choose to have that happen."

  6. ^ For the feminist criticism, see Adams, Carole J. Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals. Continuum International Publishing Group, 1995, pp. 135, 228. Also see Garner, Robert. The political theory of animal rights. Manchester University Press, 2005, p. 144.
  7. ^ a b Interlandi, Jeneen. "PETA and Euthanasia: Even among animal lovers, killing unwanted pets is a divisive issue." Newsweek, April 28, 2008.
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