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Ponderings on PETA

What follows is not so much a blog as it is an essay.

It’s written for those who are critical of, or have concerns about the role PETA plays in our society today.

​I ask that if you have even the slightest of doubts about them, please read the document. If nothing else, you might find it interesting

What is PETA?

If you haven't heard of PETA, you are clearly not one of those people who keeps themselves abreast of issues concerning animal welfare. If you were, you would certainly be aware that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is one of the largest and most preeminent animal action groups on the planet. Few other such organisations evoke such strong emotions (both positive and negative) in the minds of the public that PETA are able to; or leave the targets of their actions quaking in their boots as they can. It is, by reputation, perhaps one of the most militant and possibly one of the most impactful of such organisations.

Founded in 1980, and operating out of Virginia, PETA is a well-funded, not-for-profit, tax exempt organisation. Over the years it has evolved to its current state where it focuses its attentions on four key areas of animal rights, namely those in which it feels the largest numbers suffer, most intensely, for the longest period of time. These are:

  1. The factory farming of animals.

  2. The use of animals in the clothing industry.

  3. The use of animals for scientific research.

  4. The use of animals in the entertainment industry.

This encompasses a vast number of areas of interest, and has them at odds with the whole of animal farming industry as well as those who sponsor it, such as giant international fast food chains. Any type of organisation involved in the fur trade, the down production industry and wool producers (to name but a few) may find themselves the targets of their wrath. Just about every major drug company on the planet and many universities have cause to fear their probing interest. And still popular bastions of animal abuse that justify their harmful existence because of their purported validity as amusements for weak minded humans – such as SeaWorld - go to extraordinary lengths to deflect their attentions. In other words, pretty much everyone on the planet has a beef (no pun intended) with them.

PETA are not afraid to take any cause and shove it in the face of those who sponsor or are complicit in rank cruelty and suffering. They will happily get ‘down and dirty’ with corporate giants, national governments, lobbying groups and all comers who are bent on violating the as yet unwritten rights of animals. They are unflinching in their preparedness to present the general public with the true facts of the horrors we perpetrate upon the creatures we share our world with (even if it means being hideously graphic). In short, they are fearless and militant, in at least the combative and contentious sense of the word.

PETA numbers amongst its active supporters major celebrities as diverse as Sir Paul McCartney, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Gosling, Simon Cowell, Iggy Pop, Pamela Anderson and Justin Bieber - to name but a few. Its advertising campaigns, sometimes delightful but more frequently shocking and horrifying, have involved such luminaries as Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Sir Roger Moore, Pink, Tommy Lee, assorted rap artists, athletes and Bollywood legends, as well as supermodels, past and present. It actively advocates veganism in all its many forms and consistently presents a diverse range of hard hitting facts intended to both enlighten and shock us out of our nonchalant mind set and lack of compassion with regards to our fellow non-human beings on the planet.

It is a well-funded organisation and it needs to be. Promoting awareness is an expensive business and requires a great deal more than just the invaluable time and effort put into its causes by PETA’s tens of thousands of volunteer supporters. Promoting awareness is a phenomenally expensive process that accounts for a considerable proportion of its annual expenditure. Additionally, its relentless pursuit of the mighty and merciless involves huge legal fees and the hiring of professional lobbyists (despite the fact that the group as a whole is effectively a lobbying organisation). Their opponents fight dirty, and PETA is often the object of campaigns that attempt to smear its reputation and undermine its standing in the eyes of the general public.

In 2015 PETA’s revenues were just short of $45,000,000 (of which most came from donations).But it is one of those rare organisations that are not encumbered by costly infrastructures, and their management and general expenses costs represented less than 2% of their outgoings, meaning that a full 98% went on doing theIr good works. In an age where it is not uncommon for those working in senior positions in the charities sector to be earning salaries on a par with the fat cats of the corporate world, it is interesting to note that PETA’s President earned an almost derisory $40,320 last year, and the remainder of their staff earn incomes on a scale spanning a range somewhere in between a Walmart cashier and poorly paid middle manager’s salary. In other words, PETA is staffed by genuine and committed individuals who put the cause before any notion of personal gain.

What’s not to love?

So having presented a picture of an organisation which in most animal lover’s books would qualify as borderline heroic, why is it that I feel I need to be writing a blog in defence of PETA?

As I have already alluded to, PETA evokes some pretty emotive reactions in people and isn’t as popular with the animal loving community as you might expect. The reasons for this are diverse and complicated, but a lot of them come down to some very particular causes which will be covered later. However, it’s important to understand overall why such a formidable group that does a very good job in a very tough world be on the receiving end of as much criticism as it is approbation. In an ideal world it would not provoke so much undermining negativity from those whom you would otherwise expect to be its greatest supporters. So I wish to present you with a broad spectrum of reasoning in the hope of prompting you to examine whether or not it is justifiable to revile and malign them, if you really love animals as much as you claim.

This blog/essay, like so many others, begins with a minor event in my life that sparks in me the need to convey a particular message. This one came about because I 'shared' a short video on my personal Facebook page wherein a young girl spoke of having a dream in which she awoke to a different world where animals were recognised as the soulful creatures they actually are, and are treated with respect and love. It was a simple film that made its point in a touching and thought provoking manner. It was also in possession of a 'watermark' that proclaimed the message was sponsored by PETA.

After I made the posting, I received two comments from friends expressing their approval of the video, but their disdain for PETA. On a general basis, I wasn't too surprised since I have long been aware of the disapproval showered upon the group, and the multitude of reasons why. But it was the first time friends of mine had raised their concerns. One of them went so far as to assert that they “detested” PETA, a statement that I was rather shocked by. I had assumed that such hostility and strength of feeling would be reserved for those who at best had only a peripheral knowledge of what PETA is about; but both of my friends are staunch supporters of animal welfare, and surely their understanding would have been greater? In challenging their comments, it became apparent that the feelings ran deep, and my protestations and reasoning counted for little. So it was at that point that I decided to fully explore and explain precisely why we should not be judging PETA too harshly, nor undermining their efforts with unwarranted criticism.

Where the bad begins

To understand PETA’s image, we must begin at its origins because in truth, PETA has long been the subject of controversy. Its dubious reputation and ability to polarise public response dates right back to its early days when animal liberation extremists and those who espoused violent protest as a means to effect change decided that PETA was a good place to hang their flag. It was an era when true militants were beginning the first waves of vandalism, breaking and entering, theft, arson and even cases of actual bodily harm, mostly carried out with the intention of freeing laboratory animals. Many were carried out by individuals or groups who, by implication rather than any semblance of reality, appeared to have some form of affiliation with PETA, whose fledgling campaigns were just beginning to gather pace and a certain notoriety. The truth about who sponsored or favoured what was quickly subsumed in implication and PETA’s name was bandied about in connection with more extreme bodies such as the Animal Liberation Front, simply because there were some shared core values. The press, ever anxious to point the finger and denounce, did precious little to help matters and delineate between methods, and PETA has to some extent struggled with this tainting ever since.

Yet despite being a peaceable organisation, their own methods have not exactly helped them. They have consistently employed the use of organised and hard-hitting protests combined with shock/horror tactics often left an unsuspecting public reeling. To this day, the harrowing images presented in PETA adverts have become notorious for their stomach churning impact, and have left the public at large with an uncomfortable, querulous and fearful feeling about what kind of organisation would do that to them. (See the gallery at the foot of this page for some of PETA's less shocking ads.) From PETA’s perspective, such methods are deemed necessary and justifiable to force those who will not see to confront their own apathy about the truth of the way big business treats animals. But as a consequence PETA have been painted as extremists. The argument that the truth hurts and we should face up to it (because it hurts animals far more than it does us) does not wash with those of delicate sensibilities or those with a determination to pretend that they have no culpability in what is done in their name, or disavow any ability to change the world around them.

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!

Then of course there's the fact that when it comes down to it, PETA faces us with that greatest of all evils: ourselves. There is only a tiny percentage of the population that do not benefit from at least one of those industries that PETA has set its sights upon. We may feel totally comfortable condemning the skinning alive of creatures used in the fur trade; and we may notionally have advanced sufficiently in our thinking to the point where we can see that keeping massive killer whales in ridiculously small holding tanks and making them do inane tricks for our amusement is nothing short of sadism. But do we really want to stop wearing our leather coats, abandon our lifelong carnivorous diet, miss out on that family trip to swim with captive dolphins, or use products that may cause us to have a nasty skin rash or worse? The other alarming truth about PETA is that it unendingly presents us with our own hypocrisies. Even though it may be comfortable for us to see and declare ourselves as animal lovers, we seldom process the fact that our caring is limited to what is convenient for us. In the minds of most, it is all too easy to distinguish between animals that are pets, those we regard as exotic and worthy of protecting, and those that are merely there to be exploited at our whim. But PETA does not distinguish between them and works to protect them all.

Deeply embedded within the collective consciousness, there is an unpleasant quirk of the psyche that allows us to turn a blind eye to any amount of suffering if it suits us. So when PETA throws it in our faces and doesn't allow us to look the other way or pretend ignorance, we resent them for it. Being challenged to change what is convenient and habituated in our behaviours makes us wary and even hostile towards the change agent, and PETA is certainly a change agent. To the masses, PETA are an anathema. Amongst those who do ally themselves with their cause or notionally back their efforts, even those who profess their wholehearted support, may only go half the distance with PETA’s objectives, filtering out those that are not quite so easy for them to embrace.

The biggest problem of all?

Yet it's none of the above that have created the most trouble for PETA in attempting to secure a greater mass of public endorsement and active support. Perhaps their most significant struggle in winning the hearts and minds of those whom you would expect to be their most natural supporters is an issue that has now haunted them for many years, polarising public opinion and losing them supporters in droves. It is through their actions in respect of (and stance regarding) the euthanising of animals surrendered to the shelter they operate in Virginia that PETA has suffered greatest damage.

The problems mainly began in 2011 when it was brought to widespread public attention that the Virginia facility was responsible for putting to sleep the overwhelming majority of animals surrendered to its care. That year this included 713 dogs, 1,198 cats and 54 other companion animals. This amounted to the termination of 93% of the dogs, 99% of the cats and 93% of the ‘others’. This reflected particularly badly upon PETA when it was revealed that the kill rate for other Virginia shelters averaged out at 44%.

Enter Nathan J Winograd

PETA then became the pet project (no pun intended) of one Nathan J Winograd, a graduate of no less an institution than Stanford Law School, a former criminal prosecutor and corporate attorney, turned animal advocate and proponent of a ‘zero kill’ policy in all animal shelters. Nathan is a true pet lover, renowned speaker and author of several books including ‘Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America's Animal Shelters’ and ‘Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America’. When you add to this the fact that he is a vastly experienced executive in the animal welfare arena (including periods as Director of Operations, for the San Francisco SPCA and Executive Director for the Tompkins County (NY) SPCA ), clearly Mr Winograd is himself another hero whose sterling efforts and one man war upon those who create animal suffering are to be applauded. You might imagine that he would be a natural ally of PETA. This is very much not the case!

In one of his opening salvos in the war he now wages against PETA, he declared that their almost 100% kill statistics of 2011 were not borne out of necessity, but “something more nefarious”. In critiquing their actions he described the motivations of Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder and President, as resulting from “dark impulses”. He asserted that she was a “disturbed person” and a “shameless animal killer” and likened her to those individuals who present as aberrations in the medical system: doctors or nurses who take pleasure in ‘mercy killing’ their patients.

Vehement personal attacks aside, Mr Winograd has an apparently legitimate point when he asserts that any organisation involved in animal welfare should surely not be taking those same animals lives; and his war is certainly not confined to PETA. The much larger and richer Humane Society of the United States is also a target for his wrath, as indeed is any public body purporting to have an interest in animal welfare that then, irrespective of the reasons, fails their charges.

As a matter of record, PETA have always been quite public and vociferous in advocating unwanted pet euthanasia. But since they were first (majorly) exposed in 2011, Mr Winograd has been able to unearth and report on several scandals going back over ten years involving PETA’s mistreatment (i.e. killing) of a vast range of animal that were, by all accounts, infinitely ‘adoptable’ and savable. And their misdemeanors don't stop there. They can be demonstrated to have acted with careless disregard for the well-being of their vulnerable charges on numerous occasions, and reportedly continue to treat their intake with a curious lack of consideration. One might well wonder, since these facts are so well known, why people still continue to take animals to them?

All this has prompted Mr Winograd to describe PETA as a ‘Death Cult’ and he has almost single-handedly orchestrated a movement amongst animal lovers that has resulted in the vilification of what could perhaps have otherwise been regarded simply an admirable and worthy institution. As things stand, despite this being an argument that rages within the confines of the US, word has spread, and powerful use of social media has fed poison into the veins of many who might otherwise have venerated PETA for their efforts. My friend on Facebook, in defence of my challenge to her response to PETA, simply presented me with a copy of Nathan’s latest diatribe. And in all honesty, I have to confess that in many respects their actions seem unforgivable, and their approach to this particular aspect of animal welfare is perhaps indefensible.

Apart that is, from one mitigating factor. PETA is not, nor has it ever been an animal welfare organisation. It is an animal rights organisation, a fact which should not be lost upon Mr Winograd (bearing in mind his eminent legal background) and is certainly worth highlighting and explaining to the public at large, or at least to my readers! It is a vitally important distinction that may (initially) significantly muddy the waters in determining the rights or wrongs of PETA’s actions, but may ultimately lead to greater clarity.

Understanding animal welfare vs. animal rights

Put somewhat simplistically, in essence there are two ways in which one may approach the issue of the ills that we perpetrate upon the earth’s animal population.

  1. We may deal with the animals whose lives are in imminent jeopardy.

  2. We may deal with the causes of the jeopardy.

In the first instance we would seek to protect and provide for those animals who are at risk or are facing an immediate threat to their wellbeing. This would include protection from life threatening actions taken by humans, but also extend to providing for their ongoing safety and comfort. With regard to pets, this would ultimately require the legal prevention of euthanasia (although legislation would undoubtedly incorporate various provisos and clauses wherein it would still be permissible in order to prevent suffering); and the provision of funding and facilities for misplaced or unwanted pets. These things we could classify as animal welfare.

In the second instance we would act to prevent those actions taken by humans that are threatening animals from ever arising in the first place. This might include any number of interventions, including the above, but would extend significantly beyond it by establishing legal recognition that animals are sentient beings with rights to their lives and the full protection of the law to cover mistreatment and abuse, ultimately resulting in an extension of the definition of murder to include animals. These things we could classify as animal rights.

To better understand the distinction between the two approaches, consider the following example, which is actually taken from real life.

A breeder breeds a dog that they then sell. As the best breeders do, they make the buyer sign a ‘contract’ (that is the standard, poorly worded document, and unenforceable in a court of law) that stipulates that if anything goes wrong, they will return the dog to said breeder. After a year the owner tires of the dog and sells it to another party. After a further year, this individual decides the dog is neurotic and surrenders it to their local kill shelter. The day before it is due to be terminated, a rescue group takes the dog. The dog remains on their books for a while before it goes to yet another home. (NB. If this example seems convoluted to you, you have no idea how typical this is of what happens to dogs and at least this story has a happy ending).

The standard welfare approach to this issue, one that is prevalent throughout North America and much of Europe, would be to provide care for the dog at the point when it is surrendered to the kill shelter, under the proviso that if the dog is deemed unadoptable upon intake, or if there is a subsequent failure to find the animal a new home, it faces termination. The intervention of the private rescue group provides a saving grace; but it is one that is unfortunately unavailable to (literally) millions of dogs in North America every year. As a consequence, they die at the tip of a needle, are gassed, or worse.

The welfare approach to this situation advocated by Mr Winograd would be to prevent the existence of the kill shelter and guarantee that no dogs (or any other domestic animal for that matter) would meet their end in this way. This would not prevent the breeder from continuing to breed at will with no limitations placed upon their activities. It would not prevent the subsequent owners from abandoning their pets at will, either by turning them out of their homes or depositing them in the (now) non-kill shelters. Even those who did have a conscience about what became of their pets would be able to rid themselves of unwanted animals in the knowledge that it would be the equivalent of placing their animals in a retirement home.

However, it should be noted that shelter facilities for the housing of discarded pets are often overcrowded, are of a generally low standard, very expensive to run, and provide little by way of quality of life for those who are unlucky enough to find their way into them.

The rights approach to this issue would be to work towards establishing rights for the dog that would prevent it from being treated as if it were a disposable chattel, impose duties of care upon the breeder and all subsequent owners that would be enforceable in a court of law, since they would be based upon unassailable rights and not dubious contracts.

Determining the parameters of these rights would be a matter of legal complexity almost beyond comprehension, and enforcement of them subject to a staggering number of pitfalls. Even basic human rights are by no means guaranteed and open to abuse by the powerful and unscrupulous.

Thus, the challenges presented by the latter are somewhat more formidable than the former, although both face the rising tide of animal population and the widespread indifference of humans to the plight of animals. Both face ‘finger in the dyke’ syndrome in that current circumstances are already borderline unmanageable, or at least present almost insurmountable financial problems.

What PETA is not

So for organisations that enter into these realms, there is a crucial decision to be made: Do we focus on short term welfare issues and hope things will get better; or on long term rights issues and try to make things get better at the expense of those suffering in the moment?

Without any allusion to pets in their stated objectives, PETA have opted for the rights approach. Here is their statement of purpose:

PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA educates policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promotes kind treatment of animals.

PETA's animal protection work brings together members of the scientific, judicial and legislative communities to stop abusive practices. Aided by thorough investigative work, congressional involvement, consumer boycotts, and international media coverage, PETA achieves long term changes that improve the quality of life for, and prevent the deaths of, countless animals.

They clearly stick to their four key objectives and do not reference rescue, shelters or any other aspect of provision for welfare needs. So how on earth is it that they have gotten themselves into this awful mess wherein they are laid bare and vulnerable to those who would seek to attack them as a result of cruel and unpardonable actions in the pet welfare arena, that they themselves have orchestrated?

How PETA screwed it up so badly

The answer is simple: Everybody makes mistakes and PETA, its staff and executives are no different.

When we hear the name “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” it is all too easy to assume that we know precisely what that title means. It seems all-encompassing and in this context, it is not too easy to distinguish between what ‘welfare’ and ‘rights’ would actually mean. An easy interpretation is simply that it is an organisation that wants to help animals. And most people’s exposure to animals begins and ends with pets. (Everything else is exotic or merely for food or other purposes.) Consider what most likely happened to PETA: For those who began the organisation, particularly in their grass-roots point of origin where they were able to initiate their first wave of support, it was all too easy to become the victim of your success in conveying the message of the good you intend to do. So people came to you expecting you to do good, which in all likelihood means they will be alleviated of their unwanted animal issues. And if you didn’t want to lose a burgeoning positive image that you knew would be crucial in assisting you to develop your ability to handle your true cause, you kind of went along with it. And before too long, you have yourselves an animal shelter. And despite it never being your intention, you are suddenly dabbling in animal welfare as well as animal rights.

Trying to do both things well – and failing

Of course the problem is that it’s almost impossible, without unlimited resources, to do both things well. Inevitably one will suffer if the focus is upon the other. When resources are precious, something has to give. So if you care, you are faced with the agonising choice of ‘Which methodology of tackling the overall problem should prevail?” For PETA the answer is and always has been that animal rights and the ‘bigger picture’ will always come before the short term immediate welfare needs. Reconciling the uncomfortable dilemma is perhaps solved by applying the classic philosophy popularised as stating that “The needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few or the one” (Although attributed to Mr Spock in the Star Trek movie ‘The Wrath of Khan’, it is actually derived from philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s statement that “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.")

But practical reconciliation of an intended course of action with the circumstances that face you can and has resulted in unfortunate circumstances. Whilst PETA actively support and fund neuter/spaying programs on a major scale in an attempt to deal with one of the root causes of pet overpopulation, and campaign tirelessly for adoption of both dogs and cats that find themselves in shelters, they are neither equipped, nor it seems prepared, to cope with the volume of discarded animals that come their way. They are only too aware that the problem, as circumstances stand, results in a never ending tide of unwanted souls that they simply cannot deal with without reallocating precious funds that could be better used on causes that might one day solve the whole problem. And so they openly admit that they support euthanasia, and practice it.

(NB. This approach has also gotten them into trouble for extending the philosophy to the termination of breeds that tarnish the reputation of all canines. Whilst they are acutely aware that the root of this problem lies with those who intentionally develop aggressive and harmful breed lines, or those who actively promote undesirable behaviour in their dogs, they also recognise that the harm done by one breed may all too easily tarnish the whole species. Yet those who value dogs for what they are, irrespective of what we have made them, are unable to accept an application of the Bentham/Spock philosophy and in indignant and protective reaction, add fuel to the ‘hate PETA’ fires.)

So is PETA the ‘Death Cult’ Mr Winograd would have us believe, headed by a deranged woman with animal blood lust? Well let’s consider a few more facts that seemed to get lost amidst the passion of the whole matter:

Some truths that get overlooked

At peak times in recent history, upwards of four million dogs per annum have met their deaths in US shelters that the public likes to believe are there to protect them. There are trends in kill patterns that follow the economy. Downturns that result in hardships for owners inevitably result in a cascading effect that jeopardises the lives of pets. The 2011 ‘exposure’ of PETA, although predated by other wide scale euthanisings carried out on their behalf, came in a year when the other Virginia shelters, on a number for number basis, actually euthanised even greater numbers, but significantly less when taken as an overall percentage of their intake. This made PETA look like the only villain.

At its worst, PETA has killed around 2,400 animals in any one year. This figure is, relatively speaking, not that high. Compare it with Los Angeles shelters and you may discover that in certain locations in the worst of times, PETA’s annual total achieves parity with the numbers killed every month. And overall, their rate is slightly less than the national average of pet killings carried out in all shelters across the United States.

As well as their spay and neutering programs, PETA fund free wellness and veterinary services where no others exist. Where owners permit, they deliver free custom built dog houses to areas where dogs would otherwise go without protection; they replace heavy metal chains with lightweight tie outs and replace uncomfortable makeshift collars with proper ones. They also conduct welfare visits and provide basic medications for treating parasitic infestations. Moreover, they ceaselessly campaign to ban the permanent chaining of dogs and have already achieved considerable success in persuading local authorities to ban cruel ownership practices. Despite being an organisation with international reach, their efforts are constrained by physical location and are consequently restricted to Virginia and its immediate environs. If this seems like a token effort, do recall that PETA are limited by their funding and by the attitudes of those with whom they must deal in order to promote the welfare of dogs.

With the best will in the world, although banning kill shelters would be a fine thing and something any caring individual would happily subscribe to as the policy which would be for the highest good of all, whilst animals have no rights, it would do absolutely nothing to protect them from cruel and heartless owners.

Truths about PETA

From all of this, I would conclude the following:

PETA certainly do euthanise animals and on face value, that would seem to be a departure from the intentions we may assume an organisation with such a title to have. They have done so, on occasion, in a slightly underhand manner that suggests malicious intent. But what is it? The salacious stories so beloved of the press will rapidly lead you to the conclusion that the manner in which they have sometimes gone about this suggests that they are trying to hide something. But what?

A deeper exploration of what they are about (and why) may well led you to conclude that in these actions they are no worse than any other group with finite resources that is faced with a surfeit of bodies to deal with. The distinction is in our expectations of what such an organisation is supposed to do; and frankly a complete lack of (wide scale) knowledge of the life-and-death-lottery hapless animals find themselves in when they are dispossessed of their homes by unfortunate turns of circumstance or uncaring owners.

Mr Winograd turns his scorn upon PETA because their actions are so at odds with his passionately held beliefs about the need to protect all pets. Yet it may be noted that he champions the lives of pets and not other animals. In so doing there is the tacit implication that some lives are worth more than others. He does not apparently subscribe to the belief that all animals have a right to live. Or perhaps he has realised that as an individual, he may only extend his reach so far. This approach may be contrasted with that of PETA who want to help all and have fallen into the trap of attempting to straddle both welfare, and rights camps, and have done the former badly.

A pause for thought: To revile or not to revile, that is the question

  • Does their stance and history of euthanising mean that we should now condemn PETA as a whole?

  • How are they really any worse than any other body with limited funding and an almost insurmountable problem?

  • Does the bad they do outweigh the good?

  • Do you accept that for there to be a long term solution to the horrors we humans constantly perpetrate, we must ultimately deal with the rights issue?

  • Can you accept that casualties are almost inevitable along the pathway? (Do you realise that at least 25,000 animals have been put to death while you are reading this?)

  • Do you really have enough awareness of the good things that PETA do to judge? (I have alluded to them but not allowed any space to list their many achievements in defence of the animal population.)

  • Does your passion for pets cloud your ability to view PETA objectively?

  • Are you one of those who fall foul of their causes categories and can’t possibly wholly embrace their approach anyway?

  • Are you brave enough to answer these questions honestly?

Some personal conclusions

Personally, I find euthanasia tragic and heartbreaking and something that interferes with the natural order of things. But I also accept that in the majority of instances, those perpetrating such actions are merely clearing up the mess that has been created by the thoughtlessness of others who bear no onus of accountability for their actions. Responsible ownership and spay and neuter programs may only ultimately prove to be effective in preventing unnecessary loss of life if enforced by legislation.

Personally, I advocate that PETA should pull out of welfare, entirely, now. They should stick to what they are good at and leave welfare to others; although we should not assume for one moment that they will do any better a job, they just won’t receive the same slamming for the bad they do. It should be remembered that there are many bodies that have a vested interest in PETA being the object of damning press and in such a highly charged area as pet welfare, their actions can all too easily be open to malicious and biased scrutiny that ignores all other aspects of the good that they do.

Personally, I can forgive PETA for their transgressions. There are many bodies that have done infinitely worse things in the name of animal welfare, and there always will be until animals are protected by law. Regrettably, we may not rely upon human compassion or a sense of what is just and right.

Personally, I believe that for those who really love animals, all animals, and value their lives as much as the animals themselves do, to criticise PETA and hold it in disdain is to score an own goal. It merely helps a world populated by nay-sayers and those who are unmovable, even in the face of righteous change, to hold their ground and continue in their blasé acceptance that animals are there solely for our purpose and benefit.

Personally, I know that the animal related issues that we face extend far beyond mere coverage of those whom we have chosen as companions. I see them being used as a pawn or distraction that takes our mind off the true nature of the challenges that face our society. And although they must be included in any changes that come about, animal rights issues encompass all.

Personally, I would assert that for want of forgiveness and reasoned understanding, in running down PETA we lay waste to a mighty champion that is fighting a battle on behalf of all of us, whether we realise it or not. Our lack of compassion and cruelty will be our undoing more rapidly than we may imagine.

Personally, I see a great danger that we will allow those with selfish and short sighted intent to continue to claim the lives of billions every year. (Currently 160 billion per annum, and rising, if you weren’t aware.) For the love of those in whom we can so clearly see souls, we risk fueling resistance in those who see souls in none who are not of their own kind.

Personally, my truth is that in spite of the wrongs they have done, all of PETA’s positive actions far outweigh the negative.

Personally, I think the world needs PETA.

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