The animal activist organization PETA is nothing if not self-aware, attracting multitudes of press at every turn.
Veganism and PETA are (fortunately or unfortunately) synonymous to most mainstream media outlets, which assume every person who gives up meat and dairy also walks around with a can of red paint and gets naked for the sake of animals.
Those within the meat-free community know otherwise. Within any subculture, there is rarely complete assimilation to the exact same beliefs and behaviors. Not all vegans are activists, just like not all cyclists do so for the environment.
Regardless, PETA is ultimately the gate-keeper for the broader world to understand the animal rights movement. And what a contentious gate that is.
The fast food industry is taking on PETA’s attempts to demonize them, and has unleashed a series of documents regarding some unethical behaviors of the nonprofit. A few months ago if you Googled PETA, you probably would’ve been greeted with images of supermodels in cages wearing nothing but body paint, or some controversial billboards shaming overweight children.
Now, a PETA search turns up some pretty damning stuff. A restaurant advocacy group, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has released documents saying PETA murders most of the animals in its shelters.
I’m sorry, what?
Investigators visited a Norfolk, Va. PETA shelter a couple of years ago. But they reportedly didn’t find happy cats and dogs in cages. Animals housed there were not available to be seen by the public, because adoptions weren’t really a primary function of the shelter. Euthanasias were. Ninety percent were put down within the first 24 hours.
The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) obtained documents using the Freedom of Information Act, that show PETA killed 95.9 percent of its adoptable pets during 2011. The state average for kills is closer to 50%. Eek.
But, it’s not exactly that easy. CCF is a notoriously biased organization that targets animal activist organizations like PETA on behalf of the greater food industry. If PETA says, “Go Vegetarian,” that might hurt a burger chain’s profits.
A quote from CCF’s website:
“Unfortunately, Americans have been force-fed a diet of bloated statistics hyping the problem of obesity. Those statistics have been used by Big Brother government bureaucrats and greedy trial lawyers to justify a host of noxious ‘solutions,’ like extra taxes on certain foods and lawsuits against anyone who grows, makes, or serves anything tasty.”
Jezebel reported this sounds an awful lot like a conservative buzzword party. But, as much could be said for PETA’s phrasing for the left:
“Our mission is to get the animal rights message to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task. Unlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations, PETA must rely on getting free ‘advertising’ through media coverage.”
CCF created the website PETAKillsAnimals.com to ward off this opposition to wealthy industries and corporations.
To combat the coverage, PETA spokesperson Jane Dollinger told Jezebel:
“CCF is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year — and do so not out of compassion, but out of greed.
CCF puts out this release every year when we submit our numbers to the state. We have a small division that does hands-on work with animals, and most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable. […] CCF’s goal is to damage PETA by misrepresenting the situation and the number of unwanted and suffering animals PETA euthanizes…”
CCF however says its relationships are irrelevant. The documents are the government’s. PETA isn’t exactly known for being friendly to no-kill shelters either. But, factory farms that supply meat, dairy and eggs to restaurants like KFC and Outback Steakhouse are equally horrific, for no other reason than taste.
The issues of domestic pet overpopulation and the health of Americans who rely on a fast food diet are real problems with no easy solutions. Where fast food ads are misleading and dangerous, PETA’s marketing tactics often enter into the shady arena of body shaming, sexism and shock value.
Does it really matter who wins the fight, if neither team is playing fair?
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, SteFou!