PETA is often the first name that comes to mind when one hears the word “animal rights activism,” much in the same way Taco Bell is the first name that comes to mind when one hears the word “diarrhea.” But as much as we may wish it were otherwise, the diarrhea analogies in relation to PETA don’t begin and end there. As it turns out, PETA is engaged in some pretty shady activities that would make anyone sick to the stomach.
From sexist and misogynistic advertising that exploits and hyper-sexualizes women to encourage veganism, to hypocritical lawsuits and triggering campaigns that argue for animal “liberation,” PETA’s done it all. One of their master gambits was to launch their own pornography website just so they could advertise vegetarianism there. One would think that for all their problematic attitudes towards human rights, there would at least still be something to commend about their attitudes towards animals.
In all fairness, they do have their merits. PETA does seem to genuinely believe in what they do, and they do seem to genuinely care about animals. Perhaps that’s why they’re still held in such high esteem, and why they continue to have such a long list of celebrity supporters. And through these supporters, they are able to influence numerous wide-eyed teens and preteens while they’re young. And that’s where it stops being cute.
A piece by Nathan Winograd (of which you can see more here) reveals that PETA’s recruits are, in no exaggerated terms, brainwashed into their organization. Through graphic briefing videos, they are led to believe that animals are better off dead than they are “enslaved” (read: “kept as pets.”) By beating that logic into their workers’ heads, they then justify to themselves the thousands of animals they pull out of their shelters to “euthanize” (read: “murder”) every year.
As noted in the article, in 2014, PETA visited a small rural town in Virginia and began to befriend the community, familiarizing themselves with the local dog-owners there and spending time with them to promote their services. Subsequently, that October, two members of the organization then set their sights on a little girl’s dog – while the family wasn’t home.
Maya the Chihuahua was three years old when they tried to lure her away, to enough of a distance that they could deem her a “stray animal” and impound her. When Maya proved too intelligent to fall for that plan, they outright stole her from a loving home where she’d been happy and well taken care of. She was killed within hours.
PETA initially lied to the family upon being discovered on camera, claiming no dogs had been picked up from the area. They would later go on to admit to their mistakes and terminate the employees responsible, but the damage had been done. First of all, they had breached Virginia law when they put Maya to death without holding her for the required five days. Secondly, the family went on to file a lawsuit against them, and rightfully so. And last but not least, this was hardly an isolated incident.
Katina Ferguson, a PETA fieldworker, writes on the organization’s website:
“We improve [the dogs’] lot as best we can, try to persuade people to allow them indoors, show people how to care for them in basic ways, and offer euthanasia for those animals who are too far gone and unadoptable.”
The organization also claims that it’s naïve of people to believe that all animals in a shelter truly can be saved, but with an adoption rate of 2.5% for dogs and 0.5% for cats (2011), their definition of how much “all” constitutes really comes into question. PETA deems over 84% of its animals unadoptable within 24 hours of arrival, and with a kill rate that only builds from there, they’re basically every twelve-year-old Call of Duty junkie ever. The difference is they’re playing with real lives and getting away with it, because there’s no mom or dad home to say “Enough,” and because they’re fluent enough in social media and bold (wacky) advertising to say “#weredoingourbest” and “#SupportMeSenpai”* (*The aforementioned hashtags are paraphrased).
After all, like my drunk, missing, fabricated uncle used to say, ‘If you cannot practice the gospel you preach, make sure you cover up your activities with enough bullshit so that no one calls you out on it.’ We don’t know where he is, but we assume one of his advisory post-it notes found its way to PETA somehow.
And while my fictional uncle may not have been a great human being, I’m guilty of having followed his advice. I spent just enough of my teenage life on Facebook to have left some pretty humiliating online footprints. But at least I have the decency to admit it and try to grow up, and at least Uncle Abindur had the decency to get up and disappear. If PETA cannot bring themselves to do either of those things, then they are not worth the level of positive recognition we extend to them and certainly not the donations. And as long as the celebrities who endorse them fail to realize this, PETA will continue to have their hands in our upcoming generation’s strings. We need to talk about PETA, and we need to talk about them now.