Save us from PETA

In tough economic times — heck, all the time when you think about it  — trying to decide which charitable organizations deserve our donations is difficult. And the decision is further complicated when those charities are widely misunderstood. To clarify the nature of some key animal welfare groups, then: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are primarily educational organizations. PETA and the ASPCA have one affiliated shelter each, HSUS runs five sanctuaries in partnership with The Fund for Animals.

Other organizations that use terms like “Humane Society” and “SPCA” in their names bear no relationship to the national HSUS or ASPCA. NONE. They are all independent of each other. That’s why it’s so difficult to gather reliable statistics about how many pets are sent to shelters and killed there each year. And it’s also why what I write about HSUS should not reflect on any local organization with a similar name.

Ok. After my last post, I promised to explain why I agreed with Nathan Winograd’s dissing of PETA and HSUS, though not with the context in which he does it.


Even before I learned about its relation to actual animals — more on which in a minute — PETA has always pissed me off. Animals, they claim to care about. Women… not so much. Their sexist ads come in two varieties: Ones that showcase gorgeous model types as vegetarians (see here) and others that shame fat women (as in the billboard pictured above).

And then there’s the whole making animal activists look like idiots by taking their defenses to absurd lengths — for example, when President Obama killed a fly.

But that’s just a question of style and tactics. The real problem is that PETA doesn’t treat animals ethically. It advocates killing certain breeds — and it actually kills them. Warning: I’m going to insert a link to a site that supports this last claim with an opening image that is graphic and disturbing; I couldn’t find one that gathered as much information in a single place. But PETA is all about shock so posting this site illustrating president Ingrid Newkirk’s philosophy and actions is fair.

This is a more recent article about the single shelter affiliated with PETA. It’s awful too, just not as viscerally upsetting.

Enough for today. In my opinion, nothing that HSUS has done compares, and I don’t want to put them in the same category. And I promise to leave my next post on a more uplifting note.

42 thoughts on “Not-So-Sweet Charity, 1: PETA”

  1. Great post, Edie. PETA, more than any other organization, really pisses me off, too. Because of their sensationalist, aggressive tactics, they have soured a lot of people on “animal rights” issues. Their version of activism has a real sway on public opinion – and, unfortunately, they tend to turn people off of animal advocacy. Instead of helping to enact real change, they create hurdles for organizations that are truly trying to provide better lives for animals.

    1. Thanks, Maggie. Yeah, it’s really upsetting to have PETA be the face of animal welfare — and be so vocal about it. Makes it easy for the public to trivialize important issues, just like they do.

  2. Thanks for the additional info, Edie….I like hearing about how you see this issue! This’ll definitely help me to understand the differences among organizations and how they acheive the mission of protecting animals.

      1. You had asked in FB for other animal organizations we support. Although I can’t say that I actually support them, yet, I have found one that I want to start supporting. Just looks like such a neat sanctuary only a few hours from my back yard..

  3. I’m so glad your are writing about this and I cannot wait to read you upcoming posts about HSUS and ASPCA. PETA has always pissed me off because of their adds, but I’ve only recently learned about their UNethical treatment of animals. As for HSUS, I don’t like them either. I was giving them money every month. For years. And then after the Vick fiasco and learning more from my well-informed Twitter buddies I decided I didn’t want to support them anymore. I asked the HSUS more than once to stop charging my credit card. They said they would and then the next month, there was the charge. I finally got so fed up that I changed my credit card to get HSUS off my back. Great post! BTW I didn’t go to the graphic link. It’s good you posted it, it’s just not how I wanted to start my day.

    1. Thanks, Deborah. Just to clarify, I’m not going to post anything negative about the ASPCA; they’ve made mistakes but on the whole do more good than not. I totally understand about the graphic link; I hesitated to put it up but then decided I would give people the choice.

      Interesting story about HSUS. Aside from everything else — and feel free to send me links — I feel that they’re a badly run organization. But more on that…

      1. Are you going to post about the ASPCA? I hope so. I’m inclined to agree with you that overall they are good organization. I haven’t done my own research. Given how much bad press they receive in some quarters it might help to read another point of view. My only dealing with the ASPCA is with their poison control center which has been very helpful.

        BTW, I think you did the right thing by making the graphic link available to readers. Just not my cup of coffee.

        1. Hmmm. It hadn’t occurred to me to do a positive post about the ASPCA but that’s a good idea; I’m getting depressed being negative! I like their Meet Your Match program very much.

  4. I could NOT agree more. I’d never give a dime to either PETA or HSUS. Lots of noise, very little action to really help animals. There are stories of the HSUS media machine swooping in after Katrina and giving HSUS t-shirts to people already there working, then using photos of those people in their fundraising … like LOOK at what we’re doing. Um … really?

    Personally, I have friends who work at ASPCA, and I often use their experts in article research. Still … I tend to give my money to local organizations because it feels more hands-on to me.

  5. I can’t stand PETA. I have always found that any organization that is so out in left field ends up doing things that go against everything they claim to stand for. And I agree with the first poster- PETA has given animal activism a bad name. Now if I talk about the rights of animals- I often get eyes rolled at me- and I do blame PETA specifically for this.

    1. Not to be contentious — oh, ok, contentiousness R us! — could you tell me what good PETA has done? Seriously, I’d be interested to know. I seem to recall an undercover film they took that revealed horrible conditions in a farm but I can’t think of anything else that has made them stand out in a positive (or I should say effective) way.

      1. Alrighty, here goes 🙂

        – They do a lot of undercover work. After a recent investigation of Professional Laboratory and Research Services they filed a complaint with US Department of Agro and they ended up having to close their doors. Apparently the workers were very cruel to their “subjects” (dogs and cats).

        – They continue to put a lot of pressure on pet food companies- namely Iams: They focus on Iams because Iams touts themselves a leader in the industry and PETA pushes them to act like a leader, ie. to not conduct cruel/unnecessary tests on animals (this was interesting to me- got me to check out if my dog food company conducted in lab tests on animals- it doesn’t (Orijen) :))

        – They shed light not only on how cruel the fur industry is, but also other materials used in fashion, encouraging designers to understand the mediums they are working with (graphic video):

        – PETA had an impact on the makeup industry, encouraging heaps of companies to go cruelty-free (it is insane to me to think that putting mascara in a rabbit’s eyes makes sense. So arbitrary and ridiculous)

        PETA’s Mission Statement:
        PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds, and other “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals

        From their FAQ’s:
        Why does PETA use nudity: Summary: for the free press + a bunch of stars volunteered to do it & it caught on

        Why is PETA so in-your-face: Summary: for the free press

        Now I will learn more about the dark side of what they do. I dunno- I find it hard to believe that they would run around killing companion animals for something to do- but I don’t know very much about it so I will have to continue to learn more about it.

        Sorry for the long comment 🙂

  6. Very interesting series, starting with your post on Nathan Winograd. I don’t want to say to much, as I know too little of the situation in the US and how you have organized yourself. But it is not difficult see that what PETA is doing has nothing to do with what they were set out to do. The “graphical image” says it all. How they can link prevention of animal cruelty with actually killing certain breeds, is something my brain can not follow.

    The question that kept coming back in my head was, how can they actually get away with this?

    1. I’m really not sure how PETA gets away with it except that maybe the media focuses so much on their sensationalism that they never investigate their actual policies towards animals. It was interesting: Rachel Maddow, the host of a progressive TV show, cited the claims of a right wing group that PETA kills animals as part of a litany of of the group’s lies — only in this case it was accurate. Clearly, PETA’s reputation as a radical animal rights group is so firmly entrenched in the popular imagination that progressives don’t think to investigate it, only groups who would want to harm the cause of animal welfare. Ironic.

  7. I used to donate to PETA, but it didn’t take long for me to get disgusted with their tactics. Didn’t know about this aspect of their group. I adopted from a volunteer driven, registered rescue group within my geographical area and primarily support them.

  8. Interesting stuff. One of the challenges local humane societies face is that people often believe that their donation to HSUS somehow helps to support their local shelter.

    HSUS was the group that went to Sunny’s hoarder’s site to deal with the animals there.

    I look forward to reading more on this subject.

    1. I’d love to hear some positive stories too. How did HSUS get involved in helping Sunny? I didn’t know they did outreach like that.

  9. Hi–Thanks, Edie, for posting this information so succinctly. I also read everyone’s comments. However, I (ok, here it comes) like PeTA for some of the education work they’ve done in the past, their original intent, and some work they’re doing now. I don’t know what you have read, if anything, about some of their recent work, since most people won’t go past the dog killings, but I do have some friends who work for PeTA, and they’re not bad people at all. They care very much for animals and go the extra mile. PeTA does use some sensational tactics to get people’s attention and coverage that they wouldn’t get otherwise. I don’t like their dark side, but I don’t condemn them outright for what they do in general. I also like HSUS for their message and education they’ve provided as well. I think all organizations of that size have dark and corrupt sides, just like politicians.

    I’m not defending their horrific actions one bit, but again, they have done a good job in educating the public about animal rights. I am an AR supporter, and I’m a reasonable person who doesn’t condone anything that these organizations do to harm animals.

    Thanks, and please don’t jump on me! I do respect what others say here and have taken it to heart. I realize I’m in the minority. As a progressive liberal, I’m used to it!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Hilary; I appreciate your perspective. There’s no jumping on anyone on this blog! As you can see, Shauna also posted in defense of PETA — and that’s a good thing because I respect you both.

      1. Hi Edie–thanks. I do get defensive when my core values are questioned! I don’t think Shauna or I are actually “defending” PeTA; at least for me, I’m just trying to say they’re not all evil or bad. Shauna did present some of their positives and good works. I think if we focus on those, we’ll be better off than just focusing on negatives, as many seem to do. Human nature, I think. I do it, too!

        I do, however, agree that we should all investigate and research as much as possible. Building upon partial facts is not a good thing, IMHO.

  10. PETA has done a lot of good, however killing dogs due to their breed is never ok. I donate to our local shelter, this way I know the money is going to help animals without a question. Maybe if enough people make it known we’re upset to put it mildly about PETA killing animals, enough pressure will be put on them to stop those practices.

    1. Kelley, to clarify. PETA — or at least their president — advocates killing dogs due to their breed. The animals actually and shockingly killed at their shelter were of all different breeds.

      1. Actually, PETA advocates killing all breeds. They are completely against companion animals, zoos, research, and all things animal related. They use scare tactics, bullying, and outright lies to attempt to further their agenda (just explore the site I link below). It just so happens that Ingrid has a special hatred for pitbulls because she was bitten by a dog supposedly of that type (which is a whole different subject).

        They have adopted out ridiculously few animals in the last ten years. They’ve killed thousands. Although the name of this site is sensationalist, it’s true, and if you look and check links, they have the documents to back it up… PETA Kills Animals

        Just a few facts? PETA has killed over 21,000 pets in twelve years. Ingrid has been quoted as saying that even if research with animals resulted in a cure for AIDS, they’d be against it.

        Two PETA employees were arrested a few years ago for euthanising animals in their van and dumping the bodies in a dumpster behind a department store.

        PETA also backs (read:paid for) a supposed medical advocate group which appears based almost entirely on veganism and lies. About Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine: A committee supposedly OF physicians has less than 5% membership claiming to be medical professionals. And even those cannot be confirmed as actually licensed. The AMA does not support the group in any way. I came across the group awhile ago and had my suspicions before reading about PETA’s connection.

        The HSUS is no better. Their agenda is essentially the same. They operate NO shelters and have often lobbied for the euthanasia of animals when perfectly capable rescue groups are willing and trying to evaluate and care for them (see the book “Bandit”). About HSUS

        Remember that your local HS is NOT associated in any way and each one is independently run and supported.

        My personal research is unable to find solid evidence of the ASPCA being on nearly as negative a level as the others. There is talk about ridiculous policies, but upon reading them, I’d have to say they are basic opinions and indicate the group accepts that not everyone will agree. There are some I disagree with, such as pediatric sterilization at two months and two pounds, but I do believe the group appears to have animal’s best interests at heart. Although one website mentions connections with PETA and the HSUS, there appears to be one major difference between the goals and policies of the organizations:

        Animal RIGHTS vs. Animal Welfare
        PETA, HSUS, and other radical groups scream about Animal Rights, while the ASPCA supports Animal Welfare and humane handling. These are two very different things. Think of the definition of “rights.” People have rights, such as the right to bear arms, the right to vote, the right to equality…and so on. With that in mind, what are Animal Rights? You get into sticky territory…don’t they then have the “right” to breed at will? Don’t they have the “right” to choose their own food, homes, companions, etc.? They would have the “right” to be aggressive, attack, and protect home, property, and self.

        While I am personally against the idea of animals as “property” in the same sense of a computer, car, or home, I am certainly more supportive of that line of thought than of Animals as Citizens.

        Find me supported data (not just associated press articles, editorials, or blog entries) in favor of any of these organizations, and I’ll be happy to reconsider my position. Until then, I’ll stick to my local shelter and keeping these groups far away from my companion animals.

        1. Thanks for this, including your links. I can’t go along with putting PETA and HSUS in the same category — I just don’t see HSUS as “radical.” Whatever their faults — and I’ll get into the problems I have with them — they don’t give animal welfare a bad name in the same way that PETA does because the public perception of them isn’t so negative, Michael Vick aside (and yeah, I know that’s a big aside…)

          1. P.S. I just linked to the first anti HSUS site in your comment and I’m suspect about its agenda. If you read Mary Haight’s comment about what HSUS does overseas — and I trust her information without reservation — you’ll see that one of the earliest statements about HSUS (i.e., that they’re not involved in spay neuter programs) is inaccurate.

          2. I don’t know that the HSUS is sending money to homeland terrorists like PETA (yeah, it’s in the articles), but to clarify a little bit, I consider the basic IDEA of Animal “Rights” to be radical.

            Have to be careful with that, though, since many people don’t really think about (or know of) the difference and use the term interchangably with “welfare” and others. The difference never occurred to me until someone pointed it out.

            As for the Vick issue with HSUS, it is a big aside, but I’ll give it to you because there was a lot of debate even among us Pit Bull advocates about how to handle the dogs. The major contention against HSUS was they did not appear to even want the dogs to be evaluated, and most advocates pushed for evaluation if experts were available and willing.

            Unfortunately, I do not have links to other articles on the HSUS, but I have read some pretty crazy ones I won’t get into because I can’t support it at the moment.

            I certainly appreciate your balanced approach and willingness to hear everyone out. Going to be a regular reader just for that reason!

          3. Thank you. I’m surprised that people (you’re not the only one) seem to think welcoming different viewpoints is unusual! I must be reading only open-minded blogs ;-). What’s the point of a comments section if you’re not interested in hearing what others have to say — as long as those others are respectful?

  11. None of these groups are all bad, but PeTA gets beat up by everyone because of their sensationalist approach to advertising, and that billboard is just ignorant. It’s the small minded meanness, the controversy for controversy’s sake, the stupidity of thowing paint that the public now associate with PeTA, and by extension to all Animal Rights people. So AR gets laughed out of the room. And that killer death rate of animals they save–makes it look like they only take animals on their way out of this life. They have done some good work, as HSUS has done good work.

    HSUS has always existed to lobby for animals. They were not formed to be a shelter. They have an international arm performing spay neuter work, this past year they contracted with the government of Bhutan, a Buddhist country where the stray populations were getting dangerously large, they have set up a spay/neuter clinic in Louisiana, a few years after Katrina I believe. They have worked on the crush video Supreme Court case, and many other bigger picture laws. While it’s true they milk the fundraising for all it’s worth, they have representatives in all 50 States and what they do costs a lot of money. Transparency is there as is required. It was fundraising off the backs of the work that the shelters who partner with them do that makes people resent them.

    ASPCA does a lot of good, but they aren’t national, really, are they? Everyone knows them, but they don’t spread their money around outside New York, do they? They may be involved in some transporting of animals work, but I don’t know.

    1. Thanks for this Mary — especially for the clarification about the good that HSUS does. I think of ASPCA as being national in the sense that programs such as Meet Your Match are used in shelters across the country, their poison hotline is accessible to everyone etc. They also take part in lots of animal rights legislation.

      I’ve got to admit– and I’m tucking this away in a comment at the end of a very long thread — that my negative feelings about PETA go back a long way and are very personal: My mother was a fur finisher, ie., she sewed seams on fur coats in a small shop in Brooklyn. Her (our) livelihood was threatened by PETA’s tactics. Small shops like the one where she worked would have closed anyway, no doubt, and I now can see the cruelty of wearing fur from a different perspective. What I saw then — and still do — is a bunch of well-to-do publicity hounds who had no clue about the economic impact of their actions on families like mine.

  12. I’ve never viewed PETA as a charity. They use a lot shock advertising that I find really offensive, and believe me, it takes quite a lot to offend me. They could have been an org. to do good but their adverts have turned off a lot of folks.

    Their shelter has a 95% kill rate and when they were protesting at the Westminster Dog Show, why didn’t they hold up signs about the genetic disasters that a lot of this show breeding has created?

    I feel that PETA doesn’t really care about animals and that their fund raising campaigns are misleading.

  13. Just to clarify some statements: PETA is NOT against companion animals and anything animal-related. Ingrid Newkirk has companion animals, as does many of their employees/volunteers. That is an old myth… Also, they have come out against BSL. I am not defending some of the stuff they do, but many people cling to myths they hear without checking the facts. I am trying to be realistic about this on both sides of the coin, but get defensive when I hear a few of these things. Facts are one thing, urban legends are another.

    That said, I’m reading all the posts with an open mind. I’m glad we have a forum here to say what we think. I hope you all don’t go the route of hate and name-calling…

    1. So far, so good! Thanks for coming back. I really do appreciate different viewpoints. Links are appreciated too so if you have anything supportive about PETA, please provide.

  14. Wow! Lots of commentary on this one. So sorry I missed it until today!

    I have a ton of thoughts and feelings on all these groups, but first, THANK YOU for clarifying HSUS and Humane Societies across the United States. Our little shelter often misses out on dollars because people assume participating in the AHS Walk for Animals is for all the shelters. Wrong! Each shelter has to raise money on it’s own and little if anything ever comes from HSUS. I wish they would be more up front with that. In this regard, they are no better than dog food companies who “dump and run” with their dog food and treat recalls. It’s bait-and-switch and I hate it.

    Re: PETA, HSUS and ASPCA – I think they all have their good and bad points. Too often in the animal world we demonize one group over another. The truth is ALL of them do good work (and bad) and all of them could improve their image if they were only more up front about what they do, how they do it and where the money goes. I think PETA turns people off with it’s shock-and-awe approach and HSUS lost me when they supported Vick. But, I have had both organizations take on causes or answer my questions responsibly and responsively.
    The ASPCA isn’t all bad, but I think they’re decision to hold a conference and invite CM lost some people. I wrote about it in my blog post here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *