People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an American animal rights organization based in Virginia, USA. The organization’s motto is,
“Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment and abuse in any other way.”
Presently, it focusses on four major issues – opposition to fur farming, animal farming, animal testing and use of animals for the purpose of entertainment. It primarily campaigns for the adoption of a Vegan Lifestyle and is against meat eating, killing of pests, chained keeping of backyard dogs, beekeeping, etc. The organization is known to run strong advertisements in order to mobilize the support of the masses for its strongly worded campaigns.
It is universally accepted that, actions speak louder than words. Let’s take a look at how and why PETA’s actions differ than its ideologies which seem to exist only on paper.
Animals spending their lives in shelters is something PETA condemns strongly. It feels that is not solving the problem of homelessness for them, but merely keeping them alive. It is of the view that animals need more than just food and water to survive, they need companionship, playtime, and love. However, the organization also feels that unwanted animals are better off dead, essentially and believes that euthanasia is a dignified way to put them down. In 2011, the organization euthanized the overwhelming majority of dogs and cats that it accepted into its shelters. Out of 760 dogs impounded, they killed 713, arranged for 19 to be adopted, and farmed out 36 to other shelters. As for cats, they impounded 1,211, euthanized 1,198, transferred eight, and found homes for a grand total of five. PETA also took in 58 other companion animals - including rabbits. It killed 54 of them.[i]
It believes that provocative and controversial campaigns expose important yet depressing subjects to the public. A few instances of such strong campaigns include the depiction of horrific animal cruelty, such as cats being used for experiments, throwing buckets of blood at people wearing fur, etc. However, these shock campaigns mostly come off as disturbing visuals and earn the disapproval of many.
In 2016, in its yet another controversial ad, it claimed that the poultry industry is running on artificial insemination and how that is a result of rape; thereby triggering and invalidating the suffering of rape survivors. While we totally agree that the sexual violence animals experience is important and needs to be discussed urgently, it should be done without dehumanizing rape survivors and invalidating their trauma. PETA is also seen making outrageous claims about how dairy products cause autism, without any scientific backing. in 2010, The University of Texas investigated these studies and found them to be scientifically inaccurate.
With slogans such as, “Fight obesity: go vegan”, and, “Lose the blubber: go vegetarian”, PETA doesn’t even attempt to hide its blatant fat shaming. This glorification of weight loss is incredibly harmful, and completely disrespects the countless vegans of size who do amazing work to promote veganism and advocate animal rights.
One of the most ridiculous ad campaigns that it has run till date, was suggesting the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Company to substitute cow’s milk for making their ice creams with human breast milk.
PETA is of the opinion that, because people have domesticated animals it has resulted in an overpopulation disaster. According to it, animals would have been much better off if breeding them for pets never took place. It contends that the “selfish” practice of keeping animals as pets keeps the animals from behaving naturally. This leads to a great number of pet owners distancing themselves from this stance of the organization. This also disregards the needs of differently abled persons who need pets in order to carry out the day to day activities of their lives; as can be seen in the case of blind persons needing guide dogs.
In its mission to prevent people from eating meat, instead of relying on scientific facts like how moving away from meat-based products will substantially reduce the Carbon Footprint and be sustainable for all, PETA relies more on making people feel ashamed and guilty for being non vegetarians. It exaggerates the negative impact eating too much meat can cause, and they refuse to acknowledge that meat is cheaper and not everyone can afford to go completely vegan.
PETA has been on the receiving end of this criticism since quite some time. It is important to understand that asking for recognition of animal rights and urging everyone to respect and uphold the same is the need of the hour, and is justified both, morally and ethically. However, the means one employs to convey this to the masses have to be just, less disturbing and more impactful in order to achieve the intended aim. Instead of spending the donations of thousands of dollars on the blatantly sexist and dehumanizing PR Campaigns, one should definitely consider supporting many other animal care charities who actually strive without due recognition and care about making a difference.