People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
WHAT: The largest animal rights organization in the world.
IN DETAIL: PETA is an internationally renowned organization and a devout activist for animal rights. Using at times controversial tactics to spread its word, PETA is engaged with public education, research, legislation and animal rescue.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA /ˈpiːtə/; stylized PeTA) is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. A nonprofit corporation with nearly 400 employees, it claims that it has 6.5 million members and supporters, in addition to claiming that it is the largest animal rights group in the world. Its slogan is “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”
Founded in March 1980 by Newkirk and fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco, the organization first caught the public’s attention in the summer of 1981 during what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case, a widely publicized dispute about experiments conducted on 17 macaque monkeys inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The case lasted 10 years, involved the only police raid on an animal laboratory in the United States, triggered an amendment in 1985 to that country’s Animal Welfare Act, and established PETA as an internationally known organization. Today, it focuses on four core issues—opposition to factory farming, fur farming, animal testing, and the use of animals in entertainment. It also campaigns for a vegan lifestyle and against eating meat, fishing, the killing of animals regarded as pests, the keeping of chained backyard dogs, cock fighting, dog fighting, and bullfighting
PETA takes the following position on dogs and cats:
In a perfect world, animals would be free to live their lives to the fullest, raising their young and following their natural instincts in their native environments. Domesticated dogs and cats, however, cannot live “free” in our concrete jungles, so we are responsible for their care. People with the time, money, love, and patience to make a lifetime commitment to an animal can make an enormous difference by adopting an animal from a shelter or rescuing an animal from a perilous life on the streets.
Newkirk has stated that she doesn’t use the word “pet,” preferring the term “companion animal,” and described PETA’s vision:
For one thing, we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. There would be no pet shops. If people had companion animals in their homes, those animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelters and the streets. You would have a protective relationship with them just as you would with an orphaned child. But as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship—enjoyment at a distance.
PETA writes that millions of dogs spend their lives chained outside in all weather conditions or locked up in chain-link pens and wire cages in puppy mills, and that even in good homes animals are often not well cared for. They would like to see the population of dogs and cats reduced through spaying and neutering and for people never to purchase animals from pet shops or breeders but to adopt them from shelters instead. PETA supports hearing dog programs in which animals are taken from shelters and placed in appropriate homes but does not endorse seeing-eye-dog programs because, according to one of the group’s vice presidents, “[T]he dogs are bred as if there are no equally intelligent dogs literally dying for homes in shelters.” PETA also opposes the keeping of fish in aquarium tanks, suggesting that people view computer videos of fish instead.
PETA opposes animal testing—whether toxicity testing, basic or applied research, or for education and training—on both moral and practical grounds. Newkirk told the Vogue magazine in 1989 that even if animal testing resulted in a cure for AIDS, PETA would oppose it. The group also believes that it is wasteful, unreliable, and irrelevant to human health, because artificially induced diseases in animals are not identical to human diseases. They say that animal experiments are frequently redundant and lack accountability, oversight, and regulation. They promote alternatives, including embryonic stem cell research and in vitro cell research.[undue weight? ] PETA employees have themselves volunteered for human testing of vaccines; Scott Van Valkenburg, the group’s Director of Major Gifts, said in 1999 that he had volunteered for human testing of HIV vaccines.
PETA opposes the use of animals for producing clothing made with fur, leather, wool, or silk. It also opposes the use of down from birds and the use of silk from silkworms or spiders. The group notes on its website: “Every year, millions of animals are killed for the clothing industry—all in the name of fashion. Whether the clothes come from Chinese fur farms, Indian slaughterhouses, or the Australian outback, an immeasurable amount of suffering goes into every fur-trimmed jacket, leather belt, and wool sweater.” The group’s ongoing campaigns against the use of animals for clothing include “Ink, Not Mink,” which highlights images of celebrities with tattoos, including Brandon Flowers of the San Diego Chargers and many others.
Autism and dairy products controversy
According to ScienceBasedMedicine.org, PETA has “a history of (as the old saying goes) using science as a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than illumination. In that way they are typical of ideological groups. They have an agenda, they are very open about their beliefs, and they marshal whatever arguments they can in order to promote their point of view.”