Image via WikipediaPeople for the ethical Treatment of Animals is perhaps the world's most vocal animal rights organization. And the philosophy they preach is undeniably that of Animal RIGHTS as opposed to Animal WELFARE. For the unreconcilable differences to these two philosophies please consult a list of "Important Essays" on the sidebar. As animal rightists they are famed for the slogan "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy". In fact, their militant stance that puts animals at least at the same level as a "retarded human child", is representative in the way their campaigns shamelessly juxtapose scenes of real and apparent animal suffering with that of humans i.e. comparing factory farming with
the holocaust. It is very easy to find lists of statements given by their representatives and founders that make this strong assertion in line with the principles originally set down by Peter Singer in his book "Animal Liberation". They believe that all human usage of animals is a form of unjustifiable exploitation. Not only does this mean that pet ownership is the equivalent of slavery, but also that breeding is a form of racism.
This radical view was brilliantly sent up by the irreverent "South Park" adult animated series in the episode "The Douche and the Turd". The episode depicted PeTA as essentially a compound of eco-terrorists who put animals' rights over humans. This began with the group attacking the school and forcing them to give up their cow mascot. Form teacher, Mr Garrison wryly comments that "The eco-terrorists win again". The kids are in uproar at having to lose their mascot due to claims that it degrades the animal is offensive to PeTA's sensibilities. Mr Garrison tries to appease them by explaining their are plenty of other mascots they can use instead such as "Indians and Red Skins" to which the shrewd Wendy says "But isn't that just as offensive". Garrison explains that it's okay because "PeTA doesn't care about humans". Later the lead character Stan is exiled for not refusing to vote and ends up at a PeTA compound where the group's love for animals seems to extend to marrying them and breeding with them. When the group's leader offers his "daughter", a llama as a bride, Stan refuses explaining that "I love animals but not the way you love animals".
It's all great satire and in many ways really nails the whole nuttiness of the Animal Rights philosophy. If only PeTA were that sincere! The truth is that the organization has regularly been proven to be hypocrites. The truth is that aside from the fact that one of their highest ranked officials is dependent on medication that has been tested on animals is just one glaring example of personal hypocrisy. However, as was revealed in several texts before Penn and Teller's excellent and critically acclaimed episode of "Bullshit!", PeTA actually kills animals. In fact, there is at least one entire website aptly called "PeTA Kills Animals" that looks into the undeniable evidence - published accounts - that reveals the fate of PeTA's "rescued" animals.
However, don't just take the word of those who generally fight animal activism. Here is a quote from the blog of an unashamed animal activist and vegan (link provided in text to his anti-PeTA blog):
"The numbers are finally in. In 2010, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) impounded 1,553 cats. They killed 1,507 and found homes for only 28. Another 9 were transferred to killing shelters and their fates are unknown. That’s a 97% rate of killing. In 2010, they took in 792 dogs and put 693 to death. They found homes for only 16, with 54 sent to killing shelters and their fates are unknown. That is, at best, an 88% rate of killing."
So, let's take stock here. This is a group that promotes the militant and radical philosophy of extending rights in some form to animals - valuing them on a moral ground in the same way as we regard humans - and yet then believes it has the right to exterminate the vast majority of animals in their care. There are many different charities and organizations that rescue animals in some form or another. Many provide shelters and try to re-home abandoned pets. Some advocate a euthanasia policy, such as the UK's political animal welfare charity the RSPCA. Others such as the non-political animal welfare charity, The Blue Cross, have a no-kill-unless-absolutely-necessary policy. "Absolutely necessary" is generally defined as being medical reasons. And yet, PeTA, who are perhaps the world's second largest animal rights charity after the Human Society of the United States clearly cannot implement this policy.
I will leave to consider what PeTA might mean by the word "ethical". We might find their philosophy hilarious and ridiculous, but the money they generate, the people they persecute and the hypocrisy they clearly show are no laughing matters...