PeTA has much to say about the awkward situation they now find themselves in, viz., having had 2 of their operatives — Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle — busted for multiple counts of felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor charges of illegally disposing of dead animals.
PeTA has issued a statement, and you can get your own machine-generated email response by writing to PeTA at firstname.lastname@example.org (it may take a few days).
The long and the short of it is that PeTA and their spokesmen are circling the wagons — they have a PR disaster on their hands, and they know it.
What caught my eye, first of all, is the cant. PeTA's posturing (as of now) is less a response to the hapless Hinkley/Cook adventure, and much more a response to the Center for Consumer Freedom's announcement that PeTA's animal facility is much more a killing zone than it is sanctuary. As I look at the PeTA's statement, Hinkle and Cook seem to be mere props for PeTA's rather theatrical efforts to focus attention back on the virtuous image PeTA so carefully cultivates, rather than on the allegations against Cook and Hinkle.
We see this in their statement: the second paragraph segues neatly from a cursory supportive nod towards Cook and Hinkle to "PeTA the Virtuous:"
I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Hinkle ever being cruel to any animal and I know for a fact that cruelty to animals tears her apart. She has only ever tried to help animals in North Carolina and is deeply upset by this incident. She has helped countless animals there, delivering free dog houses and straw in winter to dogs with nothing or next to nothing; locating dogs and cats who need veterinary care for which PETA has then paid the bills; and even getting PETA to build a whole cat shelter from the ground up. PETA has provided euthanasia services to various counties in that state to prevent animals from being shot behind a shed or gassed in windowless metal boxes, both practices that were carried out until PETA volunteered to provide a painless death, free of charge. . . .
From this point on, PeTA talks almost exclusively about their own virtue, not about Hinkle and Cook. And it seems clear to me that the thrust of PeTA's statement is directed towards dispelling questions raised by CCF's communiqués of several weeks ago announcing the appalling number of animals PeTA kills every year.
It comes as no surprise to me that PeTA's justification is one based firmly in Animal Welfare, not in Animal Rights (for those who don't know the difference between AW and AR, see this, this and this):
[ . . . ]
As you know, we believe euthanasia as a kindness for dogs and cats who are born into a world that doesn't want them, has not cared for them, and ultimately has abandoned them to be disposed of. We welcome discussion of this issue because the sad fact is that there too few good homes to go around, people patronize pet shops where dogs and cats can be bought on a credit card, and too few people spay and neuter their animals or keep animals for a lifetime.
Euthanasia as kindness . . . Well, if that's the case, then PeTA's brimming over with kindness. They're far kinder than similar shelters in their area.
PeTA kills a far higher percentage (for 1 five year period, well over 75%) than do some other shelters in their region: For example, in 2003, PeTA killed 85% of the animals they accepted (undoubtedly for kindly reasons), while the Norfolk SPCA killed 27% and the Virginia Beach SPCA killed a mere 34% (for equally kindly reasons). So I guess PeTA's about twice as kind as their nearest competitor!
PeTA's President Ingrid Newkirk is on the record as claiming that PeTA could operate a no-kill shelter immediately. But they choose not to because, Newkirk claims, most of the animals PeTA accepts are un-adoptable, and that killing them is the humane thing to do.
Even if this palpably silly claim were true, I'd argue that the animals which are not adoptable are precisely the ones that PeTA — as the world's flagship Animal Rights organization — should succor, keep alive, give safe harbor to. After all, they are the most vulnerable, the most needy.
If animals have "rights," they shouldn't lose them merely because PeTA finds it inconvenient to keep them, or because they are intractable or un-adoptable. This is especially true when you consider PeTA's annual budget (see below) — PeTA has the resources to keep them alive, but does not.
Keep in mind that PeTA is an Animal Rights group not an Animal Welfare group. By killing these animals, PeTA violates the core belief of their ideology. Indeed, prominently displayed on the banner of the PeTA front page, we can read that animals are not ours to eat, use for entertainment, wear or use in research.
Animal Rights people push the idea that if it is immoral or unethical to do something to a human, it is equally immoral or unethical to do it to an animal. That's the belief that distinguishes AR from AW, the belief that drives Animal Rights activists.
But in this case, PeTA kills animals for a greater good — to reduce suffering — even as they are on record as damning scientists who are similarly motivated (Ingrid Newkirk herself said: "Even if animal tests produced a cure [for AIDS], 'we'd be against it.'").
PeTA's opposition to animal based research is rooted in moral purity, not pragmatics. So Newkirk and her AR ilk have rejected the (pragmatic) "greater good" argument, and hold that it is morally unjustifiable to use some animals for biomedical research even if it were to reduce the suffering of countless humans and other animals.
Yet PeTA kills animals and advocates the spaying and neutering of them as well, using precisely the same "greater good to reduce suffering" logic. For PeTA to kill animals merely because they cannot be adopted, not to mention for PeTA to advocate spaying and neutering, is for PeTA to willfully deprive animals of their right to life and their right to reproduction.
It is for PeTA to abandon the Animal Rights position in favor of an Animal Welfare position.
If the Animal Rights position is that "human persons" and "non-human persons" deserve equal protection for their interests (and this is the AR position), PeTA's killing of animals and their support for spaying and neutering raises an ugly question.
Would PeTA apply the same expedient logic to dealing with "undesirable" categories of human beings? Would they kill people because it would be more inconvenient not to? Would PeTA endorse forced sterilization for humans?
If it is true that experimenting on animals, caging them, eating them is the moral equivalent of doing the same with humans, why is killing animals and spaying and neutering them any different?
PeTA has some questions to answer.
PeTA's statement continues with this paragraph, which continues the theme of "we're-helpless-victims-who-can-do-nothing-but-kill." But then it segues neatly to PeTA's virtue: it turns out that PeTA has spent $240,000 to care for animals:
Although we have indeed placed dogs and cats from North Carolina in homes -- in fact, we have two cats and one dog from there living in our offices now -- dogs from N.C. pounds often have conditions like Parvo virus or contagious mange. Many have lived all their lives on a chain (one yesterday had a chain embedded deeply into his infected neck) and are not generally socialized or attractive to people, most of whom are looking for small, cute, housebroken puppies without medical problems. If anyone feels they can offer a home to any animal, please go to your shelters now, as there are many there who are waiting for you. PETA has certainly not created the problem of overpopulation and we seek to solve it by subsidizing spay/neuter services, but we do not and will not hesitate to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work at our own expense, and we welcome any help. In North Carolina alone, PETA has spent more than $240,000 in the past few years making improvements for animals. That should warrant a story as each dollar spent means a needy animal helped, cold abated, shade provided, water and food given, and more.
PeTA has a problem . . .
This year, PeTA's operation has a budget approaching $29 million dollars. Even if the $240,000 had been spent entirely during this one year, that would still be less than 1% of PeTA's budget! But the $240,000 was spent over the course of not one year, not two years, but a "few years."
Let's give PeTA the benefit of the doubt, and say they spent the $240,000 over 3 years, rather than 4 or 5. That means that PeTA would have spent a miniscule $80,000 annually . . . which, assuming a highly conservative annual budget of $27 million for each of those 3 years, would mean that PeTA managed to spend $80,000 ÷ $27,000,000 = 0.002962 (0.3 of 1%) of their budget "making improvements for animals." (UPDATE: 6/22/05. Should read: " . . . improvements for animals in North Carolina.")
And you just have to wonder how much of that money was spent on euthanasia — to improve the lives of the animals that are now dead, by making them that way.
[ . . . ]
PETA kills animals. Because it has other financial priorities.
PETA raked in nearly $29 million last year in income, much of it raised from pet owners who think their donations actually help animals. Instead, the group spends huge sums on programs equating people who eat chicken with Nazis, scaring young children away from drinking milk, recruiting children into the radical animal-rights lifestyle, and intimidating businessmen and their families in their own neighborhoods. PETA has also spent tens of thousands of dollars defending arsonists and other violent extremists.
PETA claims it engages in outrageous media-seeking stunts "for the animals." But which animals? Carping about the value of future two-piece dinners while administering lethal injections to puppies and kittens isn't ethical. It's hypocritical -- with a death toll that PETA would protest if it weren't their own doing.
In a press conference held today, we learn a little more.
We learn that each felony count — and Cook and Hinkle each face 31 of them — is punishable by up to 15 months in the slammer, while each of the 8 counts of misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
That could be unpleasant.
And we learn that Hinkle and Cook lied about their intentions: "Veterinarians and animal control officers said the PETA workers had promised to find homes for the animals rather than euthanize them, according to police." (The lie was plausible — evidently, many of the animals were adoptable.)
We learn that Newkirk knew that the animals were being transported to PeTA's facility to be euthanized, and that she evidently is comforted that there was no indication that the animals experienced "pain or suffering" when they were done to death in the van.
That's cold comfort to animal lovers and potential contributers, colder even to the dead animals themselves . . . .
We also learn that: "'PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized,' Newkirk said." This is Newkirk putting a frame around a hole in the wall to fool the world into believing that the hole is a work of art . . .
Okay. Perhaps, technically, PeTA never did make a secret of their killing machine — but the appalling scale of PeTA's killing (10,000 between 1998 — 2003), coupled with the paltry amount PeTA evidently spends for actual animal care, plus the far better adoption record enjoyed by far poorer shelters, came as a complete shock to most folks.
And, if the present reports are right, you can add to the soup the fact that two PeTA operatives went out of their way (they apparently lied) to acquire healthy, adoptable animals, seemingly for no other reason than to kill them.
When you put all this together, it's hard to escape the conclusion that it's not just that PeTA doesn't want to spend much money to keep their animals alive, but that some PeTA employees have acquired a real appetite for killing animals.
UPDATE: 6/15/05. Edited for clarity.