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PETA: Pretend Ethics Totally Abused

I challenged the several PETA defenders who complained about my story and/or editorial (which is on the main PETA story page) to try to justify PETA’s actions. Which fact(s) did they dispute? What is their source for “more correct” data? And how can anyone justify throwing dead animals in the garbage? I noted that no one replied with answers to those questions.

Reader Thomas in Pennsylvania took up the challenge. This is the full exchange I had with him, unedited (even if I see typos as I review it now) except of course for HTML coding for display here. Thomas’s portion is indented and in blue; my replies are not.

I’ve been surprised and disappointed by your additional coverage of the PETA story that very appropriately ran is True last week. I intended to write you last week, but when you continued your tirade this week, things had to be said.

1. This week you mock those who took you to task for citing the PETA Kills Animals folks — “…Don’t I Realize They Have An Agenda?!” — and then repeatedly declare yourself fearless in the faith of truth.

Huh? Would you care to quote back where I “repeatedly declared myself fearless”? I’ve checked the last two Premium issues and the word “fearless” is not used even once.

I did use the phrase “not afraid of the truth” (twice, if you include the PETA page). I don’t call that “repeated declarations” but you may differ with me on that.

But your only acknowledgment of the content of this particular bit of truth is a link to a column on a registration-required site

Such is life: it wasn’t a non-registration newspaper that chose to write about it. If you want to read the article, get a password from BugMeNot.com.

the site of a newspaper that is widely reviled by those most likely to agree with you.

Yes, it’s widely thought of as a “liberal” newspaper — which is to say, the most likely sort of paper to write a pro-PETA/anti-PKA opinion piece. You thought maybe the Rocky Mountain News (a “conservative” paper) would write a piece lambasting PKA? I don’t quite understand your point here. Exactly what would you have me do? There was an article with a contrary point of view and I pointed it out. You’re implying that this shows me to be unfair and unreasonable?

I challenge you to print the truth of which you have no fear directly in the body of True: PETA Kills Animals is a project of the Center for Consumer Choice, a nonprofit organization founded by a PR firm which works for businesses who derive their profits from animal exploitation: Outback Steakhouse, KFC, Philip Morris, etc. It’s not hard to figure out that PKA’s concern is not for the lives of animals that come into PETA’s hands, but for the profits derived from their clients’ own massive slaughtering of animals. They are not making any serious attempt to save animal lives, but only to attract negative attention to PETA.

And again, what “facts” did I base on their site that you dispute? The ones PETA filed with the state? Or did you TOTALLY miss the point? You “challenge” me to talk more about this issue when I’ve already not only pointed out the site (which does not hide its affiliation), AND have already pointed out that it’s biased (even though that’s fairly obvious) AND have linked to an article in a respected publication of record lambasting them. In the face of that, your “challenge” is a bit silly. As the NYT points out, calling them out as a web site project of the “Center for Consumer Choice” is fairly meaningless; pointing out that they are a biased agenda-laden group is quite meaningful. I did that before you ever wrote your “challenge”.

2. You ask a lot of questions that you say need to be answered, but apparently were unwilling to do the most basic of journalistic research to answer them yourself before printing your original editorial.

Which, of course, DID NOT contain those questions. You fault me for not anticipating all the possible responses to a 200-word article and/or a 250-word editorial and then researching all the potential responses? I don’t claim god-like powers, so I’m a bit surprised you expect them of me.

I sent an e-mail to info@peta.org mentioning the petakillsanimals.com web site and received an automated response in minutes with the full text of the letter that is excerpted on http://www.petakillsanimals.com/petarebuttal.cfm, a page from which you quoted heavily in your first piece.

I didn’t quote from that page at all, let alone “heavily”.

This is what I really find puzzling, indeed, troubling, about these pieces – you clearly looked at that page, and that page clearly includes only carefully selected portions of what is identified as a stock response, and yet you didn’t have the journalistic wherewithal to make the most simple attempt to get the other side’s version when you knew (or should have known) that you were getting the first side from a suspect source. (The message that I received is attached.)

Let me get this straight: PKA is totally biased, but you wanted me to quote MORE information from that site? That’s not rational, Thomas. There’s no reason to re-create the entire site in a 20K newsletter; I LINKED TO IT so people could go read it for themselves; I didn’t somehow magically block some of the pages on the site, and ANYONE who wanted more information than I have room to include certainly knows quite well how to find PETA or look at links on a web site I point them to. As I’ve demonstrated and said many, MANY times, I trust and respect my readers’ intelligence. YOU were able to find the info you want, but you imply no one else will because they’re not as smart as you. Your resulting conclusions that I tried to hide something are pretty ridiculous.

3. To your actual questions, which are indeed worth trying to answer: “Still, what does this have to do with PETA taking in animals from shelters with the promise that they’ll be giving them good homes, but then killing them in the back of the pick-up van without making ANY attempt to make good their promise? And what, exactly, is the justification for dumping these animals in the trash?” You changed the story in this issue, attributing the actions to PETA rather than to their employees. There is nothing available to suggest that either the in-van euthanizing or the dumping was done at the behest of the organization, indeed, there are explicit statements to the contrary from PETA.

Where? I already reported on THE head of PETA’s response TO THIS VERY SITUATION, not something hypothetical. Here it is: “In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it’s against the group’s policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but ‘that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia.'” Doesn’t sound like rogue employees to ME; their actions are specifically backed by the President of PETA up through the time they dumped the carcasses in the trash, when it specifically ended (“against policy”).

Attributing them to PETA this time around is either an offensive piece of spin or sloppy writing.

Ah, mea culpa: I thought PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk was authorized to speak for PETA. My mistake, eh?

I found one indirect quote in one article from the newspaper attributed in the original True item regarding the “promise that they’ll be giving them good homes.” In light of another article from the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald, it’s clear that the Bertie shelter director might have been spinning a little himself. That story says:

“Gay [Northampton County Health Director] said that PETA has worked with Northampton County for approximately one year in removing dogs and cats from the animal shelter.

“‘They came in after expressing their opposition to the method we used to euthanized the animals,’ Gay said. ‘We, like so many animal shelters, use gas to perform that task.'”

This is consistent with PETA’s euthanasia fact sheet on their Web site: http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=39.

It’s not, however, consistent with the ACTUAL source I used, and shame on you for picking some other source at random and insisting that I twisted it. Try my actual source: “Detective Sgt. Ed Pittman of the Bertie Sheriff’s Office confirmed, through the county’s Animal Control Officer, that Cook and Hinkle identified themselves as PETA representatives from Norfolk, Va. ‘According to Barry (Anderson, Bertie’s Animal Officer), the man and woman told him they were picking up the dogs to take them back to Norfolk where they would find them good homes,’ Pittman said.

“Pittman added that as far as he knew, persons identifying themselves as PETA representatives had picked-up live dogs at the Bertie Animal Shelter for at least the last two months.”

So, to succinctly answer the questions: PETA picks up animals that are destined for euthanasia from shelters that use less humane methods of euthanasia, with the knowledge and consent of those shelters’ managers. They find homes if possible, but most of the animals picked up are euthanized as they would have been if left in NC, but by a much more humane method. Performing this task in the van and dumping the animals was contrary to organizational policy, and by all indications, an aberration by misguided (at best) employees.

Try that again, keeping within the evidence provided by independent third-party observers:

At least one team of PETA representatives picks up animals from shelters with the promise of finding them good homes, but doesn’t even attempt to do that: the team instead killed the animals immediately after pickup in the back of the pickup van illegally using drugs that they possessed illegally, and then dump the bodies in the trash. All of this is supported at the highest-possible levels of PETA, with the exception of dumping the animals in the trash.

Backup for portions not already sourced:

“In our state, only a licensed veterinarian is certified to use the drugs necessary to put an animal down by the euthanasia process,” Fitzhugh said.

and

“From the report I received from the Medical Board, other than having fleas, there was nothing wrong with the dog we sent to the Medical Board for an autopsy,” Fitzhugh said. “They said the dog was in good health.” http://www.roanoke-chowannewsherald.com/articles/2005/07/07/news/news3.txt

4. You ask, “And how is it that PETA kills such a high percentage of the animals entrusted to its care when the closest SPCA shelter to PETA’s headquarters is able to find good homes for most of its animals?” The PKA site and your articles lead readers to believe that the PETA shelter is like any other – dedicated to taking in lost or abandoned animals and finding owners for them. PKA does this with outright deception – their “PETA’s lame response” page linked above responds to PETA’s statement “We do not run a traditional shelter. In fact, we refer every healthy, cute, young animal we can to shelters,” (emphasis added) with figures from the state filings about PETA’s transfer of animals to other shelters. A referral happens before the animal is ever officially logged into the shelter – “This animal doesn’t belong here; you should take it to another shelter.” A transfer happens once the animal is already “on the books.” PETA’s Web site makes no mention of its own shelter on its page about how to help stray animals, instead listing other shelters in the region which do provide homes for more of the animals that come through their doors: http://www.peta.org/about/strayanimals.asp
On this one, you not only didn’t do any research beyond PKA, you didn’t even look closely at what was on the PKA site. There it is: PETA doesn’t run a traditional shelter. While the numbers in the forms on the PKA site are almost certainly correct, the mission of this shelter is not accepting healthy animals and trying to find them homes, and so comparing its kill rate to shelters of that type is prima facie absurd. Yes, most of the animals that end up there are destined for PETA’s preferred method of euthanasia. But PETA programs (which include performing spay-and-neuter in low-income neighborhoods, not just “supporting” spay-and-neuter programs) and policies (referring animals to other shelters whenever possible) are targeted at keeping most animals out of PETA’s last-resort shelter.

So there, free of charge, is the research you should have done yourself before launching your initial tirade.

I had two sets of questions. The first one was:

“Still, what does this have to do with PETA taking in animals from shelters with the promise that they’ll be giving them good homes, but then killing them in the back of the pick-up van without making ANY attempt to make good their promise? And what, exactly, is the justification for dumping these animals in the trash? And how is it that PETA kills such a high percentage of the animals entrusted to its care when the closest SPCA shelter to PETA’s headquarters is able to find good homes for most of its animals? When I replied to the complaining readers with those questions, I got no answers.”

You are the FIRST to attempt an answer any of those; you chose the third. And it’s a decent answer; the summary is, is PKA accurate when it says that PETA kills animals? And your reply is, yes — it’s fully accurate — but there are reasons for it, and PKA selectively quoted those reasons.

At some point I hope you tackle the other two, far more important questions.

Finally – I am not myself a PETA supporter or animal rights activist. I eat meat and wear leather. I am persuaded by arguments against cruelty to animals merely for the purpose of human amusement or sport: circuses, fox hunting, dog racing, fur, etc.

I pretty much agree with you on that.

I do think that PETA gets a less than fair shake from the mainstream media,

We disagree there. Even the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald was VERY even-handed in its coverage. Example (referring to the dog autopsy, same URL as above): “The autopsy did reveal a puncture wound on the dog’s front right paw. It is not known if that wound is consistent with a mark left by the insertion of a needle.” Most would make the “logical conclusion” from the puncture wound, but they chose to be more careful and not draw conclusions. I cannot comment on the “average” “fair shake”ness of the global coverage of PETA, but given the “average” liberal slant to the media, I’d be awfully surprised to learn that it was significantly anti-PETA.

and was definitely sorry to see one of my favorite alternative news sources nail them as well for sloppy reasons.

Sloppy is in the eye of the beholder, sir, and you’re definitely in the minority here.

I do appreciate your at least attempting to answer even some of the questions that others could, or would, not. Would you care for me to publish this entire exchange on the “PETA page” (or, perhaps, on its own page since it’s so lengthy, with a link from my peta page)?


You guessed it: Thomas did not reply.
–Randy Cassingham

2 Responses to PETA: Pretend Ethics Totally Abused

  1. Richard, Olney, Texas March 14, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    I applaud you, Randy, for running this story and keeping it fresh in your readers’ minds. PETA is a radical, extremist organization with many wild, inexcusable viewpoints that they are trying to force on the rest of us. Plus, their actions involved in this story clearly show that they are both willing to be deceptive as well as hypocritical when it suits their purpose. Killing these dogs without even trying to find them good homes reveals part of their extremist agenda of wanting to eventually eliminate all pet animals. This goal is one that they’ve been actively pursuing recently in California.

    PETA has been backing legislation in Califorina that would require neutering of all puppies and kittens at four months of age. This is too young, in my opinion, because dogs and cats need to undergo adequate maturation and mellowing-out from their early stages before that takes place. Now we believe in neutering our pets for their benefit as well as ours; plus decreasing the amount of unwanted animals is a good thing as well. But such laws would take away the option of pet owners to raise animals if they want to. Obviously, over time such legislation if enacted nationwide would eliminate pet animals totally. Preventing people from having pets at all is just one of their radical, wild, extremist, and inexcusable goals.

    I could go on and on about objectives PETA is aiming for. Suffice it to say, people do need be aware that contrary to a lot of popular conception, PETA is not just a normal organization promoting better treatment of animals but is instead a radical organization with wild, extremist goals and an extremist point of view regarding so-called “animal rights.” If one wants to support groups working against the mis-treatment of animals, PETA should not be one of those benefiting from their generosity. And I personally hope if someone can afford to donate to such groups, although it certainly is a worthy cause, such gifts come after donations to organizations helping feed hungry people or working on cures for some of the terrible dseases that plague mindkind. While I like animals and don’t want to have them mis-treated, I do believe that people should come first.

  2. louis, california June 29, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    i agree with thew previous commenter, that 4 months is too young, specially for dogs. for cats i prefer 5-6, before they go into their first heat, for dogs 6-8 months, depending on the size of the breed. too early sterilization leads to a host of hormone, growth and other related issues.

    i applaud you randy for you honesty for disclosing unedited versions of correspondence.

    i don’t understand why any animal shelter would release dogs to peta, when peta’s position is well known that they don’t support having pets. why would they try to find loving homes?

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