Is PETA bad? The damning allegations against the organizations explained


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international organization that stands against all forms of animal suffering. It contends that animals don’t belong in laboratories, zoos, or circuses; humans should desist from wearing clothes made from animal products; animals shouldn’t provide food for humans. 

From the outside looking in, PETA deserves commendation for advocating for our animal friends. However, a brief rifle through the internet will reveal that many people view PETA in a bad light, including environmentalists, conservationists, and animal rights activists. 

So then, is PETA really evil?

Key Takeaways

  • PETA gained recognition by exposing Edward Taub’s cruelty to animals.
  • PETA murders a huge percentage of animals in its animal shelter.
  • The organization claims that the no-kill policy adopted by other shelters doesn’t work.
  • PETA has used misleading, insensitive, and sexist ad campaigns.
  • PETA advocates for the use of violence and intimidation against researchers.

PETA gained recognition following its revelation of the mistreatment of monkeys in a research center

PETA’s co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, was born in England and moved to the United States as a teenager. Newkirk chose a career in animal protection after witnessing the abuse of animals at an animal shelter.

Ingrid Newkirk
Ingrid Newkirk, Co-Founder and President of PETA | Photo By Denver Frederick

In 1980, she was honored for her work by being named one of the ‘Washingtonians of the Year.’ She also met Alex Pacheco, a student at George Washington University and a volunteer at the animal shelter where she worked. 

The pair fell in love, moved in together, and formed the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s initial members were students and members of a local vegetarian society. 

A year later, PETA gained national prominence after exposing the mistreatment of monkeys by researcher Edward Taub. Pacheco accessed the research institute by finding employment at the Maryland-based lab. 

Edward Taub conducted a range of sensory experiments on macaque monkeys, involving the severing of nerves to certain areas of their bodies. His research led to a better understanding of the adaptation mechanisms of neural pathways and the formulation of a new therapy for stroke victims. 

Pacheco snuck into the lab at night and took photos of the monkeys living in deplorable conditions. Police raided the facility, arrested Taub, and charged him with animal cruelty. Taub’s conviction was overturned on appeal.

PETA also fought for custody of the monkeys in a battle that went to the United States Supreme Court. The court denied PETA custody, but the decade-long legal battle gave PETA valuable publicity, increasing its membership to the hundreds of thousands.

PETA alleges it’s the largest animal rights organization globally, with a membership of over 9 million people. 

PETA faces widespread accusations of killing animals indiscriminately in its shelter

According to a February 2021 article published by outspoken PETA critic Nathan Winograd, Peta has killed over 42,000 dogs and cats and sent thousands to be killed at local pounds. Winograd claims that the number ‘may be many times higher.’

Winograd’s analysis of PETA’s 2020 statistics exposed the organization’s refusal to adopt a ‘no-kill’ policy. The policy states that animal shelters should only kill animals that are suffering or dangerous to people or other pets.

PETA’s animal shelter in Virginia has one of the lowest placement rates in the state. In 2020, as the demand for pets skyrocketed due to the pandemic, some shelters in Virginia recorded placement rates as high as 99%.

Meanwhile, PETA killed over 70% of cats in its shelter and sent hundreds to pounds. The organization’s shelter only adopted out 1% of its cats and 2% of its dogs. PETA killed 57% of its dogs and 83% of other animal companions. 

Nathan bases his claim that the number may be higher on testimony provided by a former employee of PETA. The employee said:

“I was told regularly to not enter animals into the log, or to euthanize off-site in order to prevent animals from even entering the building. I was told regularly to greatly overestimate the weight of animals whose euthanasia we recorded, in order to account for what would have otherwise been missing ‘blue juice.’”

These tactics, the former employee said, allowed PETA to misrepresent the number of animals it killed. Another PETA fieldworker said that PETA rounded up healthy animals and killed them indiscriminately. 

PETA field operatives kidnapped a dog from its porch and killed it within hours

The unfortunate case of Maya, a dog taken from her porch and euthanized by PETA, exposed the organization’s brutal penchant for killing animals. 

In October 2014, PETA’s field operatives arrived at the trailer park where Maya lived. They waited for her family to leave before backing up their van to the family’s porch. They threw biscuits to Maya, attempting to coax her off the property and giving them cause to seize her as a stray dog. 

Maya the chihuahua
Maya the chihuahua (pictured with her owner)

Maya took the biscuits and scurried back to back to the porch. Frustrated, one of the employees went onto the property and forcibly took Maya. Within hours, Maya – and possibly other animals missing from the park – had been killed by PETA. 

Surveillance footage exposed the heinous crime, placing PETA, an organization purporting to protect animals, in the spotlight for arbitrarily killing animals. The statistics paint a grim picture of killing practices at PETA, but the kidnapping and killing of animals with owners take PETA’s cruelty to an entirely new level. 

Virginia state law requires that shelters wait five days before killing captured animals. The state fined PETA $500 for the violation. 

The dog’s owners, the Zarate family, sued PETA for killing Maya, but the organization settled before trial. A trial would have allowed lawyers to question PETA employees about the organization’s euthanasia policy. 

Nathan Winograd is an omnipresent thorn on PETA’s side, but PETA can’t sue him: a trial would allow him to place PETA’s hierarchy on the stand and question them about its damning statistics. 

Winograd has written a book titled Why PETA Kills, exposing PETA’s indiscriminate murder of pets. 

PETA claims that killing animals that people refuse to adopt is humane

PETA continues to defend its policy to kill animals even as shelters promote the ‘no-kill’ policy as an alternative to euthanasia. 

The organization claims that the no-kill policy doesn’t work. An article on PETA’s site claims that no-kill shelters turn away animals they deem unadoptable. On the other hand, PETA takes in all animals and euthanizes those it can’t find a home for. 

Amanda Schinke, a spokesperson for PETA, told The Atlantic that killing animals is a ‘tragic reality’ and that ‘sometimes [animals] need the comfort of being put out of their misery – a painless release from a world in which they were abused and unwanted.’

Schinke said that animals die in PETA shelters because there’s a shortage of suitable homes to adopt these animals.

Winograd claims that the source of the problem is Ingrid Newkirk, a person he refers to as ‘disturbed.’ He’s even compared her to nurses who draw pleasure from killing human patients. 

Newkirk admitted to the CBC in 2008 that PETA kills adoptable animals if it can’t find a home for them. Ingrid has long viewed euthanasia as a humane end to the lives of animals with no human homes. 

Decades ago, while working in a shelter in Maryland, Newkirk snuck in earlier to painlessly kill animals before other workers came in to brutally execute the animals. She said:

“I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn’t stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.”

Newkirk saw her brand of killing as a mercy, and perhaps, her experiences at the shelter still affect her views about euthanizing animals. “It’s a humane exit from a world that’s treated them like garbage,” Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA vice president, told The New York Times

It’s unclear how PETA uses its millions in revenue

In 2021, PETA recorded a revenue of $72.6 million, with a large chunk of that cash coming from contributions. It used most of its income on ‘International Grassroots Campaigns,’ ‘Public Outreach and Education,’ and ‘Research, Investigations, and Rescue.’ 

This is a very vague description of PETA’s expenses, leading to questions about PETA’s expenses. It’s challenging to find projects funded by PETA that justify its expenses. 

In its website’s Frequently Asked Questions tab, PETA alleges that over 82% of its funding ‘went directly to programs to help animals.’ However, it doesn’t list the programs or how much money it allocated to each program. 

According to Activist Facts, few donors understand how PETA uses its money. “Over a ten-year period, PETA spent four times as much on criminals and their legal defense than it has on shelters, spay-neuter programs, and other efforts that actually help animals,” the website claims. 

For an organization that collects millions in revenue, you’d expect it to have done more to reduce or prevent its senseless killing of animals.

PETA has used misleading, sexist, and insensitive campaigns to spread its message

PETA thrives on media attention, going to great lengths to make itself the trending topic. To PETA, all media is good media – Newkirk once referred to PETA as a ‘press slut,’ per Activist Facts. PETA’s idea is to use shock tactics to raise awareness, but it has gone too far with some campaigns.  

The organization has targeted children with campaigns depicting parents as cruel animal murderers. PETA once equated human treatment of animals to Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, prompting the European Courts of Human Rights to ban PETA from using Holocaust imagery. 

To Animals, All People are Nazis

In a famously misleading ad purporting to discourage people from wearing wool products, a man held a bloody mannequin lamb to send the fake message that shearing kills sheep. 

Sheep farmers can attest that shearing is necessary to protect sheep from exhaustion and infections. Furthermore, the shearing techniques used don’t hurt sheep – and they haven’t done for hundreds of years. 

PETA uses shocking imagery and statements with little concern for truth. For instance, when President Obama swatted a fly, PETA referred to his actions as an ‘execution.’ PETA once asked ice cream producer Ben and Jerry to use breastmilk in its recipes. 

At Wimbledon in 2017, PETA used women in bikinis to hand out dairy-free cream and strawberries. The campaign drew press, as expected, but also led to hundreds of PETA membership cancelations from people who viewed the campaign as blatantly sexist. 

PETA has supported and funded criminal activities against researchers and research centers

PETA has brazenly supported crimes against researchers and research centers. 

The organization spent $70,200 on the defense of Rod Coronado, an arsonist convicted of burning down a Michigan State University lab. 

David Jentsch, the founder of pro-animal research group Pro-Test for Science, received packages of bloody razor blades and had his car firebombed. He also received a graphic letter imagining his murder. 

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a branch of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), admitted responsibility for the attacks. PETA sent a $1,500 donation to ELF, an organization classified as the top ‘domestic terror’ threat by the FBI. 

“We did it, we did it. We gave $1,500 to the ELF for a specific program,” PETA’s Lisa Lange admitted on the Fox News Channel. PETA also gave $27,000 to Roger Troen, who was arrested for a 1986 burglary and arson at The University of Oregon. 

Stephanie Trutt received $7,500 – she’d attempted to murder the president of a medical laboratory. I guess we now know how PETA spends its millions. 

PETA shamelessly compares ALF to the Underground Railroad on its website. The site alleges that ALF ‘breaks inanimate objects such as stereotaxic devices and decapitators in order to save lives. It burns empty buildings in which animals are tortured and killed.’

The following quote by Bruce Friedrich, a PETA director, at an Animal Rights conference in 2001 illuminates the organization’s aversion to breaking the law:

“I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks who fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through windows. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.”

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