Why PETA cannot reconcile Animal Rights and Animal Welfare

PETA have been making the news a lot lately and for once they probably don’t want to be there. The story that PETA euthanises almost 90% of the animals taken in by its shelters had been covered before by us, but was further covered by the immensely popular Mail online website (the most visited newspaper website in the world) in March this year.

Peta Kills in Animal Shelters Euthanized

However the bad news keeps on rolling for PETA, when Nathan Winograd, Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, wrote a Huffington Post article alleging that PETA was killing adoptable animals.

A mother cat and her two kittens, all perfectly healthy and adoptable and none in danger of being killed until they were given to PETA by a veterinarian who was trying to find them homes and was told by PETA employees that they would have no problem adopting them out. After PETA lied to him and the mother and her kittens were entrusted to their care, they reportedly killed them, within minutes, in the back of a van.

Winograd further accuses PETA of vocally defending a shelter (not one of theirs) that:

PETA kills puppies with parovirus in shelter

A puppy dying of parvovirus in the Houston shelter is not given anything soft to lie on as she urinates all over herself. Here she sits, unable to keep her head up, alone in a cold, barren stainless steel cage without receiving necessary veterinary care. Other shelters have a better than 90% rate of saving dogs with parvovirus. In a letter to the editor of the Houston paper, PETA publicly defended this shelter, urging Houstonians to reject my advice on the need for reform and how to do so.

This would be particularly hypocritical for an organisation which accuses researchers of cruelty for caging animals, despite the fact that lab animals have enrichment (toys) to stimulate the animals, the animals are normally group housed, and veterinary attention is provided for animals that need it – perhaps PETA should be promoting animal welfare conditions in shelters to be more like it is in labs?

With pressure piling from its own ranks, and other new websites jumping onto the story (including the Mail Online again), PETA have released several statements. After the initial accusations PETA posted on their blog with pictures of severely injured animals noting that:

PETA, we will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved, and homeless animals—even if the best we can offer them is a painless release from a world that doesn’t have enough heart or homes with room for them.

We can understand that euthanizing an animal may be consistent with animal welfare, however if Winograd’s claims are true, and PETA are euthanizing healthy and adoptable animals, then PETA still has much to answer for.

PETA claims to be an animal rights organisation, though their webpage on it points to the utilitarian (rather than rights-based) arguments of Peter Singer. Nonetheless, they are against “speciesism” – a term popularised by singer which means to treat animals of different species differently for no other reason than their belonging to a different species (as opposed to the characteristics of those species). If PETA is to be consistent in this view then should we assume they would support euthanizing humans who were ill rather than doing all we can to save them? Given that PETA claim to be euthanizing animals which don’t have homes, should we be doing the same to homeless people, who might have to suffer living on the streets? Most of us are sure to say no, but PETA’s philosophy will find it harder to argue.


32 thoughts on “Why PETA cannot reconcile Animal Rights and Animal Welfare

  1. I was carrying PETA brochures when I was unreasonably injured at UCLA. They are seen in the evidence film. Too bad UCLA had the evidence film edited. But Dario Ringach sent his “You Win” e-mail the same day I told UCLA I finally had a lawyer at a dated deposition. PETA refused to even look at my case. Guess that was for the better in the end. Hi Dario :)

  2. Tom, I see that you delete comments that you don’t like or can’t defend. So be it, it’s your web page.

    1.How many times are you going to post and delete the same article? Until, you get the answers you want?

    Your calling PETA evil for putting homeless animals to sleep.

    2.What would you call the guy in the lab coat destroying eardrums, implanting cancer, severing nerves and causing heart attacks?

    Peta is preventing suffering, your inducing it.
    Nice try to muddy the water.

    1. Only delete spam or harassment. I just looked back through your previous comments and can’t find any which have been deleted. Sorry to disappoint.

      Just searched back through the comments – there is nothing on your IP that has been deleted. Incidentally, you have one previous comment when you talk about destroying eardrums here: https://speakingofresearch.com/2013/02/08/a-lesson-in-hypocrisy-as-peta-cries-foul-over-one-cats-death-while-secretly-killing-hundreds-more/#comment-12408

      1. I don’t understand – I haven’t posted, then deleted any articles? We did have a previous post with the picture in, perhaps you have it confused: https://speakingofresearch.com/2013/02/08/a-lesson-in-hypocrisy-as-peta-cries-foul-over-one-cats-death-while-secretly-killing-hundreds-more (It’s still there, but I didn’t write that one).

      2. I would call it a researcher who has had to show that any suffering is being minimised wherever possible, who has shown that there is no alternative, and who has shown that the benefits outweigh the suffering of the animals involved.

      PETA doesn’t prevent suffering, they delay it. Rather than see twenty mice die today, they’d rather see a thousand humans die over the next twenty years.

  3. The word “euthanasia” does not apply to killing healthy, adoptable, in some cases baby animals, so to continue to debate “euthanasia” is besides the point. Why do they kill HEALTHY animals and why don’t they make any attempt at all to find them homes. Disgusting organization full of liars and hypocrites.

  4. Euthanasia is totally consistent with being anti-cruelty when the only alternative to euthanasia is suffering. Suffering is the bottom line. It must always be avoided. No innocent defenseless being should ever be forced to endure suffering. That’s the moral imperative. That is what we have learned from our greatest thinkers of the ages and that is what we know instinctively.

    1. Absolutely euthanasia is consistent with anti-cruelty and animal welfare. BUT it is not consistent with animal rights. You wouldn’t (and can’t) euthanise your Grandmother because you think she’s suffering unless she has agreed already. It would be speciesist to treat animals differently if you believe in animal rights.

  5. Thankfully the truth of PETA and the large corporate rescue money machines are being reported. I am involved with small local shelters who actually safe animals. It’s infuriating to see the big national political money machines suck up funds from naive people who think they’re helping shelter pets. I pray one day PETA and ASPCA and HSUS will disappear.

  6. As a researcher I dislike PeTA’s characterization of our work as much as the next guy, but unlike PeTA, as educated and thoughtful people we should not be a party to propagating half-truths like this.

    For one, PeTA does not operate a shelter in the sense that most of you are thinking. The animals signed over to them are allegedly not obtained by giving the impression that the animals will be put up for adoption–because PeTA doesn’t even operate an adoption facility. They operate spay/neuter clinics and euthanasia services for injured/sick/unadoptable animals. (Granted, the term “unadoptable” gives them plenty of leeway to kill whatever they want for whatever reason.).

    Repeatedly using a years-old isolated example where two PeTA employees (allegedly) betrayed the faith of a veterinarian is no more justified than describing us in terms of Dr. Mengele.

    In addition, if this accusation is valid, why haven’t the owners of any of those thousands of animals stepped forward to confirm being led into thinking that their animals would be put up for adoption? We have one account that was not good enough to convict a couple of PeTA underlings with the crime of “obtaining property by false pretenses” (supposedly because one of the “witnesses” wasn’t even clocked in on the day the animals were picked up).

    So let’s not get ourselves mixed up with the CCF’s propaganda machine and stick to keeping PeTA in check by doing solid, thoughtful, and beneficial science, communicating effectively with the public about what we do, and not resorting to being petty or spreading garbage propaganda.

      1. Dario, the content of your link describes exactly what I have just told you.

        To quote: ” The shelter is not accessible to the public, promoted, or engaged in efforts to facilitate the adoption of animals taken into custody.”

        Please note the inspector’s statement that PeTA does not even “promote” that their facility exists for the sake of adopting out animals. PeTA openly admits that they do not take animals for adoption, but refer them to other shelters which DO facilitate adoptions. (see page 2 of the your inspection report for support).

        Furthermore, it’s been a few years and despite the investigation Virginia hasn’t taken any steps to change the way PeTA is classified. The only explanation coming from CCF and No-Kill sources is “PeTA did some legal wrangling and Virginia backed down.” Naturally, whenever this is mentioned, no supporting evidence is provided. All I know as an independent observer is that whenever PeTA is asked, they unabashedly confirm that they do no accept animals for adoption, and that they primarily euthanize unadoptable animals. One can wrangle over how Virginia classifies them all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t pretending to take animals for adoption.

        If you still somehow think your link somehow refutes my point, you are going to need to point out exactly what contradicts the idea that PeTA doesn’t routinely take in adoptable animals in the first place. As I’ve already stated, if PeTA misrepresented themselves as an adoption agency where are ANY of the owners who should be overtly enraged that their animals were killed with no attempt at adoption by PeTA?

        The remainder of the article is demonstrative of problems at independent shelters that are not affiliated with PeTA. To interpret them you must be aware that the author Nathan Winograd is at the forefront of the “no-kill” movement,which is basically at war with PeTA for supporting humane euthanasia–and that many shelters that are self-described as “no-kill” are really hoarders that keep animals in squalor. (although Nathan always says his “no-kill” should not be misconstrued with that variety).

        Please note how he did NOT provide any of the materials where PeTA intervened on behalf of the shelters he made recommendations on. Please also note that he did promote “no-kill” standards which PeTA would definitely take issue with. PeTA and Nathan attack each other at every opportunity. It’s extremely unlikely that PeTA would say that no changes should be made at a shelter where parvo puppies die covered in their own urine, and insinuating that this is the case is disingenuous on Winograd’s part. It’s most likely that they just intervened to stop the shelter from adopting “no-kill” practices which in their beliefs are most commonly associated with hoarders and shelters that turn away animals that are unadoptable, which often results in them being abandoned or worse.

        In fact, simply the fact that Nathan resorted to putting up pictures of animals from random shelters and attempted to promote the idea that PeTA wanted them left that way should clue you in pretty strongly on the fact that you should definitely take anything he says with a grain of salt.

        The whole, “Many animal lovers who have publicly condemned PETA for their killing have received a letter from the PETA legal department, threatening a lawsuit.” spiel was pretty lame as well considering he used a letter to HIM as evidence. Him being an public figure using a specific event to accuse PeTA of killing adoptable animals and obtaining animals under false pretenses despite PeTA having been cleared in a court of law. Furthermore, nowhere in the letter does it threaten to take legal action. It simply explains why his statements are false and demands that he removes the defamatory statements from his blog.

        1. ” The shelter is not accessible to the public, promoted, or engaged in efforts to facilitate the adoption of animals taken into custody.” I guess that’s the point. Why doesn’t PeTA call it an euthanasia clinic instead?

      2. Are you seriously going to argue that the semantics of PeTA being classified as a “shelter” by the state of Virginia is somehow more important than their open declaration that they do not operate a shelter or run a center that facilitates adoption? What normal person would ever see the state classification and form their impressions of PeTA based on it in the first place?

        Is “euthanasia clinic” even a real classification under Virginia law? Furthermore, since their spay/neuter operations are also based there why would you think that “euthanasia clinic” is the most appropriate term?

        Given all the tangible information that actually matters I just don’t see why you can’t seem to get beyond obsessing over terminology in state records.

        Really, why does that point matter? Do you think bringing an argument like that up somehow makes them look bad when they’ve invested money in improving non-affiliated shelters and providing spay/neuter services to under-served communities? Do you think engaging in petty bickering over wording makes US look good to people that don’t know whose side they should be on?

        I’m sorry, but as awful as they are when it comes to misrepresenting our work it’s not like they don’t do anything good, and the least we can do as good-natured and, more importantly, rational people is at least give credit where credit is due instead of nit-picking over a minor detail that has absolutely nothing to do with how the public perceives PeTA.

      3. However, while it remains under the guise of a shelter it would appear that healthy animals are being taken and killed there.

        Also how much money have they spent improving shelters? (from their $30 million income)

      4. Tom, based on what evidence? Do you have something other than the kittens from 2005, or is that argument so weak that it is wholly dependent on evidence that was found lacking in a case where PeTA was found innocent?

      5. Tom, I’ve already addressed that article above since everyone seems to cite it.

        Would you care to point out one concrete example of an adoptable animal being euthanized by PeTA that wasn’t part of the 2005 case in that article if you’re so confident that it is reasonable to draw the conclusion you’re making based on it?

        Furthermore, since when was it appropriate to draw broad conclusions based on an article simply “suggesting” something. Especially when the source is already pretty shady to begin with?

        (not sure why my username keeps changing…)

      6. The web design on nokillnow.com makes the baby jesus cry…..

        I’m uneasy about it as a source as it reminds me too much of a lot of the anti-vivisectionist material (old news, cherry picked data etc)

        We should probably just let these guys tear each other apart as Kalama says and get on with our work. I think the idea of No Kill is basically terrifying. If the AR movement fractures it may make it more difficult to handle…

      7. Is there an aversion to quoting specific information here or something? Do I really need to read pages of information in order to try and guess what your concrete evidence is?

        In your current article, as usual, the bulk of the discussion centered around the Hinkle case. Not one date beyond 2005 appears.

        I still fail to see this systemic euthanasia of adoptable animals. It still boils down to one case where two PeTA employees were accused of obtaining by false pretenses and found not guilty.

      8. I agree, Pete.

        Unless they’re peddling pseudoscientific drivel to demonstrate that animal modeling is fatally flawed or lying about the realities of how animal research is conducted we shouldn’t interact with them.

        All that mounting smear campaigns outside of our area of expertise does is make us look, at best, vindictive. I think we’re better off engaging the public directly to inform them about research so that they are less susceptible to PeTA and co.’s campaign that counts on them not even having a basic understanding about how biomedical research is conducted.

      9. Thanks for the input fleshpeddler, I have adapted some of the language to make clear where things are alleged, and a few other small edits.

      10. I appreciate that you made an effort, but one of the major “take-home-messages” still presents flimsily supported allegations as fact,

        “Winograd’s article makes it clear that there are plenty of healthy and adoptable animals which never make it out of PETA’s shelters.”

        I feel I’ve already made my case against that particular claim, so I’m going to leave it be and thank you and Dario for taking the time to advocate and producing some really well-crafted articles.

      11. Poor editing from me – I missed that line. It has also been adopted.

        To me, the main take home message is the philosophical problem of an animal rights organisation taking an animal welfare line that is not consistent with animal rights.

  7. Well, Winograd’s article is obviously heavily slanted and biased. But that aside, the statistics he presents are only for the animals PETA euthanized. He never mentions the 10,000 dogs and cats the group spayed/neutered for free or little cost last year (http://www.peta.org/features/fixing-animal-homelessness.aspx) and provided with low-cost vet care or the animals they referred to other shelters for adoption (which they do for adoptable animals). Also, the puppy in the cage isn’t at a “PETA shelter”—it’s a shelter in Houston. PETA advocates against keeping animals in inhumane conditions such as that.

    1. Lucy, you need to learn reading comprehension. The Houston picture clearly states that it’s a shelter in Houston but that PETA DEFENDED the shelter and it’s treatment of animals. It never claimed that the photo was of a PETA shelter. Nice misdirect though. Classic animal rights tactic.

      1. The fact it’s not a Peta shelter is clear in the italicised passage but Tom then writes:

        “This is particularly hypocritical for an organisation which accuses researchers of cruelty for caging animals, despite the fact that lab animals have enrichment (toys) to stimulate the animals, the animals are normally group housed, and veterinary attention is provided for animals that need it – it would seem that PETA shelters could learn a lot from lab animal care.”

        I can see how that passage may be confusing, I guess within the context Tom is suggesting that defence of the Houston shelter may be an indication of the (not great) standards PETA hold themselves to…..

      2. Except for PeTA did NOT defend the shelter, they simply argued that Winograd’s solution wasn’t viable.

        Winograd didn’t cite the letter he mentions, but NoKillHouston did. Nathan and PeTA have been at each other’s throats for nearly two decades. I don’t think it’s safe to take anything either party says as fact without investing time to check the source material.

        …and isn’t it a bit of a double standard to accuse someone of trying to misdirect when you’re just promoting your own side’s misdirect? Plus, I don’t think someone can be simultaneously guilty of poor reading comprehension and intentionally misleading people in one statement. She can’t not know and know at the same time.

  8. I’d agree Tom, as a political weapon the Daily Mail is a bit like chlorine gas. If the winds not blowing the right way you’re stuffed. I’m sure there has been plenty of support garnered for Peta from that publication in the past.

    On a more serious note, the tech’s/vets at the big pharma dog houses would be utterly appalled at that dogs cage. Dogs of any size need (and get!!) a floor pen roughly 3x5m which has remotely controllable removable sides, linking it to other 15+ dogs cages. The pens are left linked when the dogs aren’t specifically required to be isolated. The dogs are each taken out for walks or taken to the air craft hanger sized (only slight exaggeration) enrichment zone daily when not on study.

  9. I confess that I find the Daily Mail’s popularity very disturbing – but I mentioned to give context of why PETA were concerned about it

  10. Links to both the Daily Mail and the Huffingto Post in one post, that should come with some kind of health warning!!

    Joking aside, the articles do raise a serious point. If PeTA really do believe in animal rights then they should stop killing the animals that end up in their care, and if they really can’t find homes for the animals (which I don’t believe for a second) then they should just close their shelters and leave that task to groups that are more consistant in their morality. After all PeTA only account for a tiny proportion of the total number of animal shelters in the USA.

    If Amnesty International behaved as PeTA do they would probably be considered one of the world’s foremost terrorist organizations by now.

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