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.
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:
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.