Within the vegetarian and vegan movement there is a debate that brews about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Some people are for them, some against, and some are down the middle. As for my position, I think PETA has put out a few good cookbooks. But that is pretty much where my love for them begins and ends.
I've been an ethical vegetarian for over 14 years. Back when I first adopted the lifestyle I was a PETA member. It was all I knew and I was craving information about the issues (the Internet wasn't like it is today for me to do online research). Plus, I didn't know any better to realize what a sham of an organization PETA really is. After a couple of years of sending in my membership dues I came around and dropped my member status.
Over the years, my opinion of PETA has increasingly went downhill for a number of reasons. Many people realize that the organization objectifies women with their advertising, their approaches offend most of the population, etc. When you get weird looks because you say you are a vegetarian, it's often because PETA has tainted the vegetarian reputation so much.
But beyond that, I still have other issues with them. First of all, PETA is not about the ethical treatment of animals, because they kill animals, which is not ethical. Word is, that they kill over 80 percent of the animals they rescue. Plus, from where I'm sitting, it seems as though PETA doesn't care if you kill animals at all. They just want you to do it in a nicer way. They don't care if you raise animals for slaughter, they just want you to raise them in a nicer facility with better conditions. They are always fighting for a nicer raising and slaughter method, not an end to doing it in the first place.
Case in point, in 2008 PETA announced a "victory" with KFC. They patted themselves on the back and spread around the news about how they "won." Did they get KFC to stop serving up chickens? No! Not a chance, they didn't even ask them to do that. Their big victory was that they got KFC to start serving a vegetarian sandwich in it's Canadian stores. That's a victory for animals?
Adding a faux chicken sandwich to the KFC menu does nothing to help animals. All that did was increase KFC sales, because now some vegetarians may stop in and eat the sandwich (still not a place I would support). Don't think that people going there for chicken are now going to see the vegetarian sandwich on the menu and opt for that instead. Not likely.
Yet another reason I'm not a fan of PETA's is because they own stock in 80 companies that are involved in harming animals, including the likes of Coach, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, Denny's, Outback Steakhouse, Hormel Foods, and many others. They claim that they own stock in these companies so that they can submit ideas and recommendations to the board. News flash - I can submit ideas to those companies as well. Anyone can. I may not be able to attend the board meetings, but my letter and PETA's presence will end up having the same impact in the end when it comes to getting them to stop killing animals. Why not invest that money in purchasing stocks of companies that are ethical toward animals? Help those companies succeed and support them!
They are hypocrites. The organization says they are against the use of animals, when in reality they are not. They instead ask companies to use them in a nicer manner. They own stock in the very companies they should be against. That is the farthest thing from what is the ethical treatment for animals.
PETA has the "Proggy Awards" each year, where they give out awards in a variety of categories, with many of the winners being eye-brow raising. For example, in the 5th Annual Proggy Awards they gave an award to Wolfgang Puck for "most progressive chef," citing that his program uses "...only cage-free eggs, veal from free-roaming calves, gestation-crate-free pork, and no foie gras." Hmm... they awarded a chef that uses eggs, veal and pork. Is using these their idea of ethical treatment of the animals?
So what is PETA good at? Fundraising. Period. Last year they raked in a cool $34 million. And what did they do with the money? Pay a few celebrities (who may or may not actually be a supporter of animal rights) to drop their clothes and pose, or say a few words to make a public service announcement.
They spent over $8 million on "public outreach and education." Is the public outreach their advertising and marketing tactics? Has to be! And "education?" Is the public more educated on animal rights because of this? I think not. If anything, people with better approaches receive much more airtime and people actually listen to them (e.g., PCRM, Eating Animals, etc.). When people hear that PETA did something they laugh and shrug it off, knowing that it's likely something ridiculous created only for shock value (and to keep their name in minds of those who keep donating).
Here's another good article laying out the details of the many animals that PETA has killed.
While PETA may do some decent things here and there, it is over-shadowed by all the ridiculous things they engage in. The next time you get your PETA membership renewal notice in the mail take a moment to think it over. Do you really want your money going into a company that owns stock in the meat industry, kills the animals it rescues, and fights for a veggie burger to be added to the menu, rather than the meat burger to be removed?
We vote with our dollars every time we make a purchase in a store, as well as send in a membership donation. Make sure the companies you support share your beliefs.