Updated January 17, 2017
A Letter to the Leadership, Activists, & Supporters of Direct Action Everywhere
Direct Action Everywhere Organizing Principles: ‘WHAT WE BELIEVE: Animal Liberation: We believe that every animal (human or non-human) has an equal right to be safe, happy, and free… Truth: There are times in history when uncomfortable truths must be said; we will say them… HOW WE OPERATE: Integrity. Choose the ethical route over the easier one…’
‘Thursday, Dec 29, 6pm: Protesting Foie Gras in SF – We will be meeting at Peet’s Coffee on Market St. for this collaboration action with PETA.’ –Email sent out by Direct Action Everywhere’s Bay Area Chapter.
‘We are the friends of reform; but that is not reform, which, in curing one evil, threatens to inflict a thousand others.’ –William Lloyd Garrison
This is Maya.
Maya was a young, healthy, and beloved dog who lived in Virginia not far from the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Over several weeks, PETA had been visiting the trailer park where Maya lived and befriended the residents. PETA representatives got to know who lived where and who had dogs and cats. They sat with the families on their porches, talking to them, offering biscuits to the dogs, promoting vaccinations, sterilization, and other PETA services. One of the families they spent time with Maya’s.
Knowing the family was not at home, PETA sent a team to the trailer park where they knew Maya often sat on the porch. The PETA employees backed their van up to the porch and threw biscuits to Maya, hoping to coax her off her property and give PETA the ability to claim she was a “stray” dog “at large” whom they could therefore legally impound. In Virginia, PETA is licensed as an “animal shelter.” But Maya refused to stay off the property and after grabbing the biscuit, ran back to the safety of her porch. Knowing that no one was around—not only because they knew the schedules of the families, but because they paid local children money to leave the area—one of the employees went onto the property and stole Maya. But larceny wasn’t the only law the PETA employees would break. Virginia law requires dogs to be held for five days before they can be killed by shelters. It also requires private shelters like PETA to notify the municipal animal control shelter of any “stray” dogs they take in. PETA would do neither. Within hours, Maya was dead. PETA had killed her with a lethal dose of poison.
When the family returned and found Maya missing, they searched around the neighborhood before checking the video on a surveillance camera mounted on their porch. On the video, they saw the PETA van and recognized the woman who had come to their house on prior occasions to talk to them about Maya. They called PETA and asked for Maya’s return. PETA lied to them, claiming it did not have the dog and that no dogs were picked up from the trailer park. When PETA was told that its employees had been filmed taking the dog, they hung up. Shortly afterward, a PETA attorney called and informed the family that Maya was dead. She was not the only one.
A spokesman for Maya’s family says, “They were waiting until they [the residents] weren’t home. One of [the] neighbors actually saw them taking another resident’s pet. They waited until that resident left… They had actually learned everyone’s schedule. They pulled in, they take the guy’s dog, a next door neighbor saw the whole thing.” Due to the questionable immigration status of the residents, however, they were afraid to contact authorities. Had a surveillance video not been available, the killing of Maya would have remained unknown, as would the fates of other animals who also went missing that same day. A subsequent investigation into the killing of Maya by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS), however, determined that the other animals also taken from the trailer park were likewise killed. Among the dead were two four month old kittens, a six month old puppy, a one-year-old lab-mix, and another Chihuahua.
In dying at the hands of PETA employees, Maya, the other puppy, the lab, and the kittens became some of the 32,744 animals PETA has executed over the last 12 years according to documents submitted to the state of Virginia by PETA itself. Every year, PETA kills or causes to be killed roughly 98% of the animals they seek out, while adopting out only 1%. According to former PETA employees who have witnessed this killing first hand or performed it themselves, most of those animals were young and healthy, just like Maya. Many of them were puppies and kittens whom PETA never even attempted to find homes for. These include the animals killed by other PETA employees who were caught by local police throwing large garbage bags filled with the bodies of many dead animals into a supermarket dumpster. The dead included not only healthy puppies, but a mother cat and her kittens rescued by a local veterinarian who had given them to PETA on the assurance that PETA would place them up for adoption. Instead, the PETA employees immediately injected the animals with poison in one of many PETA vans used expressly for this purpose. These vehicles, paid for with donor funds, are roving PETA slaughterhouses on wheels, stocked with tackle boxes full of syringes and sodium pentobarbitol, the poison PETA uses to end the lives of animals.
Though most of the animals PETA kills die without recognition, because Maya had a family aware of her tragic fate, her death has not been forgotten. Maya’s human family included a 9 year old girl who dearly loved her dog, and was devastated at her loss.
It is a love and broken bond which PETA claims is irrelevant, stating, in court filings, that:
- Maya was legally worthless and, at best, she had no value beyond the cost of replacement for another dog;
- PETA had permission by the trailer park property owner to kill community cats so they cannot be guilty of trespass for entering private property and killing a dog;
- PETA’s theft and immediate killing of Maya was not “outrageous” conduct.
And, in an argument reeking with racist overtones, PETA demanded to know if her family was legally in the U.S.
These statements and the copious other evidence substantiating the atrocities which PETA employees commit against animals on a daily basis demonstrate what low regard, even disdain, PETA has for animal life. Indeed, they are on record saying that they “do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals.”
This evidence includes:
- Photographs of animals PETA has killed;
- Data, self-reported by PETA to the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, showing roughly 9 out of 10 animals they seek out are killed by them;
- An inspection report by the Virginia State Vet showing PETA kills 90% of animals within 24 hours without even trying to find them homes;
- An OpEd piece written by PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk which appeared in newspapers across the country where PETA says it supports a policy that all pit bulls should be killed in all shelters in America;
- The trial of PETA employees after they were found to be rounding up and killing animals in the back of a van after promising to find them homes;
- Stealing Maya, a “happy and healthy” dog and killing her;
- Surveillance video of Maya’s theft;
- Lobbying to kill legislation that would require shelters to try to find homes for animals, rather than simply kill them;
- A PETA employee who was told to kill highly adoptable animals and to lie in order to get them;
- A PETA employee who says that killing and lying are “standard operating procedure“;
- PETA calling for the killing of healthy community cats: http://goo.gl/WwXhQ5;
- PETA celebrating when a shelter announced it was going to resume killing after four years as a No Kill shelter;
- The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies asking the State Vet to revoke PETA’s ability to take in and kill animals, stating that the organization works to the “detriment of the animals of the Commonwealth [of Virginia]”;
- PETA telling a Tennessee Mayor to kill all pit bulls, not to foster animals, and not to work with rescue groups;
- Ingrid Newkirk admitting they kill healthy, adoptable animals.
They demonstrate how unfit PETA is to be the face of the animal rights movement or to represent the ideas that animals have value and a right to be free of human exploitation and killing. And yet despite the now widespread knowledge of how PETA operates, there is no accountability, no censure, no protest of this behavior by the animal rights movement itself. These atrocities continue unabated year in and year out, with the body count of animals increasing by the thousands as a movement theoretically predicted upon protecting animals from just this sort of harm not only ignores the killing, but openly champions, and even collaborates with, the organization which commits it. This includes Direct Action Everywhere.
The killing PETA commits deprives animals the same right to life now deprived to animals raised and killed for food and other purposes and in spite of the fact that Maya’s body and the bodies of the other 30,000 animals PETA has killed no more belonged to PETA than the bodies of pigs, turkeys, lambs, cows, chickens, crabs, or fishes belong to Whole Foods, Chipotle, or the local butcher shops Direct Action Everywhere protests. And it continues because those most in the position to do something about bringing PETA’s atrocities to end; those in fact whose job it is to speak out in defense of those who cannot speak for themselves—other animal rights groups—choose, with only the rarest of exception, not to condemn that killing. Instead, groups like Direct Action Everywhere legitimize it through collaborations, betraying everything Direct Action Everywhere leadership claims to stand for in its justified and righteous condemnation of the killing of animals done by everyone else.
Through publications and social media outreach which celebrate PETA, national conferences that have inducted their leader into their Animal Rights Hall of Fame and which censor speakers by prohibiting discussion of PETA’s killing with conference attendees, and through collaborative protests and events which school grassroots animal activists to view PETA as a legitimate partner in the cause of animal rights, the animal rights movement itself is to blame for fostering the circumstances which enable the killing to continue. Each blind eye turned and each handshake extended to the killers at PETA strengthens PETA’s ability to not only continue harming animals with impunity, but to use their increasing influence, power, and wealth to undermine the efforts of those laboring to protect the lives of community cats, pit bull dogs, and shelter animals whose killing PETA publicly champions to the American public and our elected officials.
After reading Direct Action Everywhere’s impassioned and righteous call to arms against the pernicious lie that it is possible to ethically kill an animal who does not want to die, of being inspired by its call to directly confront animal exploitation even when it is dressed up in faux “humane” labels by the animal protection movement itself, it is with great disappointment and heartbreak that people who believe all animals have a right to life must add Direct Action Everywhere to the long list of animal groups who continue to grant legitimacy to a group responsible for so much violence towards animals. Direct Action Everywhere’s upcoming collaborative event with PETA perpetuates our movement’s historic and sordid tradition of collusion with people who lie to members of the public to acquire their animals, steal people’s companion animals, gather up frightened animals displaced by natural disasters, only to hold each of those animals down against their will and inject fatal doses of poison into their veins. And it includes collusion with people who fight shelter reform efforts and defend even sadistically abusive pounds.
Does Maya’s life have less value than Pao’s, the dog Direct Action Everywhere rescued from the Yulin dog eating “festival”? Do the 32,744 animals killed by PETA have less of a right to life than the animals killed in Yulin? At our nation’s slaughterhouses? If Direct Action Everywhere were headquartered in Norfolk, VA, where the local residents live in fear that PETA employees may steal and kill their beloved companion animals, would Direct Action Everywhere support a resolution by the city council to oppose PETA’s killing of dogs (and cats and rabbits and many others) as it supported a resolution by the Berkeley City Council to oppose the killing of dogs in Yulin?
Direct Action Everywhere’s decision to echo the lanaguge of the anti-slavery newspaper the “The Liberator” is no doubt meant to honor the great American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Yet before Garrison could begin his work to end the scourge of slavery in earnest, his first job was to overcome the voices of resistance to abolition within his own movement, to rid the anti-slavery movement of its own racism, its own betrayals of the people whose rights that movement was founded to champion. This took great courage and tenacity, qualities which we, likewise, revere, deeply respect, and seek to emulate in our own efforts to protect animals from forces which harm them both outside and within the animal protection movement. In the name of that mutual regard, we ask Direct Action Everywhere to consider whether Garrison would have ever partnered with and legitimized an anti-slavery organization that sought out, then systematically executed, thousands of enslaved Africans every year as Direct Action Everywhere now does with PETA?
As the ethos of Direct Action Everywhere has so eloquently and righteously instructed us, what matters to an animal facing death is not who may be about to kill them, nor why they are to be killed but rather—and only—that they do not want to die. As such, it is our moral duty to come to their defense, to plead their case, to say the words they would say if they could by telling their story for them in the hope of influencing others to make moral choices that impact them, and others like them, going forward. In the spirit of Direct Action Everywhere’s Organizing Principle to “push ourselves to amplify the victims’ voices, and to act as the animals would, if they could,” let it be stated loud and unequivocally herein that Maya no more wanted her life to end than Pao does, had no less of a right to go on living than he did, and that the people at PETA who chose to take her life anyway are not friends to animals, but the perpetrators of a great crime against her and thousands of other animals, and until their killing is finally ended, should never be promoted as anything else.
Unlike any other group of animals suffering and dying at the hands of humans, those killed by PETA are the ones most within our power as a movement to immediately save. PETA’s killing agenda could not survive the collective rejection and repudiation of the entire animal protection movement allied in opposition to it, just as it now survives, and thrives, under the movement’s total complicity and capitulation. Until a tipping point of animal rights activists willing to weather the political fallout from standing up for what is right is achieved, thereby tipping the scales now weighted in favor of enabling PETA’s killing towards justice and protection of their victims, the current mob mentality that maligns and seeks to silence anyone who dares to state that the emperor of the animal rights movement has no clothes will continue, and with it, so will the killing of thousands of defenseless animals. And as long as Direct Action Everywhere continues to enable this unethical and deadly paradigm through its partnering with PETA rather than disrupt it with a refusal to cooperate, it’s words about standing up for animals against powerful forces whatever the cost, of “speaking unpleasant truths” when that is what the situation demands, will continue to ring hollow.
Therefore, on behalf of animals, and consistent with Direct Action Everywhere’s stated values, we ask the leadership of Direct Action Everywhere to remain true to the philosophy that the rights of all animals matter and that there is no such thing as humanely killing a healthy animal who does not want to die by refusing to partner with an organization that actively preaches, and worst of all, practices otherwise.
The PETA campaign of animal extermination is at the core of why Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, created that organization. Her ability to fund and direct a staff committed to her deeply disturbing visions that animals want to die and that it is good to kill them is a direct result of the façade she has created to obfuscate what that organization really is. In perpetuating this falsehood, she is enabled by the animal protection movement itself.
Like other political death cults in history which operated in plain sight by masquerading their true agenda with “good works”, PETA buys the silence and complicity of those who should be their fiercest critics. Those who publicly stand side by side with PETA encourage its financial support, and with it, its increasing power, wealth, and influence. It is a power and an influence they use to undermine the efforts of those of us working to protect the lives of companion animals through shelter reform and legislation, and wealth they use to fund their campaign of extermination: to buy lethal drugs and syringes, vans they transform into roving slaughterhouses, to pay the renderers’ fees necessary to dispose of the barrels of dead animals they kill each week, and to pay the salaries of the staff that acquire, often through theft and lies, thousands of animals to kill year after year.
Therefore, just as Direct Action Everywhere asks people to take a pledge to never sit at a table where the bodies of dead animals are being consumed, we call on grassroots Direct Action Everywhere activists to make a stand in defense of the animals PETA kills, and in the service of an authentic and uncorrupted animals right movement by refusing to participate in animal rights protests, events, or conferences hosted by, in collaboration with, or where PETA speakers are featured, recognizing that to do so grants PETA a legitimacy that not only allows its employees to continue killing animals with impunity, but which grants them a voice that they then use to call for the killing of animal companions.
As vegans of over 25 years, as former PETA volunteers who learned the truth, as activists fighting for a world where every animal is safe, happy, and free, and where every individual life is protected and revered, we ask you not to sacrifice 32,744 animals killed by PETA to date, the thousands they will continue to kill every year, and the millions more killed every year in a system of death camps PETA defends and protects. Doing so is not animal activism; it is violence.
Very truly yours,
Nathan & Jennifer Winograd
Update January 17, 2017:
After the original post, Direct Action Everywhere again collaborated with PETA. Moreover, DxE responded to these concerns by stating that because there is no hierarchy of leadership at Direct Action Everywhere, he therefore does not have the authority to stop partnering with PETA or to issue a statement condemning them for hurting animals, writing: “I currently have no role in our protests. (My focus is rescues and investigations.)… It’s also worth noting that DxE, as a grassroots network, has no ‘bosses.’ All our decisions are made by the chapter as a whole, usually on the basis of consensus, and I cannot unilaterally make a decision for the entire chapter/network even if I wanted to.” By this (il)logic, if DxE chapters want to hold events in conjunction with Chipotle to promote their faux “humanely raised” meat that would be in keeping with the organizational structure and ethos.
In its flowery language to win support for its cause, Direct Action Everywhere calls on people “to recognize that every silent act of acquiescence, which we rationalize as a matter of ‘convenience’, ‘decorum,’ or ‘bridgebuilding’, is a betrayal of the individual animals whose brutally-tortured bodies are screaming out for us to stand up for them.” It calls on everyone to “to speak and act with the political urgency and rhetorical clarity that would be the natural result if we were the ones whose heads were on the chopping block” because “every animal (human or non-human) has an equal right to be safe, happy, and free.” And yet, these rights apparently do not extend to the thousands of animals PETA kills every year. Instead of speaking and acting with “political urgency and rhetorical clarity” against the killing, DxE partners with PETA, standing side by side with members of that group at collaborative protests, thereby encouraging the public and the grassroots animals rights community to regard PETA as a legitimate voice for animals, a legitimacy that allows their harm to animals to continue unabated.
DxE leadership went further, calling Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder and the person who orders PETA’s killing and anti-shelter animal advocacy, “brilliant,” having “astounding strength of character,” and “the leader this movement needs.” Although well aware of PETA’s duplicity, DxE leadership even called past criticism of PETA “untimely” and “unwise.” What did she do to warrant this change of heart? She gave DxE “a huge shout-out” at the 2016 Animal Rights Conference, a conference where ground rules for speakers specify that no one is allowed to criticize, or even mention, PETA’s killing to the thousands of activists who attend that conference. Instead, conference organizers encourage attendees to do what DxE did: lionize and celebrate those who kill.
For DxE members who do not believe that those who kill animals and encourage others to do so have “integrity,” and “strength of character,” are “brilliant,” and represent just the kind of leadership the animal rights movement needs, we urge you to stand with the animals and demand an end to DxE’s hypocrisy. If you were inspired to join the organization because you truly love animals, want to protect them from violence and believe the powerful words DxE used to recruit your participation should be more than a mere marketing ploy, please stand up to DxE leaders who continue, despite overwhelming evidence of the harm to animals that results from doing so, to collaborate with and legitimize killers.
The list of crimes against animals committed by PETA is long and growing. As to how PETA continues to get away with these atrocities, DxE members who attend events in collaboration with PETA, who fail to challenge DxE’s self-serving duplicity, and who do not demand an end to the organization’s collaboration with killers need only look in the mirror.
Standing side by side with the killers at PETA is not activism, it’s violence.
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