April 2, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd.
On my Facebook page, a reader took issue with our claim in Friendly Fire that PETA’s systematic killing of animals and embrace of their killing cannot be understood without a psychological analysis of both Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, as well as those she recruits to do her bidding. In Friendly Fire, we argue that PETA appears to us to be a political death cult, a cover for Newkirk’s dark impulses. You can read an excerpted version by clicking here. In response to that analysis, the reader suggested that PETA’s actions show the failings of the utilitarianism philosophy, as articulated by Peter Singer in what is ironically considered the seminal work of the animal rights movement (ironic because it rejects legal rights for animals), Animal Liberation. While the comment was more nuanced, others have made similar arguments. But we think trying to find a philosophical basis for Ingrid Newkirk’s actions or the actions of her employees, misses the mark. Our response to the reader explaining why is below:
The reason my wife and I wrote Friendly Fire was to respond to the most common question people have when they learn that the biggest roadblocks to a No Kill nation are the large, national animal “protection” groups: Why?
We attempt to explain the historical, financial and sociological reasons behind this paradoxical opposition so that it makes sense and gives people the confidence to challenge it. If people can set aside the naïve assumption that just because a group has a professed mission it will therefore always act in accordance with that mission, if they can allow for the possibility that such groups can become ruled by greed, pride and self-preservation at the expense of their mission, then they can understand why they act as they do and most important of all, they can expose it for what it is to others, and help people move beyond the deference they now accord these groups, a deference that the groups use to maintain the status quo of killing.
As I would hope a reading of Friendly Fire conveys, we believe that the reasons behind the opposition of most of No Kill’s detractors can be understood in the context of basic human nature:
“While the result of the opposition to No Kill by shelter directors and others is anything but mundane, the motivation behind their resistance is ultimately attributable to pedestrian flaws of human nature: primarily uncaring, greed and narrow self-interest.”
We don’t, however, think this excuse is adequate to explain the killing done by PETA:
“Ingrid Newkirk is different. She opposes No Kill because the No Kill movement represents the antithesis of her definition of animal activism. To her, killing is the goal because she believes that life itself is suffering and therefore animals want to die.”
Without an appreciation of Newkirk’s particular and aberrant point of view, a whole lot of PETA’s behavior is inexplicable.
I understand the limits of trying to understand an organization via psychological evidence, not the least of which is that it tends to rely on subjective data prone to tautologies. Moreover, there are limits to a madman theory of history. But I do not believe you can discount it either and there is enough intersubjective evidence via comparison to studies of nurses who kill their patients or to the behavior of political death cults in history. Moreover, given the top-down nature of PETA, including firing anyone who admits a different point of view or even questions it, and the very real possibility that PETA is a front for Newkirk’s impulses in this regard, I believe it warrants serious consideration. That doesn’t mean it is the end-all be all, but I do believe that relying on a utilitarian explanation misses Newkirk’s role and denies the power of cults.
Admittedly, it has been 20 years since I read Animal Liberation, but I do not think utilitarianism can explain lying to people in order to take animals, in no danger of being killed, and putting them to death after promising to find them a home in the back of a van stocked with a tackle box full of syringes and poison and garbage bags in which to place their dead bodies (the circumstances surrounding such killing expose how deliberate and premeditated that killing is). Many people have read Animal Liberation but how many of them have created death cults as a result? How many people have read it and then attempted to recruit others to join them in an effort to round up and kill healthy animals?
Rather than argue that reading Animal Liberation provided Newkirk with the impetus to kill, I think it would be more accurate to say that Newkirk wants to kill, and uses the utilitarian argument proposed in Animal Liberation in the same way she uses PETA: as political cover. To assert the reverse is to imply that no matter how bizarre or out of touch with the norms of human experience a particular behavior may be, if that behavior can be traced back to someone else’s philosophical writings, if it can find justification, then that behavior cannot therefore be considered the result of a disturbed psychological condition.
I agree that many people who do not work at PETA but support Newkirk even when they learn about PETA’s killing may be influenced by Newkirk’s use of utilitarianism as a decoy and I don’t believe we ever suggested otherwise in Friendly Fire. I also agree, as I think you seem to be suggesting, that given the low regard for the value of animal life in our society, that people, even people who claim to be “animal rights” are unable or conveniently unwilling to “think” their own way out their support for PETA because not only are they reconciled to animals being killed, they are accustomed to the idea that PETA is something they are not—an animal protection organization—and therefore if PETA says the killing is necessary and okay, it must be necessary and okay.
But I don’t think the same can be said for the individuals she recruits to her cause who work at PETA and do the killing on her behalf. I do believe that these people are under Newkirk’s sway beyond what we would consider a healthy state of mind or a healthy relationship. And I think it is important to point this out because with PETA continually trying to place the killing that they do in the context of “pet overpopulation,” and with people continually trying to ham-fist Newkirk’s agenda into an animal rights context, the urgency of the plight of PETA’s victims is diminished. What is lost in such discussion is the sense of horror at what, in truth, PETA is actually doing to animals. There is no rational basis for supporting PETA, there is no way to reconcile PETA’s philosophy with that of other rights based movements that have come before ours, and to suggest otherwise is in itself a betrayal to the animals.
That is to say, if humans, rather than animals, were Newkirk’s target, no one would dare suggest there was a rational basis or justification behind her killing, or that that killing could be made to align with the philosophy of a movement intended to protect those people. They would see that such actions are in opposition, in fact the anti-thesis, of such a cause, not a manifestation of it. The flaws in such a suggestion would be immediately obvious to everyone, given our collective reverence for the sanctity of the individual rights of humans. And the only reason it isn’t in this instance is that we don’t collectively recognize the rights of animals in the same way, chief among them, the right to live.
In essence, Newkirk is allowed to continue killing animals because animals do not have the rights and protections afforded by law that most people erroneously believe PETA exists to promote. It is that very paradox that has for so long shielded Newkirk from greater accountability and which must be pointed out to most effectively overcome their assertions that the killing they do is necessary and humane.
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My Facebook page is facebook.com/nathanwinograd. The Facebook page of my organization is facebook.com/nokilladvocacycenter. Many people mistakenly believe that the Facebook pages at No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution are my pages. They are not.
March 27, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
The blog I write is about reforming animal sheltering in the United States. It is about ending the systematic killing of animals in these pounds. But this particular blog isn’t about sheltering. This isn’t about the battle between the No Kill philosophy and its eventual conquest over regressive, kill-oriented approaches. This isn’t about a lazy, inept, or uncaring shelter director who fails to hold his or her staff accountable. It isn’t about shelters that kill animals because doing so is easier than putting in place the programs and services to stop it.
This is about something more nefarious. This is about something truly insidious. This is about a bully who seeks out animals to kill. This is about the creation of death squads that actively go into communities with the specific purpose of finding dogs and cats to kill. And this is about a movement that has utterly failed to defend the innocent animals being slaughtered. This blog is about Ingrid Newkirk, the President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This is about an animal killing, arrogant, disturbed person. And enough is enough.
Since 1998, PETA has killed over 20,000 animals. Over one year ago, I wrote a blog opining that the reason PETA slaughters virtually every animal it seeks out and “impounds” has more to do with Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses than with any ideology, philosophy, or belief in overpopulation. This followed a staggering 97% kill rate for animals in 2006, despite millions of animal loving members, a world-wide reach, and a budget of tens of millions of dollars. It followed the killing of 1,942 out of 1,960 cats they impounded. It followed the deaths of 988 out of the 1,030 dogs they impounded. It followed the killing of 50 of the 52 rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals they took in. It followed the killing of the one and only chicken they impounded. That blog earned me a letter from PETA’s attorney threatening litigation for defamation.
Then came the 2007 numbers showing a 91% rate of killing—the killing of 1,815 of the 1,997 animals they impounded. And so I reran the blog. And now we have the 2008 figures and the slaughter—the needless, senseless, evil slaughter—continues with an equally staggering 96% kill rate. A paltry seven dogs and cats were adopted. A paltry 34 were transferred to an SPCA whose fates are not known. And out of 2,216 dogs and cats impounded, the rest were systematically put to death by PETA.
Killed: 555 of the 584 dogs.
Killed: 1,569 of the 1,589 cats.
PETA has argued that all of the animals it kills are “unadoptable.” In fact, PETA’s attorney stated that in his letter threatening a defamation lawsuit if I did not back down. But this claim is a lie. It is a lie because the numbers historically come from the State of Virginia’s reporting form which only asks for data for animals taken into custody “for the purpose of adoption.” It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making that determination. It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable. It is a lie because testimony under oath in court from a veterinarian showed that PETA was given healthy and adoptable animals who were later found dead by PETA’s hands, their bodies unceremoniously thrown away in a supermarket dumpster. And it is a lie because Newkirk herself admitted as much.
In a December 2, 2008 interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Stroumboulopoulos asks Newkirk: “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you get them?” To which Newkirk responds: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.” In short, Newkirk admits that PETA “absolutely” kills savable animals. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.
Why does the animal protection movement tolerate this woman?
No other movement would allow someone to remain in her position without a massive outcry and public condemnation when their actions are so counter, so anathema to their movement’s foremost principles. The child protection movement would not allow someone who kills children to run an organization dedicated to children’s rights. The human rights movement would not allow someone who kills people to run any of their organizations. But the animal rights movement—a movement founded on the principle that animals have a right to life—allows a very public, avowed, shameless animal killer to run an animal rights organization. And with the exception of Friends of Animals, the rest of the nation’s animal rights groups remain deafeningly silent about it.
As if that was not shameful enough, others go further and actually embrace her. The groups which organize the Animal Rights Conference inducted her into their Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Wayne Pacelle and HSUS have allowed her and her pro-killing apologists to give workshops at their national conference, HSUS Expo, to promote PETA’s ghastly vision of killing.
So a notice to all would be animal killers out there. One way to avoid the condemnation by the animal rights/welfare community for your vile actions is to start an animal rights group yourself and use that group as your cover for killing. Because they won’t stand up to you. There will be no campaign to bring you down. They will kowtow to your power and your position. You will become their colleague. Some will look the other way. But others will induct you into their hall of fame. Still others will ask you to present workshops at their national conference.
If history teaches us anything, however, it is that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to one. The only thing that will stop Newkirk is challenging Newkirk and calling her killing for what it is: the nefarious acts of a disturbed person. Because that’s how history will remember and condemn her, despite the aura of legitimacy her untoward actions now receive from her Board of Directors, the Humane Society of the United States, the groups who promote the Animal Rights Conference, and the other groups which tolerate her leadership position through their silence.
While those who now dare to call Newkirk’s slaughter for what it is may be threatened with litigation, or be attacked in other ways, history will vindicate them, as it always does for those who—despite the personal costs—defend what is right by challenging tyrants. While those who remained silent in the face of these atrocities—the hypocritical leaders of other organizations who take her telephone calls, shake her hand, stand side-by-side with her, and take personal pride in their association with her—will someday have to answer for this complicity, and will face the shame that comes with answering “nothing” when asked what they did to stop Newkirk’s bloody reign at PETA.
Because engrave this in stone: As soon as Newkirk and her pro-killing cultish devotees are gone, PETA will immediately, completely, and without reservation embrace the No Kill philosophy and become one of its leading champions. When that happens; when her actions are thoroughly and completely seen by everyone for what they truly are; when she is condemned and finally, finally, thankfully, finally, we don’t have to hold our breath, clench our teeth, shake with rage, or cry at the thought of what PETA did to those poor animals, we will all be left wondering just what took us so damned long to rise up and stop this villain in our midst.
So here it is again: Round 3. Munchausen by PETA. My opinion.
Munchausen by PETA?
In search of a diagnosis as to why Ingrid Newkirk and PETA seek out animals to kill. And a plea for the movement to stop them so that they won’t continue killing.
In 2006, an official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that they took in 3,043 animals, of which 1,960 were cats, 1,030 were dogs, 52 were other companion animals, and one was a chicken. Of these, they killed the chicken, killed 1,942 cats, 988 dogs, and 50 classified as “other companion animals.” They found homes for only 2 cats, 8 dogs and 2 of the other companion animals.
By the numbers:
- PETA killed 1,942 of the 1,960 cats, finding homes for only 2.
- PETA killed 988 of the 1,030 dogs finding homes for only 8.
- PETA killed 50 of the 52 other companion animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.), finding homes for only 2.
- PETA killed the chicken they took in.
That’s a 97% kill rate. (This was based on PETA’s own reporting to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which only requires “recordkeeping and reporting of only those animals taken into custody… for purposes of adoption.”) Despite $30 million in revenues, they found homes for only 12 animals. An additional 21 cats and 25 dogs were transferred to another agency (likely a kill shelter since PETA has a “policy against No Kill shelters.”) The rest were put to death. Why?
I’ve tried to explain it by the simple observation that the founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, formerly held a job killing homeless dogs and cats at the Washington Humane Society, a shelter with a consistently poor record for saving lives and the subject of historical public acrimony for its over-reliance on killing. But, in my opinion, there appears to be something more disturbing going on here than Newkirk’s history.
It can’t simply be explained by catch phrases like “they are hypocrites” and “they don’t really care.” Those are terms which No Kill proponents may use to describe Newkirk’s and PETA’s position on killing dogs and cats, but they don’t explain it. Nor is this simply a disagreement between No Kill supporters and traditional “catch and kill” proponents. That is the debate going on with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where their reputations and donations are being threatened. But with PETA, there appears to be something much more nefarious at play.
While Newkirk tries to shield her actions by wrapping them in the language of opposition to “No Kill,” PETA neither has an animal control contract, nor do they operate as a rescue group. Any effort to offer a lifesaving alternative to killing is dismissed as “no clue” or “warehousing animals” and any dissent by employees or volunteers is allegedly punished by termination or ousting from the group. In talking with an ex-PETA employee, he indicated that during a staff meeting, he was subjected to a PETA video of this kind (No Kill equals hoarding). Having lived in San Francisco during the 1990s when No Kill was in its heyday there and the San Francisco SPCA the nation’s premier shelter, he openly questioned the veracity of the information and was asked to his supervisor’s office and terminated.
Why? The closest analogy or explanation that I have found which appears to fit is the same phenomenon that causes nurses to kill their patients, some offshoot of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (See Attack of the Killer Nurses: A look at a curious phenomenon – nurses who kill their patients, National Review, May 28, 2001). In the typical case, the nurse or caregiver kills the patients with lethal injections. They often claim they act from “compassion for their ailing victims,” because they want “to end their suffering,” and because they and their colleagues are “severely overburdened.” In their minds, they are the heroes and those who try to stop them are turning their backs on their patients.
The corollary to PETA’s language about “Euthanasia: The Compassionate Option,” about “overburdened” shelter workers, and about giving animals what Newkirk calls “the gift of euthanasia,” and how “it was the best gift they’ve ever had,” is eerily similar. In her case, she also believes she is the hero and those who try to stop her are turning their backs on the animals. (She recently blasted a No Kill supporter by stating: “How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!”) Indeed, Newkirk-through-PETA says that blaming shelters for killing animals is like blaming hospitals for killing patients. Is Newkirk trying to tell us something?
Unfortunately, I have no psychological evaluation to support such a diagnosis, except for similarity of language and the acts themselves: the fact of the killing, the death squads, the indoctrination against No Kill, the hateful denunciation of No Kill, and the proactive efforts to stop communities from trying to embrace No Kill principles.
So what is it? (PETA-apologists have suggested that Newkirk has seen terrible suffering and worries about animals, but this is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak. I was a prosecutor. I’ve seen and handled cases involving torture, child rape, murder, arson of animals, and other acts of unspeakable cruelty. I was also an animal control director in a shelter which investigated and prosecuted horrific crimes against animals. I’ve seen terrible suffering to which is why I want to end it, regardless of whether it comes at the hands of a single abuser or systematically by killing)
We may never know. But what we do know and what I can say is that animal rights and animal welfare groups should reject this point of view and actively campaign against it not only for the dogs and cats PETA will kill in the future and whose interests they theoretically exist to protect, but because it undermines our movement’s credibility when we either ignore the atrocities PETA is committing against animals, or make excuses for it simply because those perpetrating them claim to be part of our movement. Moreover, PETA’s position that animals in shelters do not have a right to live subverts the entire foundation upon which all social justice movements are inherently based.
The right to life is universally acknowledged as a basic or fundamental right. It is basic or fundamental because the enjoyment of the right to life is a necessary condition of the enjoyment of all other rights. A movement cannot be “rights” oriented as PETA claims to be and ignore the fundamental right to life. If an animal is dead, the animal’s rights become irrelevant. Not only does PETA not acknowledge the right to life, they have rejected it saying that they “do not believe in right to life,” as it relates to dogs and cats.
Of more immediate concern, it is the relationship between Americans and their animal companions that can open a door to larger animal rights issues. In their daily interactions with their dogs and cats, people experience an animal’s personality, emotions, and capacity both for great joy and great suffering. They learn empathy for animals. It is not a stretch that someone who is compassionate—and passionate—about their pets would over time and with the right information be sympathetic to animal suffering on farms, in circuses, in research facilities, and elsewhere.
Right now, however, the nation’s largest self-proclaimed “animal rights” group is actively working to ensure that that door is never opened—by actively and proactively arguing that dogs and cats do not have the right to life, and that killing them is an act of kindness. In my opinion: It is beyond ironic. It is beyond hypocritical. It is beyond a betrayal. It is beyond obscene. Regardless of whether you believe in “animal rights” or you don’t; regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not; regardless of where you stand on animal issues unrelated to animal sheltering, I believe PETA’s position is insane.
And despite the fact that PETA’s annual killing of thousands of dogs and cats has been common knowledge among the leaders of our nation’s animal welfare and animal rights groups for years, most of these so-called “leaders” have chosen to look the other way. In fact, HSUS invites Newkirk and her cronies to give presentations at their national animal sheltering conference. Two years ago, Newkirk gave a video presentation on what amounted to why Pit Bulls should be killed and this year, one of her devotees will share PETA’s strategy for how to engage in “damage control” and “public relations spin” when a shelter or community which kills is challenged by No Kill proponents. Why are groups like HSUS supporting her? Do they hate the movement to end the systematic killing of shelter animals which No Kill represents so much that they are willing to embrace a person and organization this zealous in support of the killing of dogs and cats? The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” can’t be it, can it? Is HSUS so threatened by No Kill that they are willing to embrace an organization which appears to be working to undermine their other platforms? With friends like these, the animals truly do not need enemies.
In my opinion, PETA’s position on killing of dogs and cats is irresponsible. But as to the question of why they do it, I am not a psychiatrist and I very much doubt that Newkirk and her followers will submit to a psychological evaluation. As a result, I am afraid I have no clear answer, though my personal opinion leans toward Newkirk suffering from the mental illness of Munchausen by Proxy. And if I am correct, she will never stop killing until she is forced to.
PETA’s Board of Directors, PETA employees, other animal welfare groups, and animal rights activists need to stop drinking the Ingrid Newkirk Kool-Aid. They must stop making excuses for the killing of animals. They need to openly reject views that need to be explained in the pages of the Journal of Psychiatry. And, if they are to protect the thousands of animals whose lives are at future risk from PETA, they must work to remove the political cover provided by her association with PETA which allows Ingrid Newkirk to continue to act on what I believe are deeply disturbing impulses that result in animals being killed.
Please note: The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the writer and no one else, nor any agency or organization. The author is an attorney and notes that the communications are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Any attempt to infringe on that right, whether actual or threatened, will be considered a strategic lawsuit against public participation.
March 1, 2016 by Nathan J. Winograd
Although these puppies were killed by PETA a number of years ago, PETA continues to put thousands of animals every year to death, including puppies and kittens, with little to no effort to find them homes. In 2015, at least 1,502 animals met that fate.
Normally I do not post about PETA’s annual rates of killing until the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) reports the actual numbers for the year (as they do every year in March). They will be uploaded any day now as the deadline for submission has just passed and PETA has put out its annual press release trying to “spin” them into a positive. But since Barkpost has already posted about it and the Richmond SPCA has already posted about it, let’s try to make sense of the numbers as PETA has self-reported and spun them.
First, a brief history to put these figures into context. Every year, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires public and private animal shelters to report the numbers and dispositions of the animals they acquire. As PETA is licensed as a “private animal shelter,” the self-reported statistics by PETA reveal that the organization is little more than an assembly line of death for those animals it takes in and, in many cases, actively seeks out for the very purpose of putting them to death. Approximately 2,000 animals a year are taken into custody by PETA annually, of whom roughly nine out of 10 are immediately injected with a fatal dose of poison. This number includes–in fact it is predominantly–healthy animals, including puppies and kittens. A small percentage of animals are sent to kill shelters by PETA, where those animals are either killed or displace animals already there who are then killed. Historically and despite revenues of some $50,000,000 a year, PETA has made little to no effort at public adoptions, with the very tiny percentage of animals who are adopted into homes going almost exclusively to PETA staff members.
While PETA has been killing thousands of animals a year with impunity for two decades, increasing public awareness about this killing, as well as two scandals–one in 2005 when PETA staff were arrested after lying to people in order to acquire their animals by promising to find them homes only to kill them in the back of a donor-funded death van within minutes and another in 2014 when PETA was filmed on camera stealing a beloved chihuahua named Maya from her front porch in a community near PETA headquarters then later admitting to killing her that very day—has meant that PETA staff have been forced, by sheer necessity, to hype up the spin machine to mask the disturbing, grisly reality of the systematic killing machine that is PETA.
Two days ago, PETA reported that out of 2,047 animals it took in or rounded up in 2015, it succeeded in placing “545 adoptable animals in permanent homes or delivering them to shelters with high foot traffic for adoption, in addition to referring many more adoptable animals directly to open-admission shelters.” That sounds like improvement. Only it really isn’t. They admit that 1,502 were killed and that means a 72% rate of killing, give or take a percentage point in either direction if some were still on hand or were reclaimed (which is usually less than a handful). In other words, roughly seven out of 10 animals were killed, an atrocity. But even that doesn’t tell the full story.
Of the 545 not killed, only 94 were actually adopted out by PETA. The rest were sent to kill shelters because PETA refuses to work with No Kill organizations. Conceivably, every single dog and cat transferred by PETA to such shelters would either have been killed or displaced another animal who was killed. If that is the case, that would put the kill rate closer to 95%. The goal, after all, is not to have animals “saved” from PETA’s needles only to be given the needle down the road (or displace others who are then put to death) as that would be nothing more than a shell game, a classic case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. The goal is to actually save them by having them placed into loving, new homes–something that is not likely to happen since PETA makes very little effort to do so.
Moreover, the adoption rate actually declined from a year earlier: from about 5% to 4.5% because PETA is turning animals away and thus taking in fewer. That it is “referring animals” to local shelters is actually improvement, because they will have a better chance of being saved, though not by much. At the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter which serves the area, for example, 1,939 cats either died or were killed out of 2,970, a 65% death rate. Either way, these animals are likely to be killed.
The irony, of course, is that PETA is now doing what it accuses small, private animal shelters of doing: being “limited admission” by referring people with animals to other shelters. (It also, of course, continues to ignore the fact that “open-admission” shelters can be No Kill and that an “open admission” shelter does not have to—and should not—be an open door to the killing of animals. In fact, using the term “open admission” for kill shelters is misleading. Kill shelters are closed to people who love animals. They are closed to people who might have lost their job or lost their home but do not want their animals to die. They are closed to Good Samaritans who find animals but do not want them killed. They are closed to animal lovers who want to help save lives but will not be silent in the face of needless killing. And so they turn these people and their animals away, refusing to provide to them the service they are being paid to perform. In short, PETA ignores that “open door” does not mean “more humane” when the end result is mass killing.)
Moreover, what the PETA’s self-serving press release doesn’t say is that PETA in addition to killing thousands of animals, PETA continued to champion the mass killing of pit bulls and community cats and continued to defend poorly performing shelters. In 2015, it joined a group whose express mission was to ban pit bulls and have them killed by “shelters” all over the country and it joined hunters in New York to have community cats rounded up and killed. It and its acolytes also hired seven lobbyists to try and overturn SB 1381, a law passed in 2014 which was designed to put PETA out of the killing business. That law, which required that Virginia shelters be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes” was designed to force PETA specifically, and private shelters generally, to do what the public already thinks “shelters” do: find homes for the animals they take in rather than kill them. Failure to do so would result in revocation of their license to operate a shelter. At the behest of PETA, Virginia Delegate Bobby Orrock filed three bills to repeal SB 1381. Despite going so far as to violate federal civil rights laws to try and get those bills passed, however, Orrock’s bills thankfully failed: one was withdrawn, one died in committee, and one was amended to simply delay 1381’s implementation, a pyrrhic victory since VDACS was already committed to delay.
In other words, it was–as it always is with PETA–a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad History of Killing Animals” in 2015, too. Of course, we won’t know the full extent of the carnage until the VDACS numbers actually come out, but even then we may not fully know.
In 2014, for example, PETA lied in its reporting to VDACS. In October of that year, PETA stole Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her porch while her family was out. They killed her that very day. According to a spokesman for Maya’s family, PETA came to the trailer park where the family lives, where most of the residents are Spanish speaking with few resources. The PETA representatives befriended the residents. They got to know who lived where and who had dogs. In fact, they sat with the family on the same porch from which they later took Maya. Waiting until the family was away from the home, PETA employees backed their van up to the porch and threw biscuits to Maya, in an attempt to coax her off her property. But Maya refused to stay off the porch and ran back. Thinking that no one was around, one of the employees—who was later charged with larceny—went onto the property and took Maya.
When the family returned and found their beloved Maya missing, they searched around the neighborhood before checking the video on the surveillance camera. That is when they saw the PETA van on the film 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. According to a family spokesperson, PETA claimed it did not have the dog. 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. PETA had killed her. She may not be the only one. On the day they stole Maya, other animals went missing as well. Had a surveillance video not been available, the killing of Maya would have remained unknown, as are the fates of the other animals. Yet in its reporting of Maya to VDACS, she is listed as “owner surrendered.”
Given that PETA has a history of committing larceny, a history of getting animals under false pretenses, a history of lying to people who surrender their animals, and a history of underreporting killing, there is simply no reason to trust its reporting to VDACS. As such, the VDACS numbers represent the best possible scenario. It could be a lot worse.
The question, of course, is why? Why does PETA take in, round up, steal, and kill animals? Employees who have spoken out about PETA’s killing say it is the result of the deeply disturbing version of animal activism promoted by PETA founder and President, Ingrid Newkirk. They explain how employees are made to watch “heart wrenching” films about animal abuse to drill into them the belief that people are incapable of caring for animals and that “PETA was doing what was best for animals” by killing them.
PETA tells its employees that people can’t, don’t, and won’t take care of animals, that the lives of animals with people is one of neglect and abuse and that living with dogs and cats violates their rights. PETA also claims that animals cannot live without human care, which is why they do not support letting free-living cats continue to be free-living. The animals are, in short, damned either way and thus killing them is a “gift.”
But any explanation that tries to explain PETA’s killing in terms of its philosophy will fall short for the very reason that such explanations assume PETA is what it says it is: a group dedicated to the “ethical treatment of animals” even if most people would find its treatment decidedly unethical. The overwhelming state of the evidence as we know it suggests a more plausible explanation: PETA is a political death cult.
Killing animals is why it was formed and what it does because that is what political death cults do. Everything else is merely the “good works” PETA hides behind so it can continue to pursue its core function of animal extermination. And that is why, year after year in March, the reports will be the same: thousands of animals rounded up and thousands of animals put to death unless and until they are forcibly stopped. And given PETA’s endless resources, its army of wilfully blind supporters, dishonorable politicians like Bobby Orrock who are willing to do their bidding, incompetent and uncaring bureaucrats such as those who staff VDACS willing to look the other way, and a movement that legitimizes PETA’s killing by praising Newkirk, that is–tragically for the animals–not likely to happen any time soon.
Update: VDACS just posted the 2015 stats. PETA killed 1,009 of the 1,286 cats they took in, a kill rate of 78%. Another 229 were transferred to kill shelters since PETA has a policy of not working with No Kill shelters. If they were killed or displaced other animals who were killed, that’s a cat death rate of 96%.
PETA also killed 447 of the 688 dogs they took in, a kill rate of 65%. Another 217 were transferred to kill shelters. If they were killed or displaced other animals who were killed, that’s a dog death rate of 97%.
The adoption rate for each was only 3%.
They also killed 38 of the 60 “other companion animals” they took in and sent five to kill shelters.
The statistics are available by clicking here.
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January 2, 2016 by Nathan J. Winograd
Last week, I posted about the progress we made in 2015 across a wide range of issues, including saving the lives of cats (dogs, and other animals) in shelters and protecting them from abuse. A couple of readers suggested I needed to be more explicit on the increasing success of sterilization and release (depending on the context, sometimes called trap-neuter-return/release, shelter-neuter-release, or return-to-field) as one of the most profound accomplishments of the year. Indeed, 2015 was a good year for U.S. community cats.
There were a number of communities who embraced it in lieu of continued killing, such as Blair, NE ,which amended its ordinance to give “community cat caregivers” legal status. “Blair residents are currently allowed to own three cats or three dogs; the total number of dogs and cats older than 4 months can’t exceed four. Under the amended ordinance, a community cat caregiver may feed an unlimited number of cats if those cats are humanely trapped, ear-tipped, neutered, vaccinated for rabies and returned to their original locations.” And Elkton, MD, which embraced a partnership with a No Kill feline rescue group to sterilize and release the city’s community cats.
In addition, sterilization and release has specifically gained traction even among regressive shelters looking for a way to do less work while also increasing lifesaving in response to public pressure. Campaigns like the Million Cat Challenge have repackaged long-term No Kill initiatives like “sterilization and release” for community cats and successfully encouraged more communities to embrace it. The Challenge claims over 250,000 cats were sterilized and released, rather than killed in 2015. This is a major achievement, although admittedly it includes cats who would have been saved without the initiative since some of the participating shelters were already practicing it. The San Francisco SPCA, one of the participating shelters for example, started a TNR initiative in the early 1990s, the SPCA of Eerie County, another signatory, started it while I was running a neighboring shelter in New York in the early 2000s, as have others. (It should also be noted that while “return to field” for cats who are social is and remains preferable to killing, it is an imperfect solution and less ideal than adoption if the cats truly have no human address.)
Moreover, studies touting the benefits of sterilization/release have become more plentiful and more expansive. Here are just four that show: it works from a computer modeling perspective, that is saves both cats and dogs, that it should be done for dogs because of its success with cats, and that is saves cats in other ways, too (such as reduced incidence of respiratory infection for cats at the shelter).
This is tremendous progress to be sure, should be celebrated, and is a far cry from the days when most shelters and the large, national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States called sterilization and release “abhorrent,” “inhumane,” “subsidized abandonment” and even encouraged caretakers to be arrested and prosecuted. But if 2015 was the year of the cat, it was decidedly a mixed bag and, tragically, one of the most majestic of all creatures remains public enemy number one in some circles.
In an announcement that made every cat lover’s world shift on its axis, Australia declared it was embarking on a five year extermination campaign to put to death 2,000,000 cats. The genocide is mind-boggling and medieval in scope, scale, and barbarism.
In the U.S., likewise, Washington, D.C. officials announced a desire to “revisit TNR”, a euphemism to begin putting community cats to death despite a very successful sterilization and release initiative that has brought District shelter death rates to all-time lows. (They also announced a bid to kill geese, deer, and other animals.) This backtracking in a city with a progressive government and successful TNR program shows how quickly defeat can be snatched from the jaws of “victory.”
Caretakers continue to be cited and in some cases threatened with jail for feeding cats in the U.S. and legislation to clarify that TNR was legal in Virginia failed after PETA and its acolytes convinced legislators that community cats were better dead than fed. PETA also joined with hunters to deny funding for TNR efforts in New York. And the level of anti-cat sentiment in both the “scientific” and popular press appears to be increasing.
While PETA’s war on cats has more to do with the dark impulses of its founder Ingrid Newkirk, the others are driven by the environmental movement’s hijacking by invasion biologists who claim that the cats are “not native” and therefore must be killed. “Non-native” and “invasive species” are terms that have entered the lexicon of popular culture and become pejorative, inspiring unwarranted fear, knee-jerk suspicion, and a lack of thoughtfulness and moral consideration. They are language of intolerance, based on an idea we have thoroughly rejected in our treatment of our fellow human beings—that the value of a living being can be reduced merely to its place of ancestral origin. And when we speak these words, repeat them and pay lip service to their perceived implication that we must revere the familiar and disdain the foreign, we should not only be ashamed to do so, but realize that we are opening the floodgates of expression to our darker natures and our most base instincts—impulses which have been responsible for the most regrettable moments in human history. Indeed, Invasion biology has likely surpassed regressive shelters as the primary threat to the well-being of community cats.
Not surprisingly, conservation has become synonymous with killing. That’s not just my view: it is a truth that these pseudo-environmentalists do not deny and in fact openly promote (as this full page ad in an environmental magazine admits). And not only are cats (and other animals) being killed, killing is done in some of the most brutal ways possible: by electrocution, poisoning (including anticoagulants which cause animals to slowly and painfully die), snare traps, and shooting. In the U.S. the killing is less brutal and more sanitized (except in gassing states where it is tantamount to torture): cats are rounded up and injected with a fatal dose of poison, but it is killing nonetheless.
We’re making progress to be sure. Communities across the country are radically increasing lifesaving through adoption, we’re impacting the “kitten mill” system by passing laws making it illegal in cities to sell commercially-bred cats in pet stores, and more communities are embracing sterilization and release. But it is too soon to declare victory. And too soon to call 2015 the year of the cat in the U.S. or elsewhere. For that to happen, we must gain strength from our many victories for cats and redouble our efforts to reform the historically regressive practices of our nation’s shelters, while driving the terms “invasive species” and “non-native” into a well-deserved extinction.
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December 22, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
How many paid lobbyists does it take to kill thousands of animals a year?
PETA has hired two lobbyists and its acolytes have hired five more. If history is any guide, they will be used to thwart lifesaving reforms. In terms of PETA, they will also be used to subvert regulations that would put it out of the killing business.
Last year, the Virginia Legislature overwhelmingly passed SB 1381, requiring shelters in Virginia to be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” In other words, it mandated shelters do did what the public already thinks shelters do and what the dictionary says they do. But PETA doesn’t. PETA—which is licensed in Virginia as a shelter—kills 90% of the animals, adopts out only 1%, and steals animals like Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her porch in order to kill her (and others).
Despite PETA’s intense effort to derail the vote, the House of Representatives voted 95 to 2 in favor of the bill. The bill passed the Senate by an equally lopsided vote: 35 to 1. And the Governor signed it. Opposition to PETA’s roving death squads may just be the only true bipartisan issue in Virginia.
Now, PETA appears intent on trying to subvert it with hired guns, hoping their odds are better both with the 2016 legislature and in the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services which has been tasked with writing the regulations to implement the law. Unfortunately for the animals, the leadership and staff at VDACS–namely Commissioner Sandra Adams, State Veterinarian Richard Wilkes, and Program Manager Carolyn Bissett–have so far proven themselves to be typically bureaucratic, tragically indifferent, fundamentally uncaring, and as is so typical of oversight agencies, willing to overlook PETA’s criminal conduct by bending over backward for the entity they are supposed to be regulating.
While VDACS sits on its hands, an additional 4,500 animals will be needlessly killed at the behest of Ingrid Newkirk’s dark and disturbing impulses and the families of the animals they round up and kill across Norfolk and surrounding areas will be left heartbroken. In other words, VDACS appears content to allow PETA to get away with murder.
What You Can Do:
Don’t let VDACS continue to get away with turning a blind eye and foot dragging. Please send a polite, but emphatic, email to Adams, Wilkes, and Bissett that you expect them to do their jobs and honor the intent of the legislature and the will of the people:
- Comm. Sandra Adams: email@example.com
- Dr. Richard Wilkes: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Carolynn Bissett: email@example.com
Tell them that PETA kills 90% of the animals it takes in, that it steals people’s animals and puts them to death in violation of state laws and regulations, that it has always maintained it is “not in the home finding business” and has made virtually no effort to do so, and that it has a history of criminal conduct and lying to people in order to acquire and kill animals. As such, it cannot legally be licensed as a private shelter under SB 1381. And while you are at it, tell them that we should not have to wait years for VDACS to act while PETA kills thousands more.
Photo: Just a small number of the tens of thousands of puppies, kittens, rabbits, and other animal companions put to death by PETA over the years, some of whom were stolen from their families or their families were promised they would find homes.
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October 19, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
Photo credit: Central California Pets Alive
Several years ago, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk wrote an OpEd piece in newspapers across the country calling on all shelters in all American cities to kill all dogs who looked like “pit bulls.” “Most people have no idea that at many animal shelters across the country, any pit bull that comes through the front door doesn’t go out the back door alive,” she wrote. “From San Jose to Schenectady, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of ‘pits’ they encounter. This news shocks and outrages the compassionate dog-lover. Here’s another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters’ pit-bull policy… People who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pits.”
PETA even supported the pit bull ban in Ontario, Canada, which mandates the pound seizure of animals from shelters by companies who use them for animal experimentation—the fate that ostensibly awaited some of the family pets seized under the PETA-supported breed ban.
Two years ago, PETA wrote a Mayor in Tennessee telling him not to work with rescuers and to kill all pit bulls. “PETA recommends a ban on the adoption/release of dangerous dogs and fighting breeds (commonly known as ‘pit bulls’).”
This month, PETA has joined forces with a group that has a singular mission: “to have pit bulls banned across the United States — a move which seems to lead, inexorably, to the dogs being killed.” “We’re not talking about dogs who have done anything wrong,” writes Arin Greenwood of the Huffington Post. “This concerns all pit bulls. The therapy dogs, the police dogs, the war heroes, those who’ve saved lives, … and those who are still in shelters, waiting to be given a chance.”
PETA also practices what it preaches. According to Virginia Sen. Bill Stanley, “From July to September, 630 animals [were] taken in [by PETA], 490 euthanized. 27 adopted.” That’s a kill rate of eight out of 10 animals. Only 4% were adopted. Most of the rest presumably went to kill shelters as they refuse to work with No Kill ones.
PETA’s killing historically not only includes healthy puppies and kittens, but, of course, pit bulls. “I did witness [PETA] bring back a pit bull to the Norfolk location,” one PETA employee reported. “This pit bull was wagging its tail, jumping (an obvious friendly dog; not feral) while receiving praise, treats and getting pet by the [two PETA] employees. It was the end of my shift, so I was cleaning and restocking, which required me to go into their shed for supplies. I saw the [two PETA] employees take the pitbull into the shed’s euthanasia room, which is inside this shed. It is a small room where they have a table and a huge walk-in freezer with [four] large trash cans. The trash cans contained deceased animals and were usually full. As I continued to do my job, I heard the [PETA] employees talking to the dog and trying to calm it down as it whined. Later … they opened the door and I saw the pit bull deceased on the table.”
Not only do shelters misidentify breeds as much as 75 percent of the time, but as used by shelters, law enforcement agencies and even courts, “Pit Bull” is not a breed of dog. It is, according to a leading advocacy organization, “a catch-all term used to describe a continually expanding incoherent group of dogs, including pure-bred dogs and mixed-breed dogs. A ‘Pit Bull’ is any dog an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer, newspaper reporter or anyone else says is a ‘Pit Bull.’” When it comes to dogs we call “Pit Bulls,” PETA is not only killing them based on meaningless stereotypes, they are asking shelters to kill dogs they mistakenly think fit those stereotypes by the way they look.
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June 30, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
PETA has once again shown its true colors, this time aligning itself with a hunting organization in order to promote the round up and killing of community cats. As New York State legislators this week were debating whether to provide funding for sterilizing “feral” cats in lieu of killing, two groups came out in opposition: the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council and PETA. One wants to hunt down and kill animals and PETA, well, they also want to hunt down and kill animals. The only difference is one shoots; the other injects with poison.
Since its inception, PETA has advocated for the round up and killing of homeless cats. In 1995, for example, over the objections of cat lovers pushing for a sterilization program, the Mayor of Miami Beach pushed a plan to trap and kill cats. PETA sent a letter to the Mayor applauding his decision. The Mayor, however, had also decided that kittens would be turned over to a rescue group for socialization and adoption. But PETA took issue with this part of the plan, arguing that all the cats, including the kittens, should be taken to animal control and “euthanized by sodium pentobarbital injection.”
More recently, the Pima County, AZ, Board of Supervisors were voting last year on whether or not to reduce the killing of “feral” cats by implementing TNR at the shelter. As the local news reported, “Saving thousands of cats from being euthanized every year sounds like a good idea, but a well-known animal rights group is completely against it.” PETA told legislators that the cats were better dead then fed and urged them to continue rounding up and killing them.
When they are not advocating that community cats should be killed, they are killing them themselves. In 2014, PETA took in 1,605 cats at its Virginia headquarters and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters where they were either killed or displaced others who were killed. That would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%.
Thankfully, New York legislators ignored PETA. They voted 188 to 11 to pass the bill and send it to the Governor. Pima Supervisors also ignored PETA, embracing sterilization in lieu of killing. As to PETA killing animals themselves? Virginia lawmakers voted 130 to 3 (over PETA’s objections) to require private shelters, which PETA claims to be, to work to find homes for cats.
Please note: I do not criticize PETA because of what they are thought to stand for (animal rights), but because of what they actually do stand for (animal killing). I criticize them because they “do not advocate right to life for animals” (as Ingrid Newkirk herself has written), because they kill over 90% of the animals they take in, including healthy puppies and kittens, and because they also advocate that they be killed by others.
In the early 1990s, I was living in Wheaton, Maryland, a stone’s throw from PETA headquarters, before they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Because I love animals, am vegan, and did not want to see them killed, exploited, or abused, I became a PETA volunteer. And then one day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said no, that was a very bad idea, because PETA would just kill him. That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. It is what another PETA intern also did when he saw puppies and kittens in the kill room. He quit in disgust.
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May 16, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
Victims of Ingrid Newkirk. How many more will die?
Dear PETA Employees,
A few days ago, I posted an article entitled “The (Death) Cult of PETA.” Based on photographs, documents, newspaper accounts, court records, testimonials, interviews with 10 PETA employees who described, in detail, its inner workings, and several high profile cases in which PETA has been caught killing and even stealing animals, it is clear to me that PETA is an animal rights organization in name only, a name which masquerades and enables their true agenda of systematically seeking out thousands of animals every year in order to poison them to death. It is a goal they accomplish by not only manipulating animal activists who go to work for that organization into becoming killers, but by intimidating them into remaining silent about the atrocities against animals going on behind closed doors.
Sadly, though the information contained in my article is damning, what prevents the message contained within it from reaching a wider audience is the fact that each of the PETA employees I have spoken to insists on maintaining their anonymity. While the individuals who contact me relay deeply disturbing facts which haunt them, only one person—Heather Harper-Troje—has ever attached her name to public allegations, a former employee who worked for the agency years ago. And while the facts she recounts about how that organization works are no different that the facts recounted to me by recent employees, the amount of time that has passed since her employ limits the impact of her message, which is why she has recently posted a plea imploring other PETA employees to go public as she has. Explaining that former employees have far more to personally gain by speaking out than they do by remaining dumb, she implores other employees to abandon the same fear that kept her silent, and complicit, for far too many years.
As Harper-Troje has discovered to be true for her, you have everything to gain from exposing the truth and PETA has everything to lose. The people who run PETA are bullies, and like all bullies, they operate by instilling fear; a fear that is often based on the illusion that the retaliation they are capable of inflicting is far worse than it actually is. In other words, their power over you ends the moment you decide it does.
For how can their attempts to discredit you as a disgruntled employee maintain their believability when you are not one but many? How can PETA’s claim that everyone who exposes them is lying maintain its credibility when a chorus of people are recounting the same story? There is untold strength and power in public PETA mutiny, a fact which no doubt keeps those at PETA responsible for the killing up at night. For even today, an employee reports that some managers are on a hair-trigger as the public façade, the lies, and the crimes against animals for which PETA is responsible unravel in public. For the more of you there are, the less animal activists and donors who support PETA can justify that support when it causes their friends, family and colleagues to question their own morality for continuing to do so in light of your testimony. And the more of you who speak out, the more you will embolden others to come forward, too.
So contact Norfolk media, tell them you want to tell your story, then tell it without fear of reprisal, in the same tradition as other whistleblowers in history responsible for stopping evil by summoning the courage to expose it. Band together with other PETA employees and hold a press conference and recount what you know to be happening at that organization. Write blogs, release photos, recount your experiences, consent to interviews with the media, tell us the facts, speak the truth, but most important of all, use your names. Understand that PETA has far more reason to fear you than you have to fear them, for they are the ones who are behaving unethically and in seeking to stop them, you are the one behaving morally.
Moreover, understand that which those of us who have criticized PETA for many years long ago discovered: that for all their saber rattling and threats of litigation, those of us who have publically attacked them have paid no price at all, at least not one that matters when considered in light of what is at stake for the animals. Threats of litigation against us—against me—by PETA attorney Jeff Kerr have proven hollow, a bark with no bite, for he knows that mounting a defense would allow me to subpoena documents, compel witnesses to testify under penalty of perjury, expose the malfeasants he is paid to protect, and put the inner workings of the “exam room” on display for all to see, thereby revealing facts that would be utterly damning to the PETA cult. In short, the impotent Kerr knows PETA critics are telling the truth and truth is a defense against libel.
So fight back against PETA managers who corrupted your purpose, who asked for your cooperation as they betrayed everything you once claimed to believe in and who even asked you to participate in harming those whom you once chose to dedicate your career to protecting. Strip the few who harm animals of the ability to do so as a result of the collective silence of the majority, and help me and other animal activists working to protect the thousands of animals every year who will continue to die at the hands of PETA every year.
The animals need YOU.
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May 9, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
On October 18, 2014, two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pulled into a trailer park in Parksley, Virginia in the signature white van of the Community Animal Project (CAP). PETA bills CAP as a program that offers assistance to the animals of needy families in Norfolk, where PETA is located, and surrounding communities, like Parksley.
Parksley is an out of the way rural town of less than 1,000 people. The destination of the CAP van was a trailer park located there, made up largely of poor, Spanish speaking immigrants. The park is described by a local resident as “difficult to find unless you know where you are going.” The PETA employees knew exactly where they were going because they had been there before.
Over several weeks, PETA had been visiting the trailer park and befriending the residents. They got to know who lived where and who had dogs. 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 had a three year old Chihuahua named Maya, a happy, healthy, and beloved dog. And on October 18, that is one of the houses PETA set out to visit. This time, however, they were not there to talk to the family or any of the other residents or to offer any kind of assistance. In fact, they knew the family was not home.
The PETA employees backed their van up to the porch and threw biscuits to Maya, who was sitting on her porch, hoping to coax her off her property and therefore 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. According to a local news report, “[the family’s] lot is neat, with mulched flower beds, a trampoline and a jungle gym. The security camera was mounted in the hopes of keeping what little the family has.” It was on the video that 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.
Edward Armstrong, 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 are afraid to come forward. Had a surveillance video not been available, the killing of Maya would have remained unknown, as were the fates of other animals who also went missing that same day, but which a subsequent investigation into the killing of Maya by the Virginia Department of Agriculture (VDACS) uncovered were also taken from that trailer park that same day and 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.
Moreover, had he done his research, Agar would have discovered that Maya’s theft and killing is not the first time PETA has taken animals from the public under false pretenses and put those animals to death. Rescuers, private individuals, shelters, and veterinarians have, over the years, stated that they turned over animals to PETA after PETA promised to find them homes only to learn that PETA killed the animals, in some cases within minutes of taking them. Nor is Maya’s case even the first time that PETA employees have been arrested over their taking and killing of animals. In a 2007 North Carolina criminal trial against two different PETA employees, jurors heard similar testimony. That case would prove even more sordid than Maya’s.
In May 2005, Ahoskie, North Carolina police were dispatched to a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket after officials there noticed a strong odor coming from the supermarket dumpster and, upon investigation, discovered the body of an animal in a trash bag. As police rummaged through the dumpster, they found the bodies of 21 dead dogs in garbage bags. Two weeks later, 17 dogs and three cats were discovered in the same dumpster. After a surveillance operation, detectives witnessed two PETA employees in a white van—similar to the one used to steal Maya—dumping 16 more bodies into the dumpster. The employees were arrested. Inside the van were boxes of trash bags, PETA manuals, and a tackle box containing syringes, needles and bottles of a liquid substance, later determined to be the drug used to kill animals. They also discovered the bodies of eight more dogs and 12 cats, including a mother cat and her two kittens picked up just minutes earlier from a local veterinarian after PETA promised they would have no trouble finding them a home.
At trial, the PETA staff who killed the animals admitted to doing so and further admitted that the animals were healthy, calling them “adorable” and “perfect.” But the fact that they were healthy did not spare any of the animals the needle—nor did the fact that they promised the people they received the animals from that they would find them homes. They were doing the job PETA paid them to do; and that job was to acquire and kill animals.
For over four months, PETA remained silent as to why they stole and killed Maya, refusing to answer any questions from reporters and others. Then, in late February, as the Governor of Virginia was weighing whether to sign a bill that Virginia legislators overwhelmingly approved—a bill that came to be called the “Anti-PETA bill” and was designed to strip PETA of its ability to take in and kill animals—PETA broke its silence. PETA claimed Maya was killed by “mistake,” and defying credulity, they explained that the same PETA employee who had earlier sat on the porch with Maya’s family talking to them about Maya’s care and who was filmed taking Maya from that same porch, who paid local children money to leave the area so they could take Maya without any witnesses, killed her that very day after having mistaken her for a different dog. The “apology” was not only another devastating admission of guilt, but further evidence that killing healthy animals was business as usual for PETA employees, so commonplace that the only excuse PETA could offer for her death was that in taking her life, a PETA employee had mistaken her for another perfectly healthy animal they had decided to kill. Was it likewise a “mistake” that five other animals—two kittens, a puppy, a one year old lab-mix, and another Chihuahua—ended up dead from the same location and on the same day, too? In the end, though PETA claimed to be “devastated” by Maya’s death, the claim was contradicted by the facts, and, given its timing, motivated not by honesty, transparency or genuine contrition, but political necessity as VDACS had opened an investigation into Maya’s abduction and killing and the state of Virginia sat poised to pass an animal protection law aimed at protecting animals from PETA.
As public fervor over PETA’s killing of Maya spread, a former PETA employee came forward, shedding even more light on how disingenuous PETA’s claims of devastation at the killing Maya were. Explaining that killing healthy animals at PETA was not an anomaly but rather “standard operating procedure” Heather Harper-Troje, the wife of a U.S. diplomat who is serving at the American embassy in Honduras and one-time PETA field worker, publically uncovered the inner workings at PETA when she worked there as no former employee ever had. “I know from firsthand experience that the PETA leadership has no problem lying,” she wrote. “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’ (the chemical used to euthanize), because that allowed us to euthanize animals off the books. I was told regularly to say whatever I had to say in order to get people to surrender animals to me, lying was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.” The purpose of seizing these animals, according to Harper-Troje, was “to euthanize the[m] immediately.”
Protecting Animals From PETA
The number of animals killed by PETA is frightening. According to statistics reported to VDACS by PETA itself, PETA took in 1,605 cats in 2014 and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters. If those animals were also killed or displaced others who were, that would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%. During that same time frame, they took in 1,021 dogs of which they killed 788 (a kill rate of 77%). Another 210 were transferred to kill shelters. Like the cats, if they were killed or displaced others who were killed, the dog death rate would also be as high as 98%. Only 23 were adopted. Since 1998, PETA has killed over 30,000 animals, including healthy puppies and kittens, many of them immediately after taking custody of them and without ever trying to find them homes.
By contrast, the Lynchburg Humane Society, also in Virginia, took in about the same number of animals as PETA but saved 94% and without PETA’s millions in revenue. Seagoville Animal Services in Texas took in about one-third of the numbers (roughly 700 animals) but only 1/20th of 1% of the amount of money that PETA did. Yet it managed to save 100% of the cats and 99% of the dogs on a paltry $29,700 budget. In fact, hundreds of cities and towns across America are saving over 90% of the animals and doing so on the tiniest fraction of PETA’s wealth.
Compare PETA’s killing to shelters across the country and the conclusion appears inescapable: PETA, the organization that sells itself as being the standard bearer for our treatment of animals as a society, is little more than a slaughterhouse. But that hasn’t stopped them from taking in an astonishing amount of money from an unsuspecting public. In 2014, PETA raised $51,933,001: $50,449,023 in contributions, $627,336 in merchandise sales, and $856,642 in interest and dividends. They finished the year with over 4.5 million dollars—$4,551,786 to be exact—more in the bank than when the year started, after expenses. Yet they did not see fit to use some of that to promote the adoption of the 1,324 animals they killed or to provide veterinary care for the animals who may have needed it.
Nor is killing the only way that PETA betrays their publicly claimed mission of animal protection. In Houston, Texas, when scandals at the local pound revealed widespread abuse, the hiring of individuals with criminal records, and even live puppies being flushed down open trench drains—puppies who drowned and whose little bodies were never seen again—PETA came to the defense of the shelter, urging city officials not to listen to animal lovers clamoring for reform. In King County, WA, despite animals suffering from untreated medical conditions, animals dying in their cages, and animals going days without food and water, PETA called reformers “radicals,” urged legislators to ignore them, and defended the shelter’s policies. Similarly, in Montgomery County, Tennessee, after a local shelter killed a pregnant dog by attempting a dangerous, late term abortion of her puppies despite offers by rescue groups to take her and wean the puppies before finding all of them homes, PETA wrote the city council praising the shelter’s decision not to send her into foster care. In fact, they went further: telling the shelter not to work with rescuers, not to foster animals, and not to adopt out some healthy animals.
Over the years, PETA has also fought legislation that would save animals, including bills to increase holding periods for shelter animals, to require shelters to work with rescuers, to prevent shelters from killing if there are empty cages and kennels, to neuter, rather than kill, community cats, and to require shelters to try to find homes, rather than just taking in and killing animals. The recent fight over Virginia’s SB 1381 is illustrative. The bill was meant to clarify existing law and close a loophole that allowed private shelters in Virginia to simply take in and kill animals, without even trying to find them homes. The legislation sought to change the definition of a private shelter to one that is “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes for animals.” In other words, SB 1381 does what the public already thinks shelters do, what the dictionary says they do, and what every shelter in Virginia does with the exception of PETA. It is legislation that most people would think PETA would support. But they didn’t. Instead, they fought the bill, using donor funds to hire a professional lobbyist to kill the bill so they can continue killing the animals without making them available for adoption.
It is a pattern repeated again and again by PETA throughout the country. When animal lovers wage campaigns to reform abusive practices at their local shelter or seek legislation to protect animals in shelters, fighting for improvement often means battling the organization most would predict to be their fiercest ally: PETA. The question, of course, is why? Why would PETA kill animals? Why would they fight against efforts to reform neglectful and abusive shelters? And why call for more killing in shelters instead of less?
The Mind of PETA
“Godwin’s law” is an online adage that states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” As Wikipedia describes it, Godwin’s law postulates that, “if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.” A corollary of that principle can probably be that someone will condemn a group whose behavior they do not like as being “a cult.” Like Godwin’s law, such an argument is usually hyperbolic, nothing more than an ad hominem attack. But what if the comparison to a cult is apt? More specifically, what if the group really is a cult? Once again, Godwin’s Law is instructive: “The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies, if that was the explicit topic of conversation, because a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate.” In other words, the use of such comparisons, under some circumstances, is applicable.
Cults come in many varieties. There are religious cults like the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate. There are commercial cults that recruit members to sell their products, thereby enriching their leaders. There are self-help cults which manipulate the emotionally vulnerable. And then there are political cults which, according to one organization which tracks cults, don’t appear to be cults at all; having, as their outer façade, “a slick well-rehearsed Public Relations front which hides what the group is really like. You will hear how they help the poor, or support research, or peace, or the environment.” What makes some cults particularly terrifying is that they also promote philosophies that endorse campaigns of extermination. Jim Jones’ “The People’s Temple” which ended in the tragic mass suicides and murders in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 was just such a cult. Tragically, problems with the Jones cult—headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area—were ignored and buried by the San Francisco political and media establishment who either turned a blind eye out of self-interest or because they were misled by the church’s public outreach efforts such as providing groceries and medical care for the poor and after school programs for at risk youth. Paradoxically, death cults such as these thrive by hiding in plain sight, even in high profile. They do so by using their “good works” to garner support, recruit members, defray scrutiny and ensure political cover by making people reluctant to challenge the cult, even though behind closed doors they engage in activities that are the opposite of their stated goals and public image.
“Cult” is a very loaded word and one that immediately places a tremendous burden of proof upon such a claim, as it should. But because self-preservation and therefore necessity demand that cults masquerade their true purpose and their deeply dystopian agendas behind a false façade, the label is rarely applied until it is too late, until grisly outcomes allow for no other logical explanation, especially where political death cults are concerned: the Jonestown massacre, the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide, the self-immolation at the Branch Davidian compound. Before such spectacular outcomes demand equally spectacular vocabulary, safer and less hyperbolic-sounding explanations are preferred and motivations to explain problems and reported contradictions within an organization are chalked up to pedestrian flaws of human nature, such as corruption, greed, and ego. But while corruption, greed, and ego are hallmarks of a cult, these words fail to convey that when working within a cult, they are not manifestations of typical human weaknesses that dilute and degrade sincerity, but operate at the core of why the cult exists in the first place. They are, in fact, integral to its strength and central to both its founding and its perpetuation.
In a cult, corruption of stated purpose is not the result of an eventual straying from a once noble mission; it is the mission. Greed is not an outcome of avarice resulting from success; rather, the amassing of wealth is essential to ensuring the perpetuation and expansion of the cult. Likewise, leaders of cults don’t fall prey to hubris born of a taste of power. They start a cult because they are already prone to such conceit; the cult simply gives them a voice. Leaders of cults don’t simply have large, jealous egos; they are highly charismatic megalomaniacs and narcissists.
That is why while news of PETA’s activities so often results in people asking, “What happened to PETA?” and “When did it become so corrupt?” these questions, in light of PETA’s history, are misguided and misinformed. Nothing has happened to PETA. PETA has been killing for many years. What is occurring at PETA today differs in no way from what has been happening at PETA since its inception, except perhaps in scope as PETA’s expanding wealth has allowed for more staff and resources and therefore, more killing. While it is only recently that their illicit, anti-animal activities have been brought to greater public awareness, PETA’s leader and founder, Ingrid Newkirk, has never strayed from her stated belief that while animal suffering is bad, killing animals (to spare them any chance of ever experiencing such suffering) is good. And for her, causing death is not the same as causing suffering. In fact, killing animals is how she became involved with animals in the first place, why she founded PETA, and the core of her perverse brand of activism.
“I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself,” she once told the New Yorker about her first job at an animal shelter. “I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.” Newkirk not only began her career in “animal rights” killing animals at a shelter, a shelter with regressive policies at the time, she went into work early to perform the job: “a thousand of them, sometimes dozens per day.”
It is an understatement to say that killing animals should be regarded as a deeply disturbing experience. Not only is the person doing the killing cruelly robbing an animal of his or her life, but it is not uncommon for an animal who is being killed to experience fear, disorientation, nausea, and, at times, even struggle against it. A dog who is skittish, for example, is made even more fearful by the smells and surroundings of an unfamiliar surrounding such as an animal shelter. He doesn’t understand why he is there and perhaps away from the only family he has ever loved. For this dog to be killed, animal shelters may use a catch pole, a long handled, hard-wire noose that wraps around a dog’s neck and torso. These dogs often struggle to free themselves from the grip, which results in more fear and pain when they realize they cannot escape. They sometimes urinate and defecate on themselves, unsure of what is occurring. Often the head is held hard to the ground or against the wall so that the staff member can inject him with a sedative. While the catch pole is left tied around the neck, the dog struggles to maintain his balance, dragging the pole, until he slumps to the ground. Slowly—fearful, often soiled in his own waste, confused—he tries to stand, but his legs give way. He goes limp and then unconscious. That is when the fatal dose is administered.
And yet in spite of this, Newkirk admitted to not only killing sometimes dozens of animals a day, but actually going into work early in order to do so. What are we to conclude about a person who opts to go into work early to do their job when that job is killing animals?
Case history reveals that nurses who kill their patients often show no remorse for their killing, arguing that their actions were motivated by mercy and compassion and that their patients, desperate to be relieved of their suffering, wanted to die. The language used by Newkirk on numerous occasions about giving animals what she calls “the gift of euthanasia” is eerily similar. In her case, she also believes she is the hero and those who try to stop her are betraying the animals. She once blasted a shelter reformer by stating: “How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!” Indeed, Newkirk-through-PETA has stated that blaming shelters for killing animals is like blaming hospitals for killing patients. Is Newkirk trying to tell us something?
Given the similarity of language and the acts themselves: the killing, the death squads, the indoctrination against and hateful denunciation of shelter reform efforts and the proactive efforts to stop communities from embracing more lifesaving, the theft and killing of animals, lying to people in order to acquire animals only to put those animals to death, this may be as close as we ever come to understanding the motivations of PETA’s founder. Yet even absent a definitive diagnosis, we aren’t left to speculate as to what she believes, what she orders others to do in deference to those beliefs, or that it is she who drives PETA’s companion animal extermination campaign; Harper-Troje states that the theft of animals, lying to people in order to kill their animals, lying about animals being “unadoptable,” falsifying drug records in order to kill animals “off book,” and submitting false information to state officials about the numbers of animals they kill were all done at the direction of Ingrid Newkirk: “It was what she told us to do—it was standard operating procedure.”
Predictably, PETA dismisses Harper-Troje as a disgruntled employee, but there are several reasons to discount such a view. First, she has nothing to gain. Her employment ended over a decade ago and she has remained silent for all those years. A disgruntled employee doesn’t wait better than a decade to come forward. Second, disgruntled employees paint themselves as wounded innocents, as whistleblowers trying to do what is right. Harper-Troje admits she killed animals, admits she lied to people in order to get their animals, admits she promised that she would find them homes only to put the animals to death with no attempt at doing so.
For example, she describes picking up a litter of healthy puppies from someone who thought that PETA was going to find them a home, a person she lied to at Newkirk’s direction in order to get the puppies by promising that they would go to PETA’s “shelter” for adoption:
“What was referred to as the ‘shelter’ was a large, empty storage closet across from our office. The only other holding facility we had was in the warehouse, where the animals were euthanized. And when I did use the room across from my office as a holding area for animals, Ingrid would ask why I hadn’t already euthanized them: one time nailing me to the wall because the litter of puppies I’d placed in there for a night had pooped everywhere; I was told to euthanize the puppies immediately.”
She obeyed. Harper-Troje is the one who filled the needles with poison. She is the one who held the puppies down. She is the one who injected them with “fatal plus.” And she is the one who put their lifeless bodies into the freezer. Moreover, she continues to defend PETA’s “good works.”
Some PETA supporters dismiss this first-hand account as ancient history, and yet her descriptions confirm both what more recent employees report and what the current facts we know of how PETA operates. Case in point: the theft and killing of Maya; PETA’s call to kill every pit bull in every shelter in America; their belief that outdoors cats should be rounded up and killed; their defense of poorly performing and even abusive shelters; their opposition to shelter reform legislation; and, of course, their continued killing of over 90% of all the animals they take in.
The “Exam Room”
To defray mounting criticism, PETA recently has claimed that all of the animals they kill are irremediably suffering, stating that adoptable animals don’t come to PETA, but instead are referred to local adoption groups and animal shelters. Of course, Maya’s case betrays that. The other killings that day—of puppies and kittens—betray that. The killings in North Carolina betray that. And Newkirk herself, in a moment of candor, betrayed it. During a television interview, when asked if PETA killed healthy animals, she answered that they “absolutely” did. Moreover, PETA has been killing about 2,000 animals a year for well over a decade. In the past, before its rates of killing became the subject of sustained public scrutiny and dozens of communities across the country achieved save rates between 95% and 99% of shelter animals, proving that “euthanasia” can be reserved for its dictionary definition (applying only to incurably ill and injured animals), PETA admitted it killed healthy and treatable animals calling it “the kindest, most realistic thing to do.” Unapologetic about PETA’s killing and its failure to even look for homes, Newkirk stated in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot that:
“We are not in the home finding business, although it is certainly true that we do find homes from time to time for the kind of animals people are looking for. Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals no one wants.”
This, of course, begs the question: how can people want animals if PETA does not advertise them, fails to make them available for adoption, and kills them right away? Moreover, Maya already had a home. In light of this evidence, PETA attorney Jeff Kerr hedged during a recent forum at the University of Virginia Law School. He stated that “most” of the animals PETA kills are suffering. But even this isn’t true.
While PETA leadership claims PETA’s “shelter” provides little more than end of life low-cost “euthanasia” services, staff have refuted this claim. Speaking confidentially for fear of retribution, one of them confided that while they “have seen people bring in their very sick or very old animals to be euthanized because they can’t afford to go to a vet hospital… a majority of the ones that I saw were healthy animals.” In fact, she described that the end of life killing of very sick animals was “rare” in contrast to PETA’s claim that it is the only—or depending on who at PETA is being asked, the majority of —the killing that they do.
Testimony from other PETA employees as well as Harper-Troje state the archetypal scenario for animals being acquired and then killed by PETA looks something like this: Believing PETA would find them homes, someone would call and say their dog just had a litter of puppies. PETA would take the litter of puppies and kill them. Staff members describe eight week old, 10 week old, and 12 week old healthy puppies and kittens routinely and immediately put to death: “They had a room, a storage building that was their euthanasia room.” The room is euphemistically called the “exam room.” No exam is done for purposes of placement or, if they are sick, for purposes of treatment. “They would take the animals into that room and they would be euthanized. A litter of kittens, sometimes a mother with kittens, they were put in that room and once you went in that room, you never came out.”
“I did witness CAP bring back a pit bull to the Norfolk location,” one former PETA employee reported:
“This pit bull was wagging its tail, jumping (an obvious friendly dog; not feral) while receiving praise, treats and getting pet by the [two] CAP employees. It was the end of my shift, so I was cleaning and restocking, which required me to go into their shed for supplies. I saw the [two] CAP employees take the pitbull into the shed’s euthanasia room, which is inside this shed. It is a small room where they have a table and a huge walk-in freezer with [four] large trash cans. The trash cans contained deceased animals and were usually full. As I continued to do my job, I heard the CAP employees talking to the dog and trying to calm it down as it whined. Later … they opened the door and I saw the pit bull deceased on the table.”
A few years ago, tired of feeling complicit in scenarios such as these, some of the PETA veterinary technicians rebelled. Along with local veterinarians, they were hired to provide free sterilization services in and around Norfolk. But they, too, got caught up in PETA’s killing. “Every once in a while we’d have someone who would just see the PETA [spay/neuter] van and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an animal I can’t take care of, can you take it?’” one of them reported. But most of the time, someone from the PETA office would call and say “‘So and so is bringing a litter of kittens or a dog … that you guys need to bring back to the building for us.’” The spay/neuter van would pick up and receive animals after spending the day doing surgical sterilizations and return those animals to PETA. The animals would then go straight to the “exam room.”
Weary of the killing of young, healthy animals, the vet techs offered to take the kittens and puppies and find them homes themselves. The answer from PETA leadership, which had the ultimate authority over the animals, was “always no.” The vet techs offered to adopt the animals themselves. Once again, the answer was “no.” At that point, the staff said they would no longer take the animals off the van and into the killing room. When PETA had members of CAP come onto the van to get them and take them to the room themselves, the vet techs began refusing to pick up or take any animals to PETA because they knew they were all being killed. At that point, PETA began dispatching CAP staff to pick up and kill the animals in the white vans, the kind used to kill animals in North Carolina, to steal and kill Maya last October, and the kind which is used to trap and kill neighborhood cats in the communities surrounding PETA headquarters.
In other cases, staff who did not want animals killed tried to discourage people from surrendering animals. One described witnessing “pets being surrendered with the owners under the impression that these pets were going to PETA’s shelter for adoption (which does not exist).” She described a litter of kittens, cats, and a dog being killed after being surrendered by people under the mistaken belief that they would be adopted out. Before the North Carolina arrests, before the recent exposes, PETA actively encouraged this belief: they were instructed to lie to people about what would happen if they surrendered animals to PETA. “It was nothing to say to people… look at these awesome kittens, they are going to find the best homes,” said one former employee.
Now, they hedge. When one of the veterinary technicians informed “owners trying to surrender pets that they would be euthanized,” she was chastised for doing so and instructed by PETA managers to only hand them a form which gives PETA the authority to immediately kill the animal. “We were not allowed to tell them anything unless they specifically asked if their animal was going to be euthanized.” If they asked, they were told to simply say that “We’ll do our best, I can’t make any guarantees,” which is itself a lie as the animals are often taken straight to the “exam room.”
In fact, one PETA staff member described a kitten who was adopted by one of the field workers to another PETA staff member without permission from higher ups. That employee was ordered to return the kitten, already in her home, so that the kitten could be killed. Tragically, she did. Another PETA staff member offered to help find a home for a small, young, friendly, highly adoptable dog she called “cute as a button” who was surrendered by his family. “He’s so adoptable; I bet we can find him a home in no time,” she told the head of the CAP program. She “hit the roof,” the staff member reported. “She was so upset, her face was red.” Why? Because the family had signed the surrender form giving PETA ownership of the dog and therefore the legal ability to immediately put the dog to death. Approaching Ingrid Newkirk herself about another dog scheduled to be killed, she told her, “This dog is beautiful, he’s awesome, he’s friendly” in a bid to save him. Newkirk’s response: “They’re all wonderful, aren’t they?” That dog, too, was killed.
The testimonials by staff are backed up by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the agency tasked with oversight of “shelters” in Virginia. In 2010, VDACS did an inspection of PETA. What they found was a facility designed for the immediate killing of animals, with virtually no holding spaces for animals. “The [PETA] facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” reads the VDACS report. After reviewing records, VDACS found that over 80% of the animals were killed within 24 hours, noting that PETA’s shelter did not meet PETA’s own guidelines for operating a humane animal shelter: “The shelter is not accessible to the public, promoted, or engaged in efforts to facilitate the adoption of animals taken into custody.” Of the animals taken in, less than 1% was adopted and then to staff who expressed an interest in animals otherwise destined for the needle. While PETA claims it has three rooms designated to house animals, during the inspection there were only three animals at PETA “one being held in conjunction with the [spay/neuter] clinic operations, one was being boarded for an indigent community member, and one on behalf of a PETA employee.” No animals were being held “for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” In fact, prior inspections found “no animals to be housed in the facility.” Ironically, PETA staff admitted to the VDACS inspector that PETA does not run a shelter: “The [PETA] receptionist stated that PETA did not operate an animal shelter” and “an additional staff member was called to the desk and reiterated that there was no shelter.” A December 2014 inspection also found no live dogs and no live cats at the PETA “shelter.”
“Contrary to what PETA maintains,” Harper-Troje says, “the majority of animals it takes in are not beyond hope, in my experience many would be considered highly adoptable by a shelter, the ‘better off dead’ line is one that is dragged out in order to excuse what they do–and it’s a lie.”
The math bears this out. Some of the staff did adopt animals from PETA, the part of the 1% who actually find homes. These staff members admitted picking three random animals in the holding room over several years and adopting them on impulse because they saw them there and did not want them to die. All three of the animals chosen were healthy and friendly. If the PETA staff members did not adopt them, they would have been killed. What are the chances that three healthy and friendly animals would be randomly picked out of three attempts if all the animals PETA takes in and kills are irremediably suffering? Of course that answer would be 0%, a mathematical impossibility. But even if 10% of animals PETA killed are healthy and the rest hopelessly ill, the chances of picking three healthy ones randomly out of three attempts during this period would still only be 1/10th of 1%. If 20% of animals PETA kills are healthy, there would still only be 4/5th of 1% chance, extremely unlikely. Finally, even if 30% of animals PETA kills are healthy, there would be less than a 3% chance. The conclusion appears inescapable here, too: PETA is lying when it says it only kills (or mostly kills) hopelessly ill or injured animals.
Paid For By Donors
The mass killing is, of course, paid for by PETA’s unsuspecting donors. And the more they donate, the harder PETA works to keep them in the dark. Individual donors who give at least $500 per year, for example, are made members of what PETA calls the Vanguard Society. Many give more. Bill Maher, Bob Barker, and Simpson’s co-creator Sam Simon, gave over $100,000 each in 2014 (Simon, who just died, is reputed to have left PETA a significant portion of his $100 million estate). Vanguard Society members are invited to spend a weekend being schmoozed by PETA every year, where staff members are assigned to them to run “intel.” One staff member reported that prior to the weekend, key staff are briefed by PETA leadership: “There was a presentation all about the donors who would be attending, personal info, and anything about PETA they disliked.” The purpose was to neutralize the possibility they would stop donating by assigning people to counter any concerns. The high donor weekend includes a tour of the PETA grounds, all except for the “exam room.” That is strictly off limits. As they walk past the shed, they are all blissfully unaware that the freezer within it is filled with the bodies of dead animals they helped pay to kill: puppies, kittens, hamsters, bunnies, gerbils, and others, at one point, even Maya.
Still, as the scandals at PETA mount and as the truth slowly comes out, PETA has begun using some of their money not to save animals, but to make cosmetic changes to reform its image. Aside from changing its rationale for killing animals from open defiance—“We are not in the home finding business”—to claiming that they are all suffering, the exam room was made to look nicer in case reporters came knocking, as they have. Instead of just a table to kill the animals and a freezer to store the bodies (installed at a cost of nearly $10,000), there is now a couch, cabinets, softer lighting, color on the wall—window dressing intended to masquerade the grisly reality of what goes on in that room when reporters aren’t there. The freezer with the dead bodies is hidden behind a curtain where it can’t be seen anymore. But despite the makeover, it still serves the same insidious purpose.
At about the same time as the Maya scandal broke, PETA also began posting occasional photos about animals available for adoption. They also put adoption stickers on their building windows, although they do not maintain any adoption hours and if a call is made to inquire about adoptable animals, the staff cannot describe a single animal they allegedly have for adoption. According to a PETA staff member, all of this is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to defray mounting public criticism for the killing by pretending to show they are making efforts to find homes for animals and to continue the charade that the only animals they kill are suffering; what a former PETA staff member simply calls “complete bullshit. I have personally watched them euthanize perfectly healthy, young animals; puppies, kittens.”
Unfortunately, not only does PETA’s registration with the Commonwealth of Virginia as a shelter give PETA the ability to acquire the controlled substance sodium-pentobarbital which they use to poison animals, but being registered as a shelter allows them to mislead people into believing that the killing that they do is consistent with that being done by shelters, a form of killing which, tragically, has long been tolerated by the public. Were Ingrid Newkirk to independently—without a staff and organization to back her—seek out thousands of animals a year after saying she will try to find them homes, by taking them from rescue groups and shelters, gathering animals through trapping, acquiring those displaced by natural disasters, and stealing them, only to inject them with poison and kill them, most people would opine that she was a deeply disturbed person acting in obedience to dark and dangerous impulses. Unfortunately, her association with PETA obscures the issue for many people.
Because it is widely regarded as an organization dedicated to protecting rather than harming animals, PETA provides Newkirk not only the perfect cover for her agenda, but, paradoxically, the perfect place to recruit others to participate in it as well. In reality, PETA is not interested in pursuing the rights of animals and has admitted as much, Newkirk once writing that PETA “does not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals.” To Newkirk, killing is the goal because animals, she says, want to die. It is, as she writes, a “gift,” the “greatest gift of all,” a mindset in which she schools her staff who then emphatically argue, like she does, that killing healthy companion animals is of no moral consequence as long as it is done with an overdose of barbiturates. It is no surprise then that PETA has even called for an end to the sharing of our homes with cats and dogs, calling it a master-slave relationship, for the simple reason that they do not want them alive: “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles—from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.”
Nonetheless, with the stamp of legitimacy her association with PETA affords her, Newkirk has not only been granted the unrestricted ability to kill without the scrutiny or condemnation of many so-called “animal rights” activists who grant her absolution, but it has given her access to naïve and easily manipulated young people who arrive on PETA’s doorstep starry-eyed, some of whom she manages to transform into people who not only defend the right to kill animals with the same, deadly language that she does, but who also seek out, then kill animals themselves, such as Harper-Troje, the PETA staff who stole and killed Maya, the staff who were caught tossing garbage bags filled with dead animals into the supermarket dumpster, and the three PETA employees who attended a shelter reform lecture I gave at UCLA Law School in March 2012. The views these young people expressed revealed that PETA followers are not just parroting Ingrid Newkirk for a paycheck; they are, in fact, fully indoctrinated true believers—immune to logic and reason—in the belief that animals want to die and should be killed.
During a discussion that spanned various topics, the conversation with these PETA employees invariably ended at the same deadly destination—with their insisting that it is okay to kill animals to spare them any future suffering and that no matter what the circumstances, killing by lethal injection is not unethical because the animals have no awareness of death, stating: “it is just like being put under anesthesia for spay/neuter, with the only difference being that the animal never wakes up.” But as I attempted to explain to the PETA employees, whether or not an individual is aware they are about to be killed isn’t the only reason it is wrong to take someone else’s life. In the horrifying 1978 thriller, Coma, for example, a doctor intentionally put patients into a coma (ultimately killing them) when they were admitted to a hospital for surgery and were under anesthesia. The victims had no concept of their own death because they simply never woke up. By PETA’s logic, this sort of killing is perfectly acceptable and yet every attempt I made to discuss the logical implications of their viewpoint—including the fact that their assertions decimated the philosophical underpinning of the entire animal rights movement and veganism (why ask people to stop eating animals as opposed to simply ensuring different methods of slaughter?)—they would have none of it, simply repeating that killing companion animals is okay because they might someday suffer and killing is okay because it’s just like going to sleep and never waking up.
Indeed, PETA critics have often been baffled as to why PETA does not attempt to modulate its message in light of the growing success of the movement to end shelter killing and the ever increasing numbers of shelters and communities that have succeeded in doing so, thoroughly disproving PETA’s antiquated arguments on the “necessity” of killing animals. Instead, PETA continues to hide behind tired clichés and disproven dogmas seeking to justify the killing that many savvy animal lovers are now too informed to accept. Yet information about how cults actually work sheds some light on why that might be: In a cult, any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Cults train their members to reject any critical information given to them, and to not even entertain the thought that the information might be true.
As the PETA employees after the UCLA presentation demonstrated, although they had just sat through a 2½ hour presentation debunking each of their justifications for killing, the message had fallen on deaf ears that were incapable of comprehending anything that contradicted the story line in which they’d been indoctrinated and which PETA perpetuates and continually disseminates: that animals are suffering and that the animals want to die. For every time I explained where their information or logic was incorrect or flawed—their insistence that open admission shelters had to kill, for example, by citing numerous animal control shelters nationwide that are open admission and don’t kill—the information simply did not penetrate. They simply kept repeating the same mantras over and over again: animals are suffering, killing is okay and killing is a gift. In short, they were entirely beyond the reach of reason or constructive dialogue.
PETA, said one staff member who quit in disgust, “was like a cult. It’s like they were brainwashed to believe they were doing the right thing [in killing the animals].” Employees were made to watch “heart wrenching” films about animal abuse to drill into them the belief that people are incapable of caring for animals and that “PETA was doing what was best for animals” by killing them. On the one hand, PETA leadership instruct their employees that people can’t, don’t, and won’t take care of animals, that the lives of animals with people is necessarily one of neglect and abuse. In fact, PETA argues that sharing our homes with dogs and cats violates their rights. On the other hand, they also argue that animals cannot live without human care, which is why they do not support letting free-living cats continue to be free-living. The animals are, in short, damned either way and thus killing them is a “gift.” Working at PETA, said one former PETA staff member, was to be subjected to “constant brainwashing.”
Another former staff member reported how he was made to watch a film condemning No Kill shelters which was purposely misleading. When he told his supervisor that he had volunteered at a No Kill shelter and it was nothing like the film reflected, he was fired. Those who leave have similar stories. One of them writing, “The words to wrap up my experience are secrecy, mistrust and paranoia,” classic statements made by survivors of other cults. Those who stay are those who do not ask questions, do not challenge the party line and mindlessly obey—sadly, a trait not uncommon among PETA’s fiercest supporters, which are buoyed every time PETA does get caught and public officials either fail to act or excuse the conduct.
An Epic Failure of Oversight
For Maya, PETA’s crime resulted in her death. For her family, it has led to immense heartbreak. Maya lived with a nine-year-old girl who, according to the family’s spokesperson, was utterly devastated by her killing. But the agencies tasked with protecting dogs like Maya and the people who love them have turned a blind eye. Although two PETA employees were arrested and charged with larceny by the Accomack County sheriff, the Commonwealth attorney refused to prosecute. Despite video evidence that they stole Maya and an admission that they killed her, the prosecutor claimed he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite clear evidence that PETA has violated the law on multiple occasions, VDACS refuses to pull PETA’s “shelter” license, choosing instead to fine it a mere $500, a fraction of the $52 million it took in last year. Despite calls for investigations by state senators, county attorneys, national organizations, and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies which says PETA is operating to “the great detriment of animals in the Commonwealth;” despite violating the law, lying to people, stealing pets, and killing them, PETA continues operating as before, unapologetically killing thousands of defenseless animals every year.
Ironically, it is the very double standard between humans and non-humans that most people erroneously believe PETA exists to overcome that has allowed PETA to get away with the harms they have inflicted with virtual impunity. And it is the perception that they exist to protect, rather than imperil, animals which causes reluctance on the part of public officials tasked with oversight.
Of course, the killing of tens of thousands of companion animals and those who will be killed by PETA today, tomorrow and the day after that until they are finally made to stop is a tragedy in and of itself and motivation enough to publicly expose PETA’s killing agenda and to work to bring it to an end. But the question must be asked: where else could this ultimately lead?
When you have a group of individuals who believe that killing is not only ethical, but morally obligatory, who have proven they are willing to lie, manipulate and break the law in order to do so while hiding behind a false reputation of “good works” that grants them power, wealth, and political cover to get away with it, officials in the state of Virginia continue to ignore this disturbing reality at their own peril. History shows us that there is every reason to be concerned about what PETA has already told us and demonstrated it believes in and is willing to act upon. To continue to ignore that threat and danger—to continue to allow them to operate outside the bounds of our common values and to do so with impunity—is a recipe for future regret.
Should a larger tragedy ever unfold, no amount of hand wringing by Virginia officials—from the local Commonwealth Attorney to Department of Agriculture officials—that they didn’t know and couldn’t foresee it will erase the truth: that the evidence of what PETA was really doing to animals was overwhelming, and that time and again those tasked with enforcing the law and protecting the citizens of Virginia and their beloved animal companions chose not to do so.
Because even if we can merely speculate about the why roughly 2,000 animals die at the hands of PETA employees each and every year, ethics compel every animal lover to see beyond the façade PETA has created to mask the ugly and sordid truth about what that organization really is. For all we do not know, this much is certain: PETA is letting loose upon the world individuals who not only maniacally believe that killing is a good thing and that the living want to die, but who are legally armed with lethal drugs which they have already proven—31,250 times in the last 12 years—that they are not adverse to using.
For a note about the evidence, click here.
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March 26, 2015 by Nathan J. Winograd
Celebration & Sober Reflection on the Passage of SB 1381 (& What You Can Do)
Photo: A shelter is a refuge. But for the vast majority of cats rounded up or otherwise impounded by PETA, the only thing PETA staff offer them is an overdose of poison to satisfy Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses. In 2014, PETA took in 1,605 cats and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters. If they were killed or displaced others who were killed, that would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%.
This week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed SB 1381, a law which requires shelters in Virginia to be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” In other words, SB 1381 does what the public already thinks shelters do and what the dictionary says they do, even though PETA, which is located in Virginia, does not. In fact, the bill was introduced in a response to PETA—which is licensed in Virginia as a shelter—killing over 90% of the animals, with little to no effort to find them homes and their stealing Maya, a happy and healthy dog, from her porch while her family was out and killing her that very day. Since its passage, we’ve also found out that they killed five other animals that day, including two kittens and a six month old puppy, also in violation of state law.
Despite PETA’s intense lobbying effort to derail the vote which became known among legislators as the “anti-PETA killing bill,” despite PETA hiring a professional lobbyist with donor funds to kill it, despite manipulating their supporters to urge its defeat by lying to them, the votes were not even close: 95 to 2 in the House and 35 to 1 in the Senate. Not only does the outcome prove that participating in the political process—as thousands of Virginians did by writing, email and telephoning their Delegates urging a “yes” vote—can have a profound impact, but it shows that PETA has lost all credibility with the Virginia legislature and the governor who signed it into law.
Not only was a law just passed to protect animals from PETA, but the bill also forced PETA to further reveal its true colors: that an organization claiming to represent the “ethical treatment of animals” would hire a lobbyist at donor expense to defeat an important piece of animal protection legislation demonstrates once again that PETA is not committed to furthering the rights of animals, but rather, to actively subverting them, as more and more people are finding out.
In fact, the Governor’s signing of the bill comes just days after the State of Delaware, through the head of one of its agencies, wrote a letter to PETA asking them to stop lying about their shelter standards law. In 2010, Delaware legislators unanimously passed the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), an important piece of animal protection legislation based on a model law authored by my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center. By eliminating the ability of shelters to kill animals out of habit and convenience, the law has been wildly successful, reducing killing in Delaware shelters by nearly 80%.
Despite its success in Delaware and other places, PETA has vilified this law, saying that it has been a disaster there, forcing shelters to turn animals away. As I have long argued, none of it is true. In keeping with their many efforts over the years to derail laws nationwide which protect shelter animals, PETA has even written public officials in other communities debating the implementation of CAPA-like laws, urging them to reject such laws which they misrepresent and malign. In short, they do what they have always done: they lie.
Thankfully, the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) has recently weighed in to respond to PETA’s misrepresentations, chastising PETA for lying. The OAW is a state agency that oversees implementation of Delaware’s shelters, including CAPA, through the Department of Health and Social Services. In their response to PETA, they write that what PETA is claiming “is simply not true. PETA does not have local representation in Delaware and is obviously not familiar with our sheltering system.” They also go on to explain the incredible success of the law, how it has saved countless lives, and prevented emotional heartbreak for the families and caretakers and rescuers of those animals.
From that standpoint, the passage of SB 1381 is incredibly good news. However, we fought for the bill not to simply force PETA to reveal its true colors, but to actually save lives, and if history is any indication, our next battle is getting the agency in charge of enforcing this new law to actually do so.
Given that PETA has always admitted it does not operate a shelter for the purpose of finding homes, given that the evidence is clear they do not, and given that Ingrid Newkirk once stated, unapologetically, “We are not in the home finding business, although it is certainly true that we do find homes from time to time for the kind of animals people are looking for. Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals…. ”, VDACS has no choice but to remove their shelter designation and eliminate PETA’s ability to round up animals and to purchase the lethal drugs used to poison them. That is, it has no choice if it is committed to doing its job. But so far, it has refused to do so.
For Maya, PETA’s crime resulted in her death. For her family, it has led to immense heartbreak. Maya lived with a nine-year-old girl who, according to the family’s spokesperson, was utterly devastated by her killing. But the agencies which are supposed to protect dogs like Maya and the people who love them have turned a blind eye. Although two PETA employees were arrested and charged with larceny by the Accomack County sheriff, the Commonwealth attorney refused to prosecute. Despite video evidence that they stole Maya and an admission that they killed her, the prosecutor claimed he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite clear evidence that PETA has violated the law on multiple occasions, the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) refuses to pull PETA’s “shelter” license. It chose to fine it $500, a mere fraction of the $52 million it took in last year. Despite calls for investigations by state senators, county attorneys, national organizations, and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies which believes PETA to be operating to “the detriment of animals in the Commonwealth;” despite violating the law, lying to people, stealing pets, and killing them; despite the Virginia legislature and governor speaking with one, nearly unanimous, voice that they want PETA’s killing to stop, PETA continues operating as before, killing thousands of defenseless animals with virtual impunity.
Ironically, it is the very double standard between humans and non-humans that most people erroneously believe PETA exists to overcome that has allowed PETA to get away with the harms they have inflicted. And it is the false perception that they exist to protect, rather than imperil animals (which is what they actually do) which causes reluctance on the part of public officials tasked with oversight.
So while I celebrate SB 1381’s passage for all it does mean, and I am immensely grateful to Senator Bill Stanley who introduced this bill, to all the legislators who voted for it, and to the Governor who signed it, and while I understand that as we move the pieces on the chess board, we get closer and closer to checkmating PETA out of the killing business, let’s understand where the challenge now lies: with Virginia law enforcement agencies, most notably VDACS. We must realize that getting VDACS to enforce it will likely involve an additional fight and potentially, litigation. Already, VDACS is stalling, claiming—in typically bureaucratic fashion—that it may take two years to issue regulations for SB 1381. And even as PETA now claims it “has always operated to find adoptive homes and will continue to do so as stated in Senate Bill 1381” in direct contravention of all their prior statements and actions before SB 1381 and which begs the question, “why fight it then?”, my faith that VDACS will do the right thing and honor the intent and desire of the people of the Commonwealth, as they spoke in near unanimity through their elected representatives, could hardly be more lacking. The leadership and staff at VDACS has so far proven itself to be typically bureaucratic, tragically indifferent, fundamentally uncaring, and as is so typical of oversight agencies, willing to overlook PETA’s criminal conduct by bending over backward for the entity they are supposed to be regulating.
While VDACS sits on its hands for the next two years, an additional 4,500 animals will be needlessly butchered at the behest of Ingrid Newkirk’s dark and disturbing impulses and the families of the animals they round up and kill across Norfolk and surrounding areas will be left heartbroken. We must not allow PETA to get away with murder.
What You Can Do:
Don’t let VDACS continue to get away with turning a blind eye and foot dragging. Please send a polite, but emphatic, email to both Sandra Adams, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and to Dr. Carolynn Bissett, the State Veterinarian, that you expect them to do their jobs and honor the intent of the legislature and the will of the people. Tell them that PETA kills 90% of the animals it takes in, that it steals people’s animals and puts them to death in violation of state laws and regulations, that it has always maintained it is “not in the home finding business” and has made virtually no effort to do so, and that it has a history of criminal conduct and lying to people in order to acquire and kill animals. As such, it cannot legally be licensed as a private shelter under SB 1381. And while you are at it, tell them that we should not have to wait two years for VDACS to act while PETA kills an additional 4,500 animals.
Dr. Carolynn Bissett: Carolynn.Bissett@vdacs.virginia.gov
Commissioner Sandra Adams: firstname.lastname@example.org
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