Instead they celebrate a killing of them.

Next month, the Animal Rights Conference will take place in Alexandria, VA. It bills itself as, “The world’s largest & longest-running event dedicated to the liberation of animals from all forms of human exploitation and use.” It is not. It is sponsored by PETA, an organization which is the functional equivalent of a slaughterhouse, its featured speaker from PETA kills animals by the thousands, and it prohibits other speakers from criticizing her. Last week, we sent those other speakers the following letter:

Dear Animal Rights Conference Speaker:

Imagine a conference held to further the cause of children’s rights in which one of the main sponsors and featured speakers was from an organization that killed several thousand children a year; more than 30,000 over the last two decades.

Imagine that this speaker directed her staff to steal children from their homes, to round up children living on the streets, and to lie to parents placing children up for adoption by promising they would care for those children and find them new parents, only to immediately inject the vast majority with a fatal dose of poison.

Imagine that donations given to this organization to help children were instead being used to buy the poisons to end their lives, to pay the salaries of the staff members who kill them, and to pay the renderer to dispose of the dead bodies.

Imagine that, without exception, all the other conference speakers and attendees pretended that these atrocities were not happening even though the evidence was readily available, overwhelming and unassailable: the founder of the organization admitted they kill children, public documents submitted by the organization to the government substantiated the killing, and several staff members had been caught by police dumping garbage bags filled with children’s bodies into supermarket dumpsters.

Now imagine that because children lacked the rights and legal protections the conference claimed to be seeking on their behalf, the organization was allowed to continue killing children without consequence, while also undermining efforts by others to ensure that children gain the right to life that would protect them from such harm. In fact, imagine that the leader of the organization stated that she did not believe that children had a right to live, that children wanted to die, and that killing them was a “gift.”

Imagine that instead of being criticized, condemned, and shunned by conference organizers, speakers, and attendees, this speaker was inducted into the conference organizer’s “Children’s Rights Hall of Fame.”

Would this not be a collective betrayal of professed values so extreme as to be the stuff of dystopian fiction? Of course it would. And yet, it isn’t. To witness its true-life equal, one need only attend this summer’s Animal Rights Conference where, once again, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk will be a featured speaker and fawned over by an adoring audience of self-professed animal lovers and animal rights activists, despite PETA having killed 32,744 animals in the last 13 years.

Although PETA often claims that all the animals it kills are “suffering,” records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services contradict this claim. Those records demonstrate that PETA acquires young and healthy animals and kills the vast majority with no effort to find them homes: upwards of 96% of the thousands of animals it annually takes in, while adopting out only 1%. By contrast, there are open-admission, municipal shelters throughout the U.S. with live release rates as high as 98-99% of the animals, despite taking in more animals than PETA and doing so on the tiniest fraction of PETA’s millions in wealth.

Why does PETA kill as many animals as others help? Because PETA does not operate a shelter in any sense of the word and rehoming animals isn’t the motive of PETA staff: ending their lives is. PETA employees and representatives have been caught by police dumping garbage bags full of dead animals into supermarket dumpsters. They have been caught on surveillance video stealing a healthy and beloved dog from her porch, a dog that PETA later admitted to killing that very day. Rescue groups, individuals, and veterinarians have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable and that PETA promised to find them homes, even though those animals ended up dead. PETA staff members have also described, under oath in court, that animals they killed were “healthy,” “adorable” and “perfect.” Other staff admitted that they were encouraged by Newkirk to do whatever it takes to gain custody of animals for killing, including lying to people. And Newkirk herself admitted that PETA kills healthy animals: when asked whether PETA kills healthy animals during a television interview, she responded, “Absolutely.”

Not content to kill animals themselves, PETA has urged others to kill animals, too, regularly writing government officials throughout the nation promoting the round-up of community cats, a ban on all pit bull adoptions, and opposing legislative and lobbying efforts to reform abusive shelters and grant shelter animals legal protections. You can find OpEds written by PETA itself, letters they have sent to public officials, newspaper reports, animal intake and disposition records, photographs of animals PETA has killed, and statistics substantiating all of the above at whypetakills.com.

And yet Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) not only invites the leader of this group to participate in its “animal rights” conference, it demands that no other speakers criticize the killing of these animals or the organization doing the killing as a condition of participation. Indeed, participation and attendance at FARM’s Animal Rights Conference is exhorted in something far more precious than the mere price of admission; it is paid in our movement’s collective hypocrisy, self-censorship and inaction about great harm to animals and therefore, the betrayal of every value you and other attendees claim to cherish.

PETA’s ongoing atrocities and FARM’s demand for silence about them beg the questions: What role will you play in a conference which claims to champion the rights of animals, but instead embraces and celebrates an individual and her organization which kill them by the thousands? Will you speak for the animals who have no voice by demanding an end to PETA’s campaign of animal extermination, an end to PETA’s participation in a conference that is supposed to be about granting animals the right to their lives, and an end to FARM’s demand for our movement’s collective capitulation to that killing?

Or will you not?

After all, we are not talking about humans, are we? Your participation at a conference where you were told you must remain silent about a featured speaker who injects a fatal dose of poison into thousands of defenseless children every year would be absolutely unthinkable.

No, we’re not talking about people. We’re only talking about animals.

Nathan and Jennifer Winograd

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