The numbers are in. In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) impounded 733 dogs. They killed 602 of them. Only 12 were adopted. In 2012, they impounded 1,110 cats. 1,045 were put to death. Seven of them were adopted. They also took in 34 other companion animals, such as rabbits, of which 28 were put to death. Only four were adopted. All told, 1,877 companion animals were impounded, of which 1,675 were put to death. Only 23 were placed in homes. That’s an 89% rate of killing. If the animals transferred to kill shelters were themselves killed or displaced other animals who were then killed to take in the ones from PETA (PETA has a policy against No Kill shelters), the death toll could be as high as 96%. If those disposed of under “miscellaneous” (“The number of animals that were disposed in a manner which is not consistent with the other designated categories”) also died, the death toll is as high as 98%. Regardless of which number is used, only 1% were adopted into homes. While the No Kill movement is having unparalleled success and with No Kill communities now dotting the American landscape—in Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, and elsewhere—PETA continues to be little more than a slaughterhouse.
Excerpted from Friendly Fire by Nathan & Jennifer Winograd.
Why? Why does PETA kill animals? Why does PETA call for more killing even in the face of alternatives? Why do they fight efforts to save animals when they are supposed to be an organization that helps them? And why do they embrace even abusive shelters when community activists try to reform them? These behaviors seem truly baffling until possible psychological causes are considered.
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. PETA’s language about “overburdened” shelter workers, and about giving animals what Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, 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 betraying the animals. She once 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 has stated that blaming shelters for killing animals is like blaming hospitals for killing patients. Is Newkirk trying to tell us something?
Unfortunately, with no formal psychological evaluation to support a diagnosis, we are left with pure conjecture. But given the similarity of language and the acts themselves: the killing, the death squads, the indoctrination against and hateful denunciation of No Kill and the proactive efforts to stop communities from embracing No Kill principles, this may be as close as we ever come to understanding the motivations of PETA’s President. Yet even absent a definitive diagnosis, this much is clear: PETA’s killing has claimed the lives of more than 29,000 animals in just the last decade, and this number includes healthy, adoptable puppies and kittens. And when asked by a reporter what efforts they make to find animals homes, PETA replied that they had “no comment.” The truthful answer in the vast majority of cases—“none”—would have been more damning.
Not only does PETA’s registration with the State 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 even by people who claim to love animals. 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 or acquiring those displaced by natural disasters, only to inject them with poison and kill them—most people would opine that she was a deeply disturbed person inflicting death upon animals in obedience to dark impulses. Unfortunately, her association with PETA and its claim that they are a “shelter of last resort” 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. 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. And somehow, the details of which are a mystery, Newkirk manages to transform at least some of these people into dangerous, mindless drones incapable of critical thinking, 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 the PETA staff who were caught tossing garbage bags filled with dead animals into the supermarket dumpster—or the three PETA employees who approached Nathan after a lecture he gave at UCLA Law School in March of 2012. The views these young people expressed revealed that PETA followers are not just parroting Ingrid Newkirk for a paycheck; but 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, including feral cats, open admission No Kill shelters, the myth of pet overpopulation and adoption incentives by shelters, the conversation invariably ended at the same deadly destination—with the PETA employees 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 it is just like being put under anesthesia for spay/neuter, with the only difference being that the animal never wakes up. Moreover, whenever Nathan attempted 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—they would have none of it, simply repeating that killing animals is okay because they might someday suffer, and killing is okay because it’s just like going to sleep and never waking up. What could possibly explain such bizarre assertions?
Experts on cults report that they come in many varieties. There are religious cults like those founded by David Koresh and Jim Jones. 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.” And yet many of these cults are particularly scary because the harm they inflict is not limited simply to their membership.
As with all cults, members of political cults become victims of emotional and psychological manipulation. They often live in desperate need for the approval of their charismatic leader. But what makes political cults so particularly terrifying is that they often promote philosophies that endorse campaigns of extermination. Could PETA, which not only actively seeks out and then poisons thousands of animals a year, but which works to undermine lifesaving efforts across the country in order to ensure that shelters keep killing animals, be just such a cult?
Indeed, No Kill activists have often been baffled as to why PETA does not attempt to modulate its message in defense of killing in light of the No Kill movement’s evolving success, continually hammering home, as they do, tired clichés and disproven dogmas 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 employees Nathan spoke to demonstrated, although they had just sat through a 2½ hour presentation debunking all their justifications for killing, the message had fallen on deaf ears that were incapable of comprehending anything that contradicted the story line that PETA perpetuates and continually disseminates, including the myth that open admission shelters cannot be No Kill, the myth of too many animals and not enough homes, the notion that feral cats are suffering horribly, that any attempt to find more homes would put animals in the hands of abusers, and the most absurd of these absurdities, that killing is kindness, a gift.
For every time Nathan had attempted to break down for the PETA employees exactly where their information or logic was incorrect or flawed—their insistence that open admission shelters cannot be no kill, for example, by citing numerous animal control shelters nationwide that are, in fact, No Kill and open admission—or that pet overpopulation is a myth by showing that the number of homes that become available for animals every year vastly exceeds the number of animals being killed in shelters—the information simply did not penetrate. It was as though he was speaking a foreign language they could not understand; and in response, 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.
There is much we do not know about PETA. Admittedly, we lack details to confirm the diagnosis of what, exactly, ails the leadership of PETA and the people who go to work there. Is Ingrid Newkirk mentally ill? Is PETA a cleverly disguised cult, using proven mind control techniques to manipulate people into accepting and participating in a deadly and nefarious campaign for the extermination of animals? At this time in history, we do not yet know the answers to these dark and disturbing questions. Yet even if we can merely speculate about the why and the how 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. Because 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—29,426 times in the last 11 years—that they are not adverse to using.
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