Shining a light on Snopes.com’s lack of objectivity and due diligence when it comes to PETA.

 

Snopes.com claims as its mission truth-seeking, writing that it “lights the way to evidence-based and contextualized analysis.” But when it comes to PETA, it has utterly failed in that regard.

Recently, it claimed to do such “evidence-based and contextualized analysis” regarding the authenticity of a postcard Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder and the architect of their mass killing and support of mass killing, sent me almost 25 years ago on which she wrote that PETA “does not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals.”

According to Snopes.com, a PETA spokesperson admitted “the postcard was authentic and had been written and sent by Newkirk.” How could they not? It is written on a PETA postcard, it is in her handwriting, it is signed by her, and it is postmarked from the correct post office.

But, they claim that Newkirk “was apparently answering Nathan Winograd’s claim that all animals have the right to life, no matter what condition they’re in.” That reason is a lie, Newkirk knows it, and Snopes.com should have known it as I’ll explain below. But Snopes.com accepted it as face value. Why didn’t they contact me? Why didn’t they ask to see a copy of the letter I wrote that led to the responsive postcard?

Imagine Snopes.com investigating something that Donald Trump allegedly did or said and only asking Trump whether or not he did or said that thing, then accepting his word as “evidence-based and contextualized analysis.” That is what they did here. And in doing so, they violated their own mission statement in two ways.

First, Snopes.com claims that, “We always document our sources so readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds.” They don’t say they “often” document their sources. They don’t say they “sometimes” document their sources. They say they “always” do. And yet they didn’t. Instead, they relied exclusively on an unnamed “spokesperson for PETA.” No citation. No names. No ability to verify. No documentation of “sources so readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds.”

Second, they used an author who has a history of having written a number of stories laudatory to PETA in the past. That hardly makes him objective and unbiased. At the very least, it created the appearance of impropriety.

More importantly, Newkirk was responding to a letter about community cats (we called them “feral cats” back then) and my concern that she was embracing the killing of healthy and treatable cats instead of embracing sterilization and release. I documented this in my 2012 book, Friendly Fire, where I wrote,

When Nathan wrote Ingrid Newkirk to ask her how, as an animal rights organization, PETA could oppose non-lethal programs for feral cats in shelters, and why her organization advocates that they be rounded up and killed, Newkirk wrote back that PETA is not an animal rights organization, stating in no uncertain terms: ‘We do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals.’ (p. 177.)

If Snopes.com was really committed to “evidence-based” analysis, they could have quoted that. They could have reached out to me to ask what, specifically, I had asked Newkirk that she was responding to. But they didn’t. Instead, an author with a history of writing articles friendly to PETA called PETA and accepted the rationalization of an unnamed spokesperson as gospel, then reported it as such, even though there was every reason to believe this unnamed spokesperson would be dishonest. Here’s why.

First, I would have never asked Newkirk why she supports the killing of irremediably suffering animals because my definition of No Kill has always included an exception for such animals. What I have focused on over the years is bringing increasing rigor to the definition. And not only have I euthanized my own animals when they were suffering, I’ve been very open about that. Since I have never believed otherwise, why would I write that to Newkirk? The short answer is I wouldn’t. PETA is lying.

Second, PETA has a history of lying. They lied about the success of shelter reform in Delaware. PETA also lies when it claims all the animals it kills are suffering, admitting under oath that the animals they took after promising to find them homes and then killing them immediately in the back of a van were “perfect.” Maya, the dog they killed, was healthy. The other animals they also took and killed the same day and from the same trailer park as Maya were also young and healthy. The kittens they round up to kill every year have been documented as healthy. Employees have admitted that the animals PETA kills are healthy. And over the years, rescue groups, shelters, and veterinarians have come forward and testified that the animals they gave to PETA were healthy, only to find out they were killed almost immediately even though PETA promised to find them homes.

Heather Harper-Troje, a former PETA field worker whose job it was to acquire animals to kill, writes:

I know from first hand experience that the PETA leadership has no problem lying. 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… Contrary to what PETA maintains, 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.

Third, how would PETA remember what the context of that postcard was in order to faithfully assert to Snopes that it was being misrepresented? It was 24 years ago and I was an unheard of law student writing to PETA to share my concerns. The postcard Newkirk sent me clarifiying PETA’s position was likely one of many hastily handwritten postcards she has written over the years; indeed, the fact that she responded with a postcard to my multi-page letter, rather than responding comprehensively demonstrates what little significance my letter had for her and therefore, how inconsequential — and therefore forgettable — it was. It therefore strains credulity to assert that she recalls the letter she was responding to, or even writing that postcard which gave a window into her beliefs. So why do I remember it? Because at the time I sent it, I was struggling to come to terms with what PETA was showing itself to be, which was not what I had come to assume it was, and not what I, as a committed animal rights activist, believed: that the right to life was the moral center of gravity for the animal rights movement. In other words, by telling me she did not share this belief, the postcard was yet another wake up call for me about PETA, an organization I had not only once supported, but even volunteered for.

I would subsequently go on to debate Ingrid Newkirk in Washington D.C. when she encouraged Georgetown University to round up and kill campus feral cats. I went there as an emissary of the Stanford Cat Network, the University I was a student at, to encourage Georgetown to follow our lead as the nation’s first campus TNR program. They didn’t and instead embraced Newkirk’s extermination campaign. In my debate with Newkirk, she admitted to advocating death even for healthy and treatable feral cats, which PETA continues to do to this day. In fact, during the debate, she told a bizarre story of how she was once the subject of a stalker and when she called the police to report being afraid of his hurting her, they allegedly told her there was nothing they could do until she was actually hurt. She analogized that she was like the feral cat who would one day be hurt and that TNR supporters wait until it is too late. When I pointed out in response that under her (il)logic and inane analogy, if she was like the feral cat, the police should have euthanized her to prevent her from being hurt in the future, she got flush red, said she thought this would be a friendly discussion, and left the debate and the room embarrassed.

Fourth, the timing of the Snopes.com post suggests an effort to deflect attention, coming as it did at the same time as their dismissal of a lawsuit against two attorneys they claimed I conspired with. With their lawsuit on the verge of collapse because PETA will not allow Newkirk and her acolytes to testify under oath which would prove the depravity of their killing, PETA needed to redirect attention and Snopes.com became their witting or unwitting ally. Like lying to acquire animals to kill or to cover up their killing, that, too, is standard PETA operating procedure. On the day they are set to be exposed for killing, they always try to divert attention away from it, as they do each and every year when the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services releases PETA’s statistics; statistics which, year after year, show upwards of a 99% death rate.

At best then, Snopes.com is incompetent. At worst, it is agenda-driven. Regardless of the reason and the extent of their duplicity, the lesson here is two-fold. One, PETA is feeling the pressure as more and more people see through the facade of who and what they pretend to be to who and what they really are. Second, when you want to learn the truth, don’t mindlessly defer to PETA, don’t mindlessly defer to Snopes.com, and I would argue, don’t even mindlessly defer to me. Weigh the evidence for yourself.

And there is plenty of it:

If that is not enough: a dog died after three days of suffering in his kennel,with no medical or supportive care at Sumter County Animal Services (SCAS) in Florida. In response to criticism, county officials maintain that their job is not to save lives, but to provide “euthanasia services” and “culling” of animals. Despite this neglect, PETA accepted the county’s “assurance that animals in the county’s care and custody are provided timely medical care when needed” and went on to thank pound staff even though they do no adoptions, have no veterinarian on site, do not allow volunteers, and do not allow the public to photograph or videotape in the facility (in violation of the First Amendment and Federal law). PETA — telling county officials that No Kill is impossible — also thanked pound staff for “standing firmly” against citizens who are working to ensure that neglect is eliminated, lives are saved, adoptions occur, volunteers are allowed, and constitutional rights are protected.

If that is still not enough, not only does PETA kill cats themselves, they demonize community cats in order to get counties to round up and kill, rather than sterilize, them, too. Per PETA, ‘cats smell, they are a nuisance, make too much noise, are a public health and rabies threat, transmit disease and parasites, including “roundworms, hookworms, and even plague,” and “terrorize and kill” 15 billion other animals a year.’ These are hardly the words of an animal-loving rights group.

And if that is still not enough, there’s even more.

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