As many of you know, I used to volunteer with PETA. As a young vegan living in the Northeast, one night each week, I would stuff envelopes and put packets together for them. I loved animals. And therefore, I loved PETA. Today, I still love animals. In fact I’ve dedicated my life to saving them. Which is why—as a former shelter director, the head of a national organization focused on ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters, and the author of a book on PETA—I’ve come to be one of their fiercest critics.
It started when I was still a volunteer. One day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. As volunteers, I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray—a young, happy, healthy dog—to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said “No,” because PETA would just kill him. Spit take!
That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. I’ve since come to learn that they kill over 90% of the animals they take it in, including healthy puppies and kittens, that they have called for the killing of all “pit bulls” in shelters, that they advocate the round up and killing of healthy community cats, oppose shelter reform, do not advocate right to life for animals, and kill animals after promising to find them homes. I love animals, including dogs and cats, so I cannot support an organization dedicated to killing them based on the belief that “pets” are “slaves,” that life is suffering, that animals are better off dead and therefore to kill them is a “gift,” as PETA founder and President Ingrid Newkirk believes. My article discussing their anti-animal views and actions in in the Huffington Post has over a quarter of a million Facebook “likes,” 90,000 shares, and one million page views.
Working to expose the disturbing truth about what PETA really is, I am frequently the subject of character assassination by PETA supporters and many of the people who like my Facebook page have told me they have heard from some of them, especially “Mary” and “Julie,” both of who not only deliberately lie about who I am and what I believe, but are part of a larger group of No Kill opponents intent on tearing me down, including those who have threatened to kill my dog and “behead” me for the “crime” of advocating right to life for animals in shelters. (“Julie” in fact wrote an article called “Nathan Winograd Should Be Beheaded.”) Now, “Julie” and her acolytes are threatening to protest at the Minneapolis screening of Redemption, a film based on my book of the same name about the No Kill revolution in America. The first ever screening in Minneapolis will be a red carpet event, includes an after party with some of the people who appear in the film, and is open to the public.
I actually welcome the protest and here’s why.
When people see them protesting and then see the film, the disconnect between what the PETA supporters claim and what I advocate will be obvious. The film is an inspirational, uplifting portrayal of what we can accomplish when we reject killing and implement common sense alternatives, about the tremendous lifesaving change that follows when shelters believe in the community and trust in the power of compassion. It is above love, which is why I am screening it nationwide as part of my 2014 “No Kill is Love” tour. Everyone who sees it will instantly dismiss the protesters and see them for who they really are and what they really stand for. How do I know? Because past is prologue. Here are just three examples. A shelter director who heard horrible things about me and my approach (similar to the kinds of lies Julie uses to defend killing) came to hear me speak. Afterward, she sent me this email:
I spent four years working at a humane society… I was a caregiver and euthanasia technician. Sixty-four animals have died at the end of my needle. When I was killing animals, I stepped outside of myself and was a different person. I held it together all but one time.
While killing a mother and her five two-day old children, I broke down. At the time I did not know what set me off. I had always been in control of my emotions and remained focused. Now I can look back and realize I lost it because I let myself feel what I was doing.
Until hearing you speak, I never blamed myself for what I did. I played it off as doing what my manager had told me to do and it was how I played my part in animal welfare. I believed that these animals martyred themselves for the movement. That their deaths were not in vain because it would… lead to the end of suffering. How very wrong I was…
As a shelter director now, did some of your comments piss me off? Absolutely… But I got what you were saying… I want to believe I am this progressive person, but my life’s passion was based on an old model that did nothing but fail.
Will I ever go back to being the person I was at [my old humane society]? No, I just cannot.
I want to let you know you opened me up to a new train of thought. One I am dedicated to sharing with my community.
The second email came from a new shelter director who recently took over a troubled municipal kill shelter in California and attended a conference put on by a group of regressive shelter directors that run killing shelters and have historically viewed the No Kill movement as both a threat to their hegemony and the status quo they ardently defend. A speaker they hired called me a “terrorist” and urged shelter directors to be on guard because I was “everywhere.” This shelter director subsequently heard I was giving a seminar near her community and came to hear me speak in order to learn about her “enemy” and prepare herself. She sat in the back row so she could sneak out if things got uncomfortable. Instead of sneaking out, she called me afterward to say that far from being uncomfortable, she was riveted by my message and wanted to make No Kill happen in her own community. We’ve been communicating ever since, her shelter has since seen significant drops in killing utilizing the approach I advocate, and she now wants to host a screening of Redemption in her city.
And, finally, after a presentation in Toronto, I received this email:
Recently I attended your appearance in Toronto. I’ll be honest I went because my friend, a fellow rescuer and shelter worker, made me. Before that I was offended by the statement you made about pet overpopulation being a myth. If people protested you in Toronto I would have been there.
Unlike the OSPCA and under the pressure of my friend I felt that if you had any useful information that could help with saving animals I should attend. I was blown away. I owe you an apology. You are right and I feel like fool for buying into the idea that we can’t save all these animals. I never supported killing shelter animals, but I never saw the fault in the way shelters are run.
Thank you for coming to Toronto. I picked up a copy of Redemption and it’s a book I can’t put down.
Whenever PETA or its devotees attack me by name, the number of followers on my Facebook page spikes. In fact, it has grown by over 15,000 people in just the last few weeks as “Julie” has been emailing rescuers all over the country asking them not to see the film. Instead, these people read what I have to say and the majority agree with me for the simple reason that most people love animals and will not abide their needless slaughter as the PETA supporters do because the PETA supporters, in fact, don’t love animals.* Instead, they love PETA and the identity (and in some cases, the paycheck) it gives them. Their protests show their true colors—a blind, out of touch, misanthropic and cultish devotion to killing—which further drives people into the arms of the No Kill movement. Every time they attack me, the forces in favor of killing animals weaken and the No Kill movement gets stronger.
In short, protesters welcome.
* In truth, they do not. Killing is not an act of kindness. It is not an act of love. It is an act of violence. And those that perpetuate it, promote it or defend it do not love animals because there is no way to twist and torture the word “love” to encompass poisoning or gassing animals to death.
Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.
Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902
And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902