People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an animal rights organization. Based in the United States, and with two million members and supporters there and elsewhere, PETA says it is the largest animal rights group in the world.

Founded in 1980 and based in Norfolk, Virginia, the organization is a nonprofit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) corporation with 187 employees, funded almost exclusively by its members. Outside the U.S., there are affiliated offices in Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Republic of China (Taiwan), and the United Kingdom. There is also the peta2 Street Team for high school and college-age activists, and the Foundation to Support Animal Protection, which manages PETA's assets. Ingrid Newkirk is PETA's international president. PETA's slogan is "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." The organisation focuses on four core issues: factory farming, fur farming, animal testing, and animals in entertainment. It also campaigns against fishing, the killing of animals regarded as pests, abuse of chained, backyard dogs, cock fighting, bullfighting and the consumption of meat. It aims to inform the public of its position through advertisements, undercover investigations, animal rescue, and lobbying.

The organization has been criticized for some of its campaigns and for the number of animals it euthanizes. It was also criticized in 2005 by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who stated that PETA had acted as a "spokesgroup" for the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, after activists associated with those groups had committed what Inhofe called "acts of terrorism.


PETA is an animal rights organization, meaning that in addition to focusing on animal welfare and protection issues, it rejects the idea of animals as property, and opposes all forms of speciesism, animal testing, animal product eating, factory farming, and hunting, as well as the use of animals in entertainment or as clothing, furniture, or decoration. The organization's website states: "PETA believes that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use — for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason."

In PETA's 2004 annual review, Newkirk stated: "Everyone eats, so we have done our best not only to reform the worst abuses in factory farming and slaughterhouses, but to promote a compassionate vegan diet, providing all the resources, from recipes to health tips, that a person could ever need. We have also revolutionized the way some companies do business, getting them to stop selling fur, boycott Australian merino wool, and abandon painful animal-poisoning tests in favor of sophisticated non-animal methods. We have shown how to prevent flooding without destroying beavers' homes and how to prevent birds from entering "big box" stores without using cruel glue traps. In the past year alone, former circus and zoo elephants were sent to sanctuaries, hog-dog rodeos were banned, and cruel companies were fined. We also educated millions of kids about animal rights through our teacher network and education programs."


Founded in 1980, PETA first came to public attention in 1981 during what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case.

Alex Pacheco, PETA's co-founder with Ingrid Newkirk, conducted an undercover investigation in the summer of 1981 inside a primate research laboratory at the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The researcher, Dr. Edward Taub, had cut sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to the monkeys' fingers, hands, arms, and legs, a process called "deafferentation," so that they could not feel them; with some, he deafferented their entire spinal column. He then used restraint, electric shock, and withholding of food and water to force the monkeys to use the deafferented parts of their bodies. The aim of the research was to determine whether the monkeys could be forced to use the limbs, and whether this had an effect on the structure of their brains. The research led in part to the development of the concept of neuroplasticity and a new physical therapy for stroke victims called constraint-induced movement therapy.

Pacheco visited the laboratory at night and took photographs that showed the monkeys were living in "filthy conditions," according to the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research's ILAR Journal. He turned his evidence over to the police, who raided the lab and arrested Taub. Taub was convicted of six counts of animal cruelty, the first conviction in the U.S. of a research scientist, although it was later overturned on appeal.

The ensuing publicity, and the battle for custody of some of the monkeys, lasted ten years, triggering an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act in 1985 to ensure that researchers do not cause unnecessary suffering to laboratory animals, and becoming the first animal-testing case to be argued before the United States Supreme Court, which rejected PETA's application for custody.

Examining veterinarians found that the animals were suffering, and the primate center's blue ribbon panel of animal care experts, along with the Louisiana SPCA, recommended that the animals be euthanized. PETA and other animal rights groups pleaded for the animals' lives, contending that their condition did not warrant euthanasia. The director of the Delta Regional Primate Center said: “They still blocked the euthanasia with court action. They are going to fight very hard for every monkey because the more publicity they get, the more money they bring in.” Ultimately, PETA's efforts to save the animals failed. They remained with the National Institutes of Health, which had funded Taub's research, until they died naturally, or were studied, euthanized, and dissected.

The case transformed PETA from what Newkirk called "five people in a basement into a national movement able and willing to use undercover methods, the courts, and the media to achieve its aims.

Philosophy and activism

The organization is known for its unusual mix of celebrity supporters — including Sir Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Dolly Parton, Morrissey, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Zombie and Sarah Jessica Parker — combined with undercover investigations and aggressive media campaigns. Newkirk has said of PETA's campaign strategy: "How do we pick our battles? By trying to touch the public imagination, the public heart, and by choosing targets that will result in great change for large numbers of animals and set an example for others to follow when we win our battles with them."

Many of PETA's campaigns have focused on large corporations, such as KFC, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, PETCO, Procter & Gamble, Covance, and Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Support for direct action

Ingrid Newkirk is firm in her support of direct action. In 1997, PETA initiated what became an international and (after PETA withdrew from it) violent campaign against Huntington Life Sciences (HLS), when video footage shot covertly inside the company by PETA investigator Michele Rokke was aired on British television, showing staff beating the beagles in their care. When HLS threatened legal action, PETA was forced to retreat from the campaign, fearing crippling costs, and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a loose affiliation of activists with links to other groups, took its place.

PETA members have been criticized for taking activism too far, particularly in their long-standing efforts to halt the fur industry, which has involved disrupting fashion shows and throwing paint at fur coats. In 1996, PETA activists famously threw a dead raccoon onto the table of Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, who promotes the use of fur in fashion, while she was dining at the Four Seasons in New York, and left bloody paw prints and the words "Fur Hag" on the steps of her home. PETA supporters have also pied Wintour more than once, and a member delivered a package of maggot-infested innards to her office in April 2000, explaining in a press release that "Anna stole this animal’s skin and his life, she might as well have his guts.

Newkirk and PETA have been criticized for providing financial support to Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists when they were faced with legal action against them. The Observer noted what it calls a "network of relationships between seemly unconnected animal rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic," writing that, with assets of $6.5 million, and with the PETA Foundation holding further assets of $15 million, PETA funds individual activists and activist groups, some with "links to extremists." This includes links to the ALF and Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which the Counterterrorism department of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation have named as "special interest extremism organizations" and "as a serious terrorist threat.

Rod Coronado, a former ALF activist, received $64,000 from the group and two months later another $38,240 as a loan which has never been paid back to fund his legal defense when he was convicted of having set fire to a Michigan State University research lab in 1992. PETA claimed a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service for the donation after the arson took place. PETA is also alleged to have donated $1.3 million to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organization that promotes the use of alternatives to animal testing, but which has been criticized for its links with the ALF, and in particular with Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon who runs the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. PETA also gave $5,000 to the Josh Harper Support Committee, before Harper was convicted of "animal enterprise terrorism" in the U.S. in connection with the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign and, according to the New York Post, gave $1,500 to the ELF in 2001. Newkirk said of the ELF donation that it was a mistake, and that the money was supposed to be used for "public education about destruction of habitat." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, PETA also provided $7,500 to Fran Trutt, convicted of the attempted murder of Leon Hirsch, the CEO of the United States Surgical Corporation.

In general, Newkirk makes no apology for PETA's support of activists who may break the law, writing that "no movement for social change has ever succeeded without 'the militarism component'." Of the Animal Liberation Front, she writes: "Thinkers may prepare revolutions, but bandits must carry them out."

During an event funded by several animal rights groups, including PETA, PETA's vegan campaigns director Bruce Friedrich said: "If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we're going to be blowing things up and smashing windows. ... I think it's a great way to bring about animal liberation, considering the level of suffering, the atrocities. I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them, exploded tomorrow.


PETA is best known for its highly visible, often controversial campaigns. (See below.) The Lettuce Ladies, young women dressed in bikinis which appear to be made of lettuce, gather in city centers to hand out leaflets about veganism. Every year the "Running of the Nudes" campaign sees PETA activists run naked through Pamplona, Spain in a parody of the annual Running of the Bulls tradition. Supermodels such as Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell have posed naked on billboards with the slogan "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" emblazoned across their chests.

PETA's campaigning tactics were described as not "much different than blackmail" in 2005 by Dr Len Stevens, the CEO of Australian Wool Innovations body. A similar worded accusation in a 60 minutes interview that "They were blackmailed by you" was dismissed by PETA representative Ingrid Newkirk as "It doesn't matter" so long as "They are on board" (referring to PETA achieving its boycott goal).

Many of the campaigns bear fruit for PETA. Burger King, McDonalds, and Wendy's introduced vegetarian options in their menus; Petco dropped the sale of many exotic live pets; and in 2006, after talks with PETA, Polo Ralph Lauren announced that it would no longer use fur in any of its lines.

On the other side companies are campaigning against PETA too. By 2005 the group Center for Consumer Freedom reported having over 1,000 individual supporters and about 100 corporate supporters. Other companies that have publicly acknowledged making donations to CCF include Coca-Cola, Wendy's, Tyson Foods, and Pilgrim's Pride.

Other campaigns are hard-hitting and controversial. The 2003 Holocaust on your Plate exhibition, consisted of eight 60-square-foot panels, each juxtaposing images of the Holocaust with images of factory farming. Photographs of concentration camp inmates in wooden bunks were shown next to photographs of caged chickens, and piled bodies of Holocaust victims next to a pile of pig carcasses. Captions alleged that "like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps."

The creator of the campaign, Matt Prescott, who is Jewish and lost several relatives in the Holocaust, told The Guardian: "The very same mindset that made the Holocaust possible — that we can do anything we want to those we decide are 'different or inferior' — is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day. ... The fact is, all animals feel pain, fear and loneliness. We're asking people to recognize that what Jews and others went through in the Holocaust is what animals go through every day in factory farms." The project's website cited Jewish Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote of animals: "In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka." The Jewish Anti-Defamation League denounced the campaign. The chairman of the ADL, Abraham Foxman said the exhibition, was "outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights ... The effort by Peta to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent." PETA has since apologized for this campaign. In a statement to the ADL, Ingrid Newkirk said she realized that the campaign had caused pain: "This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry."

PETA has used Holocaust imagery before. A television public service announcement entitled "They Came for Us at Night," which aired on U.S. cable networks and in Warsaw, Poland, in July 2003, "showed the outside world through the slats of a boxcar and is narrated by a man (with an accent) who describes the plight of being transported with no food and water," according to the Anti-Defamation League, and drew an analogy between the plight of animals being transported to their deaths in cattle cars with Jews in the same situation during the Holocaust. Newkirk has been quoted as saying "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." ''

The organization was criticized again in 2003 when Newkirk sent a letter to then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat in response to a Jerusalem bombing attack, in which a donkey was loaded with explosives and blown up. After being "bombarded with calls," according to a PETA spokesperson, Newkirk asked Arafat to appeal to those involved in the attacks to keep animals out of the conflict. When criticized for involving herself on behalf of the non-human victims only, Newkirk told the Washington Post: "It's not my business to inject myself into human wars. Regarding PETA's controversial campaigns, Newkirk has said:

Undercover investigations

One of PETA's primary aims is to document the treatment of animals in research laboratories and other facilities where animals are used. To achieve this, it sends its employees into laboratories, circuses, and onto farms, sometimes requiring them to spend many months undercover, filming and otherwise documenting their experiences.

PETA does not itself engage in raids on facilities to free animals, but it receives and publicizes tapes recorded by the ALF during the latter's raids, arranging to meet with ALF activists to receive video footage and documentation, or having them forward it via a third party. This practice has led to criticism, as the raids are sometimes violent and may involve the destruction of property, and there has been one allegation that PETA may have had advance knowledge of an attack. In 1995, during the trial of ALF activist Rod Coronado for an arson attack on Michigan State University, U.S. Attorney Michael Dettmer alleged in a sentencing memorandum that Ingrid Newkirk had arranged, "days before the MSU arson occurred," to have Coronado send her documents from the lab and a videotape of the raid.

Many of PETA's investigations have led to legal action against the target companies. PETA conducted an undercover investigation of Covance, a drug development services company, from April 2003 until March 2004, obtaining video footage that a British judge called "highly disturbing." The evidence, which PETA submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), appeared to show monkeys being hit, tormented, and humiliated. According to PETA's website, Covance was subsequently fined for violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act based on PETA's documentation. However, Covance was cleared of lab maltreatment charges in Germany, where the incident was filmed; Covance maintains that the footage was edited together to exaggerate evidence.

Researchers working for PETA went undercover into Huntingdon Life Sciences, a contract animal-testing facility, in 1997, where they filmed staff beating dogs in the UK and what appears to be abuse of monkeys in the company's Princeton, New Jersey, facility. The employees were fired and HLS's licence in the UK was suspended. After the video footage aired on British television in 1999, a group of activists set up Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty with a view to closing HLS down, a campaign that is still ongoing.

In 1990, a Las Vegas entertainer lost his entertainment license, as well as a later lawsuit against PETA, after the group filmed him beating orangutans. A North Carolina grand jury handed down indictments against pig-farm workers, the first indictments for animal cruelty within that industry, after they were filmed skinning a sow who was allegedly still conscious. In 1985, the U.S. government suspended funding to the City of Hope biomedical research center in California over its alleged treatment of dogs, and East Carolina University agreed to stop using animals for classroom experiments after a PETA investigation.

In 1984, a 26-minute PETA film, based on 60 hours of researchers' footage obtained by the Animal Liberation Front during a raid on the University of Pennsylvania's Head Injury Clinic, led to the suspension of funds from the university, the closure of the lab, the firing of the university's chief veterinarian, and a period of probation for the university. The footage was made by the researchers as part of a study that involved inflicting brain damage on 150 baboons using a hydraulic device intended to simulate whiplash. An independent investigation by the Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR) confirmed that there had been "extraordinarly serious violations" by the lab of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

PETA was criticized by the OPRR for having edited the film in a misleading way. Twenty-five errors were identified in Newkirk's voiceover, including a scene where she described an accidental liquid spill over a conscious baboon as an acid spill, with no evidence to suggest it was anything but water. The film also gave the impression that a scene involving the hydraulic equipment smashing against a baboon's head represented several baboons being damaged, whereas subsequent examination of the 60 hours of original footage showed that the same scene had been constantly repeated.

PETA was also criticized in 1999 regarding undercover film it took inside the Carolina Biological Supply Company, which appeared to show wriggling cats being embalmed alive. Two veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed that the cats appeared to have been alive at the time, and the video was introduced as evidence before a departmental hearing. An anatomist called by Carolina Biological's lawyer subsequently demonstrated that the wriggling may have been the effect of formalin on freshly dead muscle tissue, which causes muscle fibers to contract and move, and the case against the company was dismissed.


PETA received donations from the public of over $25 million for the year ending July 31, 2005, according to the group's audited financial statement. Nearly 85 percent of its operating budget was spent directly on its programs; 10.83 percent on fundraising efforts; and 4.18 percent on management and general operations. Regarding its employees, 53 percent earned between $14,560 and $27,999; 32 percent between $28,000 and $38,499; and 15 percent over $38,500. Ingrid Newkirk earned $32,000 from her PETA position during that year. Charity Navigator notes that others holding Vice President of Campaigns posts like Dan Matthews et al. were drawing remunerations up to $72,488.

There has also been criticism about PETA's finances, with some questioning its nonprofit, tax exempt status, because its "leaders and personnel have been involved in criminal activities", according to the foundation Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE). The United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has also pointed to these terrorist links by showing tax return claims for funding organizations later designated as terrorist. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance in its evaluation of PETA observed that it does not meet a couple of Charity Accountability standards.

Community Animal Project

PETA has several programs helping cats and dogs in poorer areas of southeastern Virginia and northern North Carolina. In 2007, PETA spayed or neutered over 6,300 cats, dogs and rabbits, including 300 pit bulls and 440 feral cats, for no cost or at a reduced rate. The organization comes to the aid of neglected dogs and cats who are severely ill and injured, and pursues cruelty cases. They offer free humane euthanasia services to counties that kill unwanted animals via gassing or shooting. PETA also offers free euthanasia for severely ill/dying pets when euthanasia at a veterinarian is unaffordable. PETA paid for and built a cat shelter in a North Carolina county. Each year the organization builds and sets up hundreds of sturdy dog houses, with straw bedding, for dogs that are chained outside all winter. In 2007, this amounted to over 400 dog houses and 1,200 bales of straw. PETA also creates and airs numerous public service announcements and billboards urging people to help control the pet overpopulation through spaying/neutering, and adopting animals from shelters instead of purchasing cats and dogs from pet stores or breeders.

Policy on euthanasia

PETA is against the no kill movement and euthanizes the majority of animals that are given to them. It recommends euthanasia for certain breeds of animals, such as pit bull terriers, and in certain situations for unwanted animals in shelters: for example, for those living for long periods in cramped cages. Ingrid Newkirk has said: "Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals who no one wants. PETA recommends the use of an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital provided it is administered by a trained professional.

Before founding PETA, Newkirk was chief of animal-disease control and director of the animal shelter in the District of Columbia. She has said that she was shocked by the way the animals were treated in the shelter, and by the methods used to euthanize them. She told Michael Specter of The New Yorker:

I went to the front office all the time, and I would say, "John is kicking the dogs and putting them into freezers." Or I would say, "They are stepping on the animals, crushing them like grapes, and they don't care." In the end, I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn't stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day. Some of those people would take pleasure in making them suffer. Driving home every night, I would cry just thinking about it. And I just felt, to my bones, this cannot be right.

PETA says that it takes in feral cat colonies with diseases such as feline AIDS and leukemia, stray dogs, litters of parvo-infected puppies, and backyard dogs, and as such it would be unrealistic and unkind to operate a no-kill policy. Newkirk has said: "It is a totally rotten business, but sometimes the only kind option for some animals is to put them to sleep forever."

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA euthanized 1,946 companion animals (out of 2,138 animals surrendered to them or picked up as strays) in its home state of Virginia in 2005. During that same year, 126,797 animals (out of 228,376 animals surrendered or picked up as strays) were euthanized at animal shelters in Virginia. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders reported that, according to PETA "In 2003, PETA euthanized over 85 percent of the animals it took in, finding adoptive homes for just 14 percent."

In 1999, PETA took in 2,103 animals, of which 798 were either found new homes, were reclaimed by their owners or transferred to other facilities, while those remaining were euthanized. During the years 2004 and 2005, PETA took in 20258 animals, of which 15,438 were reclaimed by their owner. 4,224 were euthanized, while 507 were adopted. Debra Saunders's San Francisco Chronicle editorial states that, in 1991, after rescuing 18 rabbits and 14 roosters from a research facility, PETA euthanized them because, they said, there was no room for them at their animal sanctuary. This was questioned by critics in view of PETA's budget for that year, which was over six million dollars. U.S. Congressman Vin Weber, founder of the Congressional Animal Welfare Caucus, said he was troubled by what he saw as PETA's apparent lack of sincerity in opposing the euthanasia of the Silver Spring monkeys — PETA's application to take custody of the monkeys to prevent their euthanasia had just been rejected by the Supreme Court — while at the same time euthanizing other animals themselves.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 3–4 million dogs and cats are euthanized annually in the U.S. for a lack of homes. PETA and other animal protection groups blame people who don’t spay and neuter their animals, and people who buy animals from breeders instead of adopting from shelters, for causing the animal overpopulation crisis.

Animal euthanasia and criminal charges

PETA was criticized in 2005 when police discovered that over the course of a month, at least 80 animals had been euthanized and left in area dumpsters. Two PETA employees approached a dumpster in a van registered to PETA and left behind 18 dead animals. Thirteen more were found inside the van. The animals had been euthanized by the PETA employees immediately after taking them from shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties. In a 2005 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, PETA’s director of the Domestic Animals Issues stated that PETA began euthanizing animals in some rural North Carolina shelters by injection after it found that the shelters were killing unwanted animals with rifles and dilapidated gas chambers, both of which they claim are inhumane ways to kill animals. Officials from both counties said they were under the impression that the animals would be euthanized only if a home could not be found for them, and after being fully evaluated by a veterinarian. Both counties suspended their agreements with PETA after the incident.

Among the bodies in the dumpster were a cat and two of her kittens, given to PETA by veterinarian Patrick Proctor of Ahoskie Animal Hospital. According to Proctor, the two kittens were very adoptable, and he said the PETA employees claimed they would have no trouble finding homes for them. In an interview with CNN, Ingrid Newkirk said that Proctor — who himself carries out euthanasia on behalf of PETA — was not present when the kittens were removed and was therefore not in a position to know what PETA's employees had said. Newkirk added that it was unlikely the employees said they could find homes for the animals, given that the veterinarian's assistant handed the animals to PETA precisely because she knew homes could not be found. "If the veterinarian couldn't find homes for a few kittens and a cat, which is surprising, if they have clients coming in, then that's why they called us, because they know we don't have a magic wand either," Newkirk told CNN.

PETA condemned the dumping as against their policy, and suspended one of the employees involved for 90 days. Police charged the two employees with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts of illegal disposal of dead animals. In October, these charges were dropped, and replaced with 42 combined counts of animal cruelty, and 3 counts of "obtaining property under false pretense". In the trial, which began on January 22, 2007, both workers were acquitted of all charges, including animal cruelty charges, except a misdemeanor count for improper disposing of the euthanized animals. This misdemeanor littering conviction was later reversed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

In May 2007, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started investigations of how PETA handles euthanasia drugs. According to the DEA, PETA could face fines or sanctions against its license if it finds any wrongdoing, while gross mishandling of drugs could lead to criminal charges.

Position on animal testing

PETA believes that animal testing, whether for toxicity testing, education and training, or basic or applied research, is wasteful and unreliable. According to the group, every year “millions of birds, cats, dogs, farmed animals, fish, mice, monkeys, rats, rabbits, and other domestic and wild animals are subjected to a wide variety of experiments in the name of biology, psychology, biochemistry, physiology, genetic manipulation, and bio-warfare.”

PETA believes that “even animal research that is carried out for ‘medical purposes’ tends to be irrelevant to human health” both because artificially induced diseases in animals are not identical to human diseases and because humans and animals differ in many biologically significant ways. They claim that animal experiments are frequently redundant and lack accountability, oversight and regulation. In several undercover investigations, from the Silver Spring monkeys to investigations at the University of Connecticut, Covance, the University of North Carolina, Columbia University and others, PETA has revealed troubling images of animal abuse which have led to government investigations and fines or financial settlements against experimenters. In other cases, PETA has publicized details of animal product testing, by companies such as GM, Taser International, Mars, Incorporated, POM and others some of which have led to alternate non-animal testing methods. PETA actively promotes and supports alternatives to the use of animals in testing.

PETA vice-president Dan Mathews said, "AIDS is an easy disease to avoid, but our government squanders millions on duplicative animal tests, rather than issue frank warnings, especially to young people. Several PETA staff members have volunteered for human testing of AIDS vaccines, while others have been criticized for using pharmaceutical drugs which were tested on animals.

In 2006, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled that PETA failed to properly document its published claim that “nearly 3 million sensitive animals—monkeys, rabbits, mice and others—are killed in the UK each year in painful experiments.” The ASA ruled that animals used in laboratories may suffer in experiments, but that PETA had failed to document that nearly 3 million died “as a result of painful experiments.”

PETA supports embryonic stem cell research and in vitro cell research because they have "the potential to end the vast majority of animal testing". Critics claim that this position exalts "animal life in trivial ways, while simultaneously devaluing human life to the point where it’s worthless."

Whistleblower hotline

In 2007, PETA established a "whistleblower hotline," with a reward of $5,000 leading to the conviction of anyone violating laws that protect animals being used in experiments.

Competition for in-vitro meat creation

In April 2008, PETA announced a US$1m prize for the creation of a method to produce "commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012." The announcement caused what The New York Times called a "near civil war" within the organization, since many of PETA's members oppose eating animal tissue even if no animals are killed in its creation.

Conflicts with other activists

With animal rights advocates

PETA has been the target of criticism by other animal rights advocates, some of whom believe the group is too soft on the issue of animal rights, or who have attacked PETA for targeting women in its ads.

John "J.P." Goodwin, founder of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, argues that some of PETA's campaigns are detrimental to the credibility of the animal rights movement. "Some people have positioned the movement as flaky, based on silly claims and goofy stunts," he said. "It's time to say no to pie throwing, manure dumping, and naked models, and get back to talking about animals."

Gary Francione, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, has criticized PETA for having become, in effect, an animal welfare organization, rather than one committed to animal rights. PETA is an example of what Francione calls the "new welfarists," in that, even though their long-term goal is the abolition of animal use, they are willing in the short term to work with industries that use animals, in order to effect incremental change. Francione argues that this is the approach of traditional animal welfare groups. He argues that such an approach is detrimental to the cause of animal rights, by making the public believe that progress is underway, when the changes made by the industry are only cosmetic.

Francione has also criticized PETA for having closed down many grassroots animal rights organizations, which he argues were essential for the movement's survival. One aspect of the modern animal rights movement as opposed to the traditional animal welfare movement is that the former rejects the centrality of corporate animal charities. Francione writes that PETA initially set up independent chapters around the country, but closed them in the mid-1980s in favor of a top-down, centralized organization, which not only consolidated decision-making power, but centralized donations too, so that animal rights donations in a particular state now go to PETA, rather than to a group that is active locally.

PETA's "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign has generated criticism from feminists for objectifying the female body, as did their campaign poster showing a woman's pair of legs, wearing black stockings and high heels, in which the woman is dragging a fur coat dripping with blood. The caption says: "It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it." In response to an ad campaign in which Patti Davis posed naked with Hugh Hefner's dog, Batya Bauman, director of Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR), said that "PETA has now escalated the tactic into pornography and got themselves into bed with Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine," and that the group had "severely overstepped the boundaries of respect toward women." As a result of the concerns, FAR removed Ingrid Newkirk from their board of advisors.

Carol J. Adams, a prominent feminist and animal rights advocate, objected to PETA's campaign, saying, "I don't liberate animals over the bodies of women" and "I think the further insult was the celebration of PETA's alliance with Playboy by having a jointly sponsored event last summer, at which Patti Davis was featured. I'm glad she gave some of her money to PETA. But like Catharine MacKinnon, I'm not sure reparations money is the way we go about changing the status of women. I abhor the alliance of any animal advocacy with pornography.

With wildlife conservation personalities

PETA is critical of those they call "self-professed wildlife warriors", television personalities such as Jack Hanna, Jim Fowler and the late Steve Irwin. PETA argues that while those "wildlife exhibitors" express a conservationist message that is often right on target, some of their actions, such as invading animals' homes, netting them, subjecting them to stressful environments, wrestling with or otherwise provoking them are harmful to the animals they claim to protect. Those actions often involve juvenile animals which the group says should be with their mothers. The conflict between PETA and those personalities received considerable attention in 2006, when, shortly after Irwin's death, PETA's vice-president Dan Mathews stated that Steve Irwin, had "made a career out of antagonizing frightened wild animals, which is a very dangerous message to send to kids," adding "If you compare him with a responsible conservationist like Jacques Cousteau, he looks like a cheap reality TV star. This prompted criticism from Australian Member of Parliament Bruce Scott who told his federal parliament that PETA should apologise to Steve Irwin's family and the rest of Australia.

Other campaigns

Anti-fur campaigns

Two long-running campaigns are "Here's the rest of your fur coat, and "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur," in which supermodels appeared nude to express their opposition to wearing fur. Singers Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Shirley Manson have posed for this cause. In May 2006, they held a naked protest near St Paul's Cathedral in London to highlight the use of real bear fur in the Bearskins used by the Foot Guards.

PETA severed its relationship with some of the models when they continued to wear fur. In 1997, Naomi Campbell wore a fur coat during a Milan fashion show after appearing in a 'Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur' advertisement. Other models PETA has ended its relationship with are Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford.

PETA has held notable public protests in London and Hong Kong against Burberry's use of fur in some of its products.

Lettuce Ladies

The 'Lettuce Ladies' are women, some of them Playboy models, who appear publicly in bikinis made to look like lettuce leaves, and distribute information about the vegan diet. There is a lesser-known male counterpart to the Lettuce Ladies, called the Broccoli Boys.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

PETA has a major campaign targeting Kentucky Fried Chicken that has included more than 10,000 demonstrations worldwide and claimed support from the Dalai Lama (although the Dalai Lama later declared he was misrepresented by PETA because he did not intend to specifically address a specific KFC executive), Al Sharpton, Paul McCartney, Dick Gregory, Tommy Lee, and Bring Me The Horizon among others. PETA has requested that KFC require that its suppliers adopt the welfare recommendations of KFC's own animal welfare committee, including stopping the breaking of birds' limbs and drowning conscious birds in tanks of scalding water. PETA shot video footage at a slaughterhouse in Moorefield, West Virginia, and posted the footage on PETA's website. According to news reports, PETA as a shareholder in YUM! Brands, submitted a shareholders' resolution asking KFC to kill chickens in a more humane manner. KFC is PETA's fourth fast food target for alleged animal cruelty, after campaigns against McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's.


The group regularly protests circuses that use animals. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is a frequent target of PETA's allegations of abuse. PETA asked a number of mayors to pass legislation banning items used to train elephants from cities the circus was due to visit. In one specific case, PETA asked that "bullhooks, electric prods and other devices that inflict pain on, or cause injury to, elephants" be banned, after the animal care director of the Carson & Barnes Circus, Tim Frisco, was filmed allegedly attacking elephants with bullhooks and electric prods. PETA's videotape of one of Frisco's training sessions allegedly shows him attacking elephants with steel-tipped bullhooks, shocking them with electric prods, and shouting "Make 'em scream!" The elephants are shown screaming and recoiling in pain, according to PETA.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory recorded a public service announcement, urging people to boycott circuses that use animals in what he calls "modern-day slavery."

In response to PETA's request, Mayor Rod DesJardins of Munising, Michigan, called the organization "radical extremists with a bizarre philosophy that considers the life of an insect equal to the life of a human being." One of these ad campaigns was promoted by Indian actress Shilpa Shetty (pictured).

Religious compassion

In its Web site, PETA makes an argument that Christian values of compassion extend to all living creatures and are inconsistent with cruelty to animals. It then promotes vegetarianism based on that argument. To support this argument, PETA states that the fish that Jesus allegedly ate were not actually caught (they swam away and the apostles left fishing altogether to become “fishers of men”) and that although the Last Supper was depicted as a Passover meal, Jesus appears not to have consumed lamb at the meal, which is commemorated to this day with just bread and wine. It has a Muslim counterpart as well,, using the Qur'an and Sunni hadith to justify veganism.

Critics question the religious arguments of PETA, such as the idea that Jesus himself was a vegan. Opponents of veganism point out that Jesus guided his apostles in catching fish for harvesting, and that the traditional Passover meal includes lamb.

Name changes of cities

PETA regularly asks towns and cities whose names, in its view, are suggestive of animal exploitation to change their names. In April 2003, they offered free veggie burgers to the city of Hamburg, New York, in exchange for changing its name to Veggieburg; the town declined the offer. PETA also campaigned in 1996 to have the town of Fishkill, New York, change its name, claiming the name suggests cruelty to fish. (The root "kill", found in many New York town names, is Dutch for "creek".) In October 2003, the group urged the town of Rodeo, California, to change its name because it invokes images of the sport of rodeo, which they claim is harmful to animals. As a replacement name, they suggested Unity, an acknowledgment of Union Oil's role in saving the area economically in the late 19th century. PETA offered to donate $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to local schools if the name was changed. The town declined.

Youth outreach

The group runs a website geared towards children at with contests, online games, online videos, comics, songs that are supportive of PETA's causes, and a free subscription to Grrr! Magazine, over 500,000 copies of which were distributed in 2005. The website also provides an e-News list.

PETA also runs a website dedicated to teens/young adults at with most of the same features. peta2 also includes an online message forum dedicated to linking activists together, and to offer help/advice for those new to the vegan lifestyle.

PETA teamed up with bands such as Deftones, STUN, and Further Seems Forever to record commercials on a variety of topics, including reporting animal abuse. The youth-oriented web site featured over 50 interviews from bands such as Yellowcard, The Shins, The Used, and Good Charlotte. PETA’s efforts were covered by MTV, Rolling Stone, AP, and Revolver.

peta2 dispatched supporters on 61 summer concert and skateboard tours including the Warped Tour, Phish, Taste of Chaos, and Morrissey tours. At these events, PETA screened the Meet Your Meat video and disseminated information.

Animal Liberation Project

The 2005 "Are Animals the New Slaves?" campaign featured a display in which images of oppressed minorities, including black slaves, Indians, child laborers, and women, were juxtaposed with those of chained elephants and slaughtered cows. The campaign was criticized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and PETA agreed to suspend it.

Graphic pamphlets

The organization has been criticized for distributing graphic pamphlets to children. According to PETA's website, the pamphlets are geared toward making parents aware of how their actions affect their children. One pamphlet, "Your Daddy Kills Animals! showed a cartoon father gutting a fish, and stated: "Since your daddy is teaching you the wrong lessons about right and wrong, you should teach him fishing is killing. Until your daddy learns it's not fun to kill, keep your doggies and kitties away from him. He's so hooked on killing defenseless animals, they could be next." Another pamphlet, addressing the wearing of fur, was headlined "Your Mommy Kills Animals", and featured a cartoon of a mother slicing a knife into a rabbit's stomach. This comic was the inspiration for the naming of a 2007 documentary film about PETA entitled Your Mommy Kills Animals.

Dairy campaigns

As part of an effort to reduce milk consumption, PETA created the "Got Beer?" campaign, a parody of the Got Milk? campaign. The advertisements urged college students to "wipe off those milk moustaches and replace them with. . . foam." Mothers Against Drunk Driving and college officials of campuses targeted by the campaign complained that the campaign encouraged underage drinking. As a result of the criticism, PETA halted the campaign in March 2000. In 2002, the effort to promote beer over milk was revived by PETA after a two year hiatus.

Following the removal of the beer campaign, PETA launched a new effort aimed at teenagers. The new campaign attempted to place advertisements in highschool newspapers and printed trading cards claiming that dairy products caused acne, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and strokes. A similar campaign in the UK was ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to discontinue claims it made about milk consumption in a campaign aimed at school children, concluding that the campaign "played on children's anxieties and were likely to cause some children undue fear and distress" and that the claims regarding supposed health risks "were unacceptable", and not directly supported by the cited articles. Following the injunction, PETA revamped their trading cards in order to continue the effort. Their website though, still makes the same claims regarding adverse health effects.

PETA continued their campaign against dairy in 2008, by suggesting that Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. create an ice cream product made from human milk, after a Swiss restaurant began using human milk in some of its menu items. While PETA claimed that this would reduce the suffering of dairy cows and benefit human health, Ben & Jerry's declined stating that "a mother's milk is best used for her child.

Running of the Nudes

Every year, naked PETA activists, wearing red scarves and bull horns, take to the streets of Pamplona two days before the city's annual "Running of the Bulls" in protest at the tradition, which sees bulls goaded by the crowd. Over 1,000 activists took part in 2006.

Michael Vick

In April 2007, a home in rural Surry County, Virginia owned by Michael Vick, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons football team, was searched for evidence that Vick was leading dog fighting operations in the home. Additional legal action and searches led to the indictment of Vick, as investigators found nearly ten dog carcasses in shallow graves. Consequently, on July 20, 2007, PETA held a protest outside the National Football League offices in New York City, holding signs with statements such as "Sack Vick" and photographs of injured dogs with the caption "dogfighting victim", expressing PETA's demand that Vick be suspended. Bruce Friedrich, Vice President of PETA, stated in a letter to Nike, Inc. president Mark Parker: "Vick will be forever associated with cruelty to animals - and so will Nike unless it acts today. On July 27, 2007, Nike suspended its contract with Vick without pay, so PETA canceled its national "day of action" against Nike that was scheduled for July 30, in which they would have protested in all twelve "Niketown" stores in the United States for Nike to take action against Vick.

Animals used in wars

In 2003, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk sent Yasser Arafat a letter following an incident in which a donkey, laden with explosives, was intentionally blown up, begging him to "leave the animals out of this conflict. A similar letter was sent to Sri Lankan terrorist group Tamil Tigers following a bombing that hit a zoo. Newkirk told the Washington Post in response to questions on why she did not also ask the groups to stop killing humans, "It's not my business to inject myself into human wars.

PETA has also opposed the use of dolphins by the US Navy in the War on Terrorism, as well as the use of hundreds of thousands of cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, nonhuman primates, rats, mice, fish, and other animals used yearly in military testing

Domain name disputes

In February 1996 a parody website calling itself "People Eating Tasty Animals" registered the domain name The site contained links to other sites advocating the consumption of meat, the use of leather and animal furs, and promoting the benefits of animal experimentation in medical research. In response to the site, PETA filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the website creator and Network Solutions, the company that issued the domain name, that resulted in PETA gaining control of the domain name. A PETA spokesperson said that "the people who are doing this are the lowest of the low. We can't help but be amused that we are so threatening to people like this that they would go to so much trouble as to steal away our name."

While still engaged in legal proceedings over "," PETA registered the domains and, using the sites to accuse Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Vogue of animal cruelty. PETA later surrendered the domains under threat of legal action over trademark infringement.

Cultural influences and context

PETA is part of the modern humane movement, which began to focus significantly on animal protection in England in the 19th century; see . Politically, they view themselves as independents, or Democrats, hold moderate to liberal political views, and are distrustful of much of modern science because of its use of animals. A variety of scholarship holds that these beliefs tie into deeper trends in the popular discourse — namely, a feeling of alienation from the environment, egalitarianism, and a distrust of the modern nature of capitalism and "big business". In the media, the association with PETA has often been used as a short-hand for exemplifying these types of positions; for instance, in The Simpsons episode "G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)", Lisa joins PETA; in contrast to her father enlisting in the US Army.

PETA's positions have been lampooned by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in a number of episodes of their cartoon South Park, including "Douche and Turd"; calling the group "eco terrorists" and making the claim that PETA cares more about animals than humans. In addition, the comedic duo Penn & Teller attacked PETA in a 2004 episode of their television show Bullshit! over a number of issues, including purported hypocrisy by PETA spokespeople.

Video games

Since 2007, PETA has created video games to support their campaigns. The games have been based on similar popular video games such as Super Mario Bros. or Frogger but depict Nugget and Chickette trying to save Pamela Anderson from Colonel Sanders, liberating lobsters, or throwing tomatoes at fur wearers. Several PETA video games include The Travelling Nugget Game, Lobster Liberation Bloody Burberry – the Fur Fighters Super Chick Sisters and Make Fred Spew, and Revenge of the PETA Tomatoes.



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