Forget for a minute about the criticisms of PETA. I’ll cover some of those below. What organisation do you think about when there is a discussion about animal rights? PETA? I do. They are probably the highest profile organisation whose objective is to improve the rights and welfare of animals. They achieved that lofty status by being deliberately extreme, controversial and outspoken. Nearly all their mission statements on various aspects of the role and place of animals in society are pitched at the extreme end of the argument. There arguments are not always balanced. That is deliberate. It is designed to catch the attention.
PETA has defined their position in the animal rights market – a big and competitive market – by publicizing themselves as uncompromising in their stance against animal cruelty and abuse. And some form of abuse takes place in every facet of our relationship with animals. PETA might have a better knowledge of animal abuse as they receive a huge number of complaints and reports. However, this may result in PETA employees having a jaundiced view of the status of animals in a human world. They may get the impression that more cruelty occurs than actually happens. I don’t know.
The world is run by big business essentially. Politicians play a role but a minor one. They can’t really change a lot. Big business have big money and big publicity and lobbying machines. Animal exploitation is big business. It is almost impossible for conservationists and animal welfare charities to beat businesses that are abusing and using animals for financial profit. The fight is extremely unequal. Take the tiger for example. Big business – the tiger body parts business – is killing the tiger in the wild together with habitat loss due to…yes, you guessed it, big business cutting down forests and mining the landscape.
PETA had decided some time ago, perhaps at its formation, to obtain publicity, news coverage, by being extreme in their actions and sayings. Newspapers are…yep, big business. It is about selling newspapers. People will tend to read stories that are of an extreme nature. The run-of-the-mill does not sell newspapers. I guess PETA exploited that.
That attitude does even up the playing field somewhat. For me that is one thing that is good about PETA. They make a noise. They kick up the dust and disturb the status quo. The status quo needs disturbing when it comes to our relationship with animals. There are millions of beautiful cat guardians but there are too many who are ignorant and disrespectful of the domestic cat and animals generally. They create the downside to the animal story and arguably the story of the domestication of cats and dogs has become a failure in modern times.
PETA see that failure and question whether there should be domestic animals at all. And this takes me to one of the first major criticisms of PETA. People who criticise PETA say they want rid of all ‘pets’. To liberate the domestic animal. I don’t think that is what they are saying. What they say is that the human concept of a ‘pet’ is a failure for the animal. Animals would have been better off if domestication had not taken place. That is, surprisingly, a reasonable, non-extreme, argument. PETA accept that you can’t unwind the clock. They, therefore, advocate that all adoptions should be from the vast pool of unwanted animals at shelters etc. We can’t criticise PETA for that. This is the page on their website where they state their stance on ‘pets.
Euthanasia – Killing
In a nutshell, PETA have decided that in respect of unwanted animals for which they have responsibility painlessly killing them is better than letting them remain alive. That decision is based on their assessment that (not inclusive):
- If there is an open door policy and no killing, shelter animals are often caged for years without the total care that they require (e.g. attention as well as food) and;
- When animals are turned away because the facility is full, the cat or dog will have a short brutal life.
In short, living is worse than a peaceful death according to PETA. Which brings me to feral cats and trap neuter return.
To summarise, PETA disagree that TNR works and in any case the cats who undergo TNR still live very poor lives in general. They have decided that painless killing (often not euthanasia) is preferable.
I disagree with this policy. It is a policy of failure and defeat. It is one of the most discussed aspects of their policies. Perhaps they have this policy to deliberately highlight the feral cat and domestic cat overpopulation problem. It is an extreme action. Also I don’t like their use of the word ‘euthanasia’. It is used carelessly. It means humanely killing a cat that is ill or dying. But a lot, indeed most of these cats are not ill and dying. They are simply unwanted. They must know this and therefore use the word ‘euthanasia’ as a PR exercise.
PETA are against outdoor cats or indoor/outdoor cats without supervision and control. They advocate indoor cat keeping together with supervised outdoor activities either on a leash or in a cat enclosure or securely fenced yard (garden). This is very sensible. It isn’t even extreme.
PETA are uncompromisingly against declawing; no if and buts. We would expect that.
PETA support other high profile campaigns such as the mass nudity demonstrations. Some people criticise this. I don’t see why because it highlights our skin! And the fur trade is awful and brutal. It appears to have started in an informal, ad hoc manner. It worked and then PETA used it again to great success because it was high profile and got noticed.
PETA want to make a difference and get their message across as widely as possible. It seems to me that they decided to find a niche that no one occupied: to seek a goal that is a world where animals are treated on an equal level to people.
Note: This post is not a criticism of people who have criticised PETA. It is just looking at certain aspects of the organisation that could be called good. The views expressed are mine alone.