At first glance, PETA seems to be a laudable animal rights organization. Over the years, it has had a significant impact on the anti-fur movement, has educated thousands of people about animal rights and the vegan lifestyle with their comprehensive website, and has recruited scores of famous people to lend their names and faces to important animal rights campaigns. Yet PETA is not well-respected by most animal rights activists. So what’s wrong with PETA?
There are several reasons why some people don’t appreciate PETA. First, the organization can be extremely aggressive in some of their campaigns. For example, it’s members are known for smashing pies into the faces of people they believe to be enemies of their cause. While many vegans can support even fairly violent acts taken to free imprisoned animals, it’s harder to support random assaults against people who, while perhaps guilty of crimes against animals, will not likely be changed by the act. If such behavior isn’t going to free an animal or protect it from harm, what’s the point?
Second, PETA subscribes to the belief that sex sells. Sexism in the organization’s campaigns is not just offensive to women, it’s adverse to the very movement the organization purports to represent. The roots of veganism lie in the equal rights movement. The belief that animals should be allowed to live free lives, without being objectified and mistreated by humans, depends on a recognition that all humans deserve the same. If some humans are objectified to sell the argument, the argument falls apart.
Finally, PETA does not protect animals. Every year, people bring PETA hundreds of homeless animals, trusting that PETA will protect them in their “shelter of last resort.” Sadly, though, PETA kills most of the animals that are left in its shelter. In 2011, the organization killed nearly 2000 cats and dogs entrusted to its care - 95% of the animals the shelter allowed to be surrendered. The organization’s website defends these killings, referring to them as “euthanasia” (a term most vegans believe should always have the same meaning, regardless of the species being killed). PETA has argued that these practices are acceptable because animals shouldn’t be domesticated, and those that have been domesticated should be allowed to die off (or helped along the way).
PETA may have done some good for animals over its history, but the organization’s practices show that it is unnecessarily violent, it does not understand what equal rights means, and when entrusted with animals lives, it kills far more than it protects. In summary, what’s wrong with PETA is that, despite its vegan campaigning, it is fundamentally not a vegan organization.