Naturally, working in the industry that I do, I am often confronted by people wondering how I feel about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) , a national animal rights organization. This question comes up increasingly more frequently as the organization draws more people to its cause, gains media attention, and attracts many celebrity members that increase its profile. Realistically, my overall outlook on PETA is positive, but I do take exception to some of their tenants, and/or extremism of the some of their members. Therefore, my answer to this question is not straight forward, which is why I am compelled to blog about it.
On the positive side, PETA has been pivotal in the exposure of inexcusable cruelty in Kentucky Fried Chicken's treatment of their chickens, providing indisputable video evidence of specific acts of cruelty. PETA has been an important source of awareness of battery raised chickens that are raised isolated and severely confined, while being fattened so quickly that skeletal supporting structures are often useless for weight bearing due to deformation or even fracture (not having the ability to move around also weakens bones and skeletal supporting structures). They have also created awareness about egg layers also being isolated and confined as they produce countless eggs for collection and sale. While they promote vegetarianism, they have promoted the alternative of those not prepared to take that leap, of choosing to buy only free roaming chickens and eggs layed only by free roaming chickens. Why still food animals, these chickens at least get to spend their lives socializing with other birds and having the ability to move around. Many would not know these things if not for PETA.
PETA is one of the greatest forces in the fight against puppy mills, a situation in our country that I am personally, passionately appalled by. On this front, PETA is instrumental about spreading awareness by photographing and filming these prisons of greed and exposing pet stores that patronize these facilities. They expose and fight against companies that test on animals in unnecessarily cruel manners.
Finally, I applaud PETA's campaign against the annual Canadian seal hunt, where thousands of baby seals are brutally clubbed to death, sometimes just for the sport of it, other times to collect and sell their skins. Most recently in New York, they strongly campaigned and successfully lobbied for the banning of genital or anal electrocution of animals harvested for fur (minks, foxes, musk rats, etc.). This inhumane method of killing is an inexpensive way to kill these animals while not damaging their valuable hair coats. Under New York and PETA's lead, many states are expected to follow, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune, a reputable online animal news source.
Where I fault PETA at times is the extreme views of some of their members. Some call for the complete and total liberation of animals, meaning zero animal research, no circuses, no zoos, not even seeing eye or assistance dogs. They create campaigns against medical charities that fund medical research that implement animal research through outlets such as CaringConsumer.com. Among the groups PETA opposes are the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Finally, many demonize people that consume animal products, whether it be meat, eggs, milk, or cheese.
I do not support this type of extremism, and really feel that their more radical members are counterproductive to their cause. I believe that animal testing should be done in an optimally humane manner and closely monitored, but is an essential component of medical advancement in both human and veterinary medicine. I love zoos and animal exhibits that provide a hospitable habitat for well fed and medically cared for animals, while offering our youth to view them and gain an appreciation and respect for the majesty of animals in nature. Finally, while I generally do not eat red meat, I enjoy [free roaming] poultry and eggs, dairy products, and seafood. We are omnivores that thrive on animal food sources to sustain life just like dogs, cats, and other animals. We should not be demonized for doing what nature intended for us to do, provided we make every effort to ensure that treatment of the animals is humane, and slaughter is performed with the least possible pain.
As one can plainly see, I have mixed feelings about the organization PETA. However, the good that they do for the animals of our nation exceeds my problems with the extreme views some of their more radical members have. Most of the PETA members I know are rationally thinking, realistic, compassionate people, leading me to be of the opinion that the radicals are the minority of this organization. On the whole, while I am not member, I am grateful for PETA's existence and the good work that they do.