Editor’s Note: Last week, Dogster columnist Chris Hall criticized PETA for its latest (somewhat regurgitated) campaign. This isn’t the first time one of our writers has called out the organization — last year Catster columnist JaneA Kelley did so as well — but this is the first time the group has reached out and requested that we publish a rebuttal. Since we pride ourselves on publishing a variety of opinions (even when they are not in line with our Dogster Values) in the name of a spirited debate, we’re doing just that. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
A recent commentary by Chris Hall mischaracterizes People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and gives readers a distorted view of what PETA does.
While it’s never PETA’s goal to offend, if it comes down to a choice between doing something that will make us appear “likable” or something that will help the most animals, the latter will win out every time—whether that means enlisting naked models to protest fur or providing parents with information about the possible link between cow’s milk and the symptoms of autism.
We have never thought it sexist for a woman to shed her clothes for political reasons (or for any reason) if she wants to. It’s just become a knee-jerk reaction for some to tut-tut women who are brave enough to do what they want with their bodies. Likewise, it’s much easier to cry “racism” when people of color, such as German TV personality Mola Adebisi, choose to star in a provocative ad than it is to acknowledge that the mindset that condoned the exploitation of humans in the past is the same mindset that permits today’s abuse of animals.
After hearing about the controversy surrounding PETA’s autism web feature, Gillian Loughran, editor of Autism Eye magazine, reached out to us to share her story: “From a very young age, my son, who has autism, has been on a casein-free, gluten-free diet,” she wrote. “It’s quite common within the autism community. … Many of us have found that a no-dairy, no-wheat diet improves our children’s sleep, behavior and concentration.” Knowledge is power, and giving parents information about what has worked for others should not be considered “controversial.”
PETA isn’t afraid to make noise and rattle cages, but this is just a small part of our work. We also roll up our sleeves and help animals in our own and neighboring communities every day.
PETA serves animals in some of the poorest areas in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Our free veterinary care, dog houses, behavioral counseling and other services have helped thousands of people keep animals they would otherwise have abandoned in communities that have no animal shelters or veterinary clinics.
Our doors are always open to animals in need, no matter how old, sick, injured or aggressive they are. Some of the animals we receive are adoptable, and we transfer them to high-traffic open-admission shelters, where they have the best chance of finding a home—shelters that, unlike “no-kill” shelters, never turn animals away. We’ve also been able to find loving homes for some of the animals ourselves.
After weeks of searching, we recently found the perfect home for Maxine, an inquisitive dog who was found wandering down a rural road in North Carolina, apparently after being abandoned by a hunter who no longer wanted her. Maxine now spends her days cuddling with her “brother” dog named Sam, keeping her guardian company while she works and romping in the beautiful dog park that is right across the street from her new home.
We wish every dog and cat could have a happy ending like Maxine’s, but as we’ve shared on our blog and website many times, many of the animals PETA takes in are badly broken in both body and spirit. We rescue dogs who have been chained 24/7 for their entire lives and are suffering from congestive heart failure from advanced heartworm disease and feral cats who are ravaged by feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia or other contagious and fatal diseases. For these animals, euthanasia is a kind act, often the only kindness that they have ever known.
Angel is one of those animals. Our fieldworkers found her last Thanksgiving while delivering straw to dogs who had been left chained outdoors in rural Virginia. Angel was emaciated, in an advanced state of pregnancy and so weak that she couldn’t even stand. We rushed her to a veterinarian, who diagnosed her with starvation, anemia and a severe parasite infestation. She had the lowest body temperature that the veterinarian had ever seen. PETA filed charges against her owners, and a judge banned them both from ever owning animals again.
We’re also there for dying animals such as Jack, who was wasting away and unable to stand because of his advanced age and a host of medical conditions. Jack’s guardians were in denial about his suffering and hoping for a miraculous recovery. After we gently counseled Jack’s guardians for several days, they made the kind decision to end his suffering and brought him to PETA so that we could give him a peaceful release from his pain, surrounded by his family.
Few people realize that “no-kill” shelters often refuse to accept animals such as these. Turning away the desperate cases makes “no-kill” shelters’ euthanasia statistics seem low and appealing, but animals who are denied shelter often meet a cruel fate, including a cold, lonely death on the streets or while chained in a backyard.
The solution to animal homelessness (and the resulting need for euthanasia) lies in prevention, and that’s where PETA focuses our efforts. Last year alone, wespayed or neutered 11,229 dogs and cats, preventing generations of animals from ending up on the streets or in shelters. Recently, PETA sterilized our 100,000th animal since 2001—and celebrated with a 24-hour spay-a-thon, during which we “fixed” 400 more dogs and cats for people who otherwise couldn’t afford these lifesaving surgeries.
Animals count on us to do the right thing, even when it isn’t easy. And that’s why PETA will never run from the difficult issues—whether pointing out that cow’s milk is the perfect food for baby cows, not kids, or giving a painless release from suffering to animals who have nowhere else to turn. I invite every caring person to join us, by trying vegan foods, speaking up if you witness cruelty or neglect, helping your friends and neighbors sterilize their animals and working to get spay-and-neuter legislation passed in your community. Together, we can create a kinder world for all animals.
About the Author: Daphna Nachminovitch is senior vice president of the Cruelty Investigations Department for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.