Full disclosure: I do not like PETA. Over the years, I’ve come to expect the very worst from it, and I’m rarely disappointed in that. Not only does it have a long-established reputation for ad campaigns that are racist, sexist, and body-shaming, the group is bad for animals. PETA opposes no-kill shelters as “cruel” and has killed thousands of animals over the years. Last year, two volunteers from PETA drove up to a Virginia man’s house while he was out and took his Chihuahua from the porch; within three days, the dog had been euthanized. PETA apologized with a fruit basket.
In that context, its latest controversial act may be outrageous, but it’s not surprising. PETA has thrown its support behind National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day, an Oct. 24 event that doesn’t even bother hiding or apologizing for its breed-specific stigmatizing. The website for National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day crams every media stereotype about Pit Bulls into a very small space:
Pit Bull attacks have increased 773 percent in seven years, yet the public continues to be encouraged by Pit Bull enthusiasts, online sites, news stories, social media, and TV reality shows to believe that Pit Bulls are safe family pets. They are not. Infants, toddlers, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to Pit Bull attacks. The collateral costs include life flights, lifesaving interventions, plastic surgeries, burials, and mental health costs for post-surgical trauma and PTSD.
The agenda for the event includes:
- A call for mandatory spay-neutering of Pit Bull-type dogs
- Advocacy for breed-specific legislation (BSL)
- Support for education about the genetic inheritance of canine aggression in Pit Bull-type dogs
PETA’s response to the inevitable criticism that’s come via social media has been to retweet a 2009 blog entry explaining their position on Pit Bulls. In an example of doublespeak that would make George Orwell scratch his head, the piece starts out with the declaration: “To clarify PETA’s position on Pit Bulls: We’re for ’em.”
— PETA (@peta) October 21, 2015
For them? How? The blog piece goes on to claim that PETA advocates the protection of Pit Bulls from being used in dogfights, being abused by breeders, and turned into cheap security systems. The way to do this, PETA claims, is through breed-specific legislation, the very solution that is not only rejected but actively opposed by every reputable animal rights organization in the world.
— Raigen Leal (@RaigenLeal) October 21, 2015
Its case is primarily made not through facts, but through hideous, gut-churning photographs of dogs who have been abused, starved, and mutilated by humans. I see pictures like this almost every day, and I still don’t get used to them. But they’re no excuse for spreading misinformation and hysteria about an entire breed. I can understand why PETA uses them, though; its entire media strategy as a whole has been based on sensationalism, and in this case in particular, it doesn’t have any facts to support its case. It can only be made through half-truths and hideous pictures of abuse designed to strike at the emotions.
Even if we accept PETA’s claim that, “In fact, PETA’s stance on Pit Bulls is consistent with our support for a ban on breeding all dogs and all cats as long as animals in shelters are literally dying for a good home,” this particular action doesn’t pass the smell test. National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day is based on the idea that there is no such thing as responsible Pit Bull ownership. Pit Bulls, organizers say, are inherently vicious — not because of human cruelty or fear, but because that viciousness is bred in the bone. The only solution is to eliminate the breed by sterilizing the ones alive now and banning the breeding of any younger ones.
Read the website or the press release from National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day, and you could imagine that America is under attack. It is filled from beginning to end with stories and statistics that seem to show that Pit Bulls are bloodthirsty beasts who are just hungering to rip out your organs — or those of your children. If you read it as fact, there is no way you would ever take home a Pit from the shelter. Any Pit Bull living in a shelter would eventually die there. In fact, that’s already the story of many Pits. PETA is only increasing the misery of animals, not only through sponsoring this event, but by its long-term support of breed-specific legislation.
In conclusion, I want to quote what blogger VicktoryMom wrote in response to PETA:
Why am I writing this post? It is certainly not to minimize the sense of loss families feel when a loved one dies in this horrific manner. It is to make sure people realize that the name PETA does NOT make these groups any more credible. All it does is help show the world what PETA has become … a killing machine. Killing a dog because of how he looks is not ethical. Judging a dog by appearance not behavior isn’t animal welfare. And depriving an animal of a loving home is certainly not Animal Rights.
For me, that says it all. It’s long past time that animal lovers stopped giving PETA credibility. What do you think?
Read more commentary from Chris Hall: