This is the first in a series of posts providing a complete overview of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

No one can doubt PETA’s authority as the most well-known and powerful animal rights organization. However, there are few organizations who receive more criticism. Animal rights is a controversial issue to begin with, but PETA’s decisions regarding their methods of outreach and attention-grabbing have made many people, including those in the animal rights movement, question their ability to lead in the fight to free animals. There are a number of problems with PETA, and I hope to provide readers with a complete overview of their current leadership, outreach, and problems, as well as to look to the future and discuss what changes could be made to the organization in the hopes of progressing animal rights.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was founded by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco in 1980. For it’s very first act, they fought against animal experimentation in the Silver Springs monkeys trial, which turned into PETA’s very first victory. Pacheco went undercover, working for the Institute of Behavorial Research. He took pictures of the monkeys being tormented in the name of research. Eventually, Edward Taub, who had been in charge of the research, was charged with 113 counts of animal cruelty. This was a huge step for opponents of animal testing.

Since those days, the organization has grown exponentially. In 2007, PETA’s total revenue amounted to $30,611,684, a testament to their more than 2.0 million members all over the world. The organization tends to focus on four major issues within the animal rights movement: fur, animals used in entertainment, factory farming, and animal experimentation. Lawsuits, protests, outreach, undercover investigations, and advertisements are among the methods utilized to spread their message. There have been a number of victories, such as convincing General Motors to stop using live animals in crash tests and being responsible for companies such as POM to stop animal experimentation. However, despite a growing number of wins for the animal rights community, PETA is most well known for its criticized policies and actions, as well as the criticism against its president, Ingrid Newkirk.

Next: Part Two, Euthanasia