PETA’s most well-known criticism stems from its policies regarding euthanasia, which it supports. Defending the organization’s policies, Ingrid Newkirk wrote
I always wonder how anyone cannot recognize that there is a world of difference between painlessly euthanizing animals out of compassion – aged, injured, sick, and dying animals whose guardians can’t afford euthanasia, for instance – as PETA does, and causing them to suffer terror, pain, and a prolonged death while struggling to survive on the streets, at the hands of untrained and uncaring “technicians,” or animal abusers.
PETA tends to downplay the fact that they euthanize over 90% of the animals that reach their shelter every year. In 2008, for example, the kill rate was 96%. Just during the last ten years, PETA has euthanized well over 20,000 animals. In Newkirk’s statement, it sounds as though she’s defending euthanasia on the grounds that some animals are so beyond help by the time they reach a shelter that euthanasia is the only humane treatment. And she’s right in that regard – there are far too many animals who are abused and neglected to such an extent that a painless death is the only way for them to be pain-free. However, PETA, as well as most animal shelters all over the country, also euthanizes healthy animals. In an interview with Canada’s George Stroumboulopoulos last year, Newkirk was asked “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you can get them?” Her answer: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.”
I have a personal story to share regarding PETA, their pickups, and eventualy euthanasia. For quite a few years up until 2006, our family was “adopted” by a family of feral cats. We started feeding them, and most of them became dependent on us. However, in February 2006, our house burned down and we were no longer able to take care of them. Another problem was that one of our neighbors hated the cats, and we were worried about him using his inhumane traps on them (the traps were designed to break their necks upon capture – I can’t believe such things are even legal). So we called PETA, whose Norfolk office is only a little over an hour away. PETA is associated with ending cruelty to animals, so we naturally assumed that it would be better to call them to pick up the cats than to take them to one of the local shelters, where we knew they would probably be killed. So PETA came and got them, and took them back to their offices. It was only later that I learned that they euthanized such an astounding percentage of the animals they take in. Even when I think about it today, three years later, I deeply regret that I essentially sent those cats to their deaths. All but a couple were completely healthy. They did nothing to deserve their almost certain death.
There are many within the broad animal rights movement who oppose PETA based on their euthanasia policy. One of the more outspoken opponents is The No-Kill Nation’s Nathan Winograd, who recently wrote the following:
Because engrave this in stone: As soon as Newkirk and her pro-killing cultish devotees are gone, PETA will immediately, completely, and without reservation embrace the No Kill philosophy and become one of its leading champions. When that happens, when her actions are thoroughly and completely seen by everyone for what they truly are; when she is condemned and finally, finally, thankfully, finally, we don’t have to hold our breath, clench our teeth, shake with rage, or cry at the thought of what PETA did to those poor animals, we will all be left wondering just what took us so damn long to rise up and stop this villain in our midst.
I am unconvinced that after Newkirk is no longer in charge of PETA, the organization will automatically embrace the no-kill philosophy. Too many of its members support the current policy. However, I would like to see such a day come.
April 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Good info. I enjoy reading your blogs. I’ve never been a huge PETA fan, and I’m becoming more aware that there are alot of other vegans that aren’t either.
May 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm
Hi, cool post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for blogging. I’ll certainly be subscribing to your site. Keep up the good work
July 13, 2009 at 8:47 pm
Feral cats are unadoptable. Any shelter, including “no kill” shelters, will euthanize them. Your only option is to call in a rescue organization that catches, sterilizes and then releases them into established feral colonies. There aren’t too many of those.
No-kill shelters don’t reduce euthanasia. Some refuse to accept unadoptable animals, pushing the burden off onto organizations like PETA. Others will magically expand the number of animals fitting into the “unadoptable” category when they’re filled to capacity, and euthanize animals with minor behavioral problems to make room. I have first hand experience with my local Humane Association doing this. The cold hard fact remains that 5 million more pets are born than there are homes for them each year. Until we get the pet population under control, the choice is euthanasia or dogs and cats dying of starvation and disease on the streets.
July 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm
About feral cats, here in Gainesville, Fl we have a very good spay/neuter of stray and feral cats at the University of Fl, maybe other people in states with University Vet Schools could get their own started. “operation catnip” does about 3-500 cats one weekend/month. I personally feed 3 of those cats in my yard they never leave they wait until feed time everyday. I have even manage to instill enough trust to where they let me pet and or brush them. I hope someday other catnips will be started. We also have “operation pit nip ” for all pit and or mix pits to be fixed free of charge, a local vet does this at her cost. Thank, for listening