People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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This page is about the animal rights organization. For other meanings, see the disambiguation page peta (disambiguation).
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Logo of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to animal rights. It was founded in 1980, and its current president is Ingrid Newkirk. PETA's international headquarters are in Norfolk, Virginia. With more than 800,000 members and over 100 employees, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world. The U.S. component is the largest, but PETA also has branch offices in the U.K. (, India (, Germany (, Asia, and the Netherlands (

PETA focuses its attention on four core issues: factory farming, vivisection, fur, and animals in entertainment. They also work on other animal rights issues, such as fishing, the killing of animals considered to be pests, abuse of backyard dogs, and cock fighting.

PETA has been described by their opponents ( as an extremist group and/or quasi-terrorist organization, and has come under criticism for their radical views and links to eco-terrorist groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Critics point to PETA's implied advocacy of violence and the view of one of PETA's cofounders that "arson, property destruction, burglary, and theft are acceptable crimes when used for the animal cause" as a reason for PETA to lose its status as a non-profit organization.


PETA's philosophy

PETA's motto is, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." A longer version of this motto appears on their website:[1] (

"PETA believes that animals deserve the most basic rights—consideration of their own best interests regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have interests in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation, or for any other reason."

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk once stated, "When it comes to feelings such as pain, fear, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." In the long term, they advocate the abolition of animal exploitation, and espouse the philosophical position of animal rights; however, in the short term they are willing also to advocate animal welfare reforms of animal-using industries, and have negotiated with these industries. PETA is strongly in support of a vegan lifestyle.


PETA was founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, who were inspired by Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation. The group first rose to national prominence when it became involved in the "Silver Springs monkey case". Alex Pacheco conducted an undercover investigation of a primate laboratory, documenting numerous cases of abuse and neglect. The investigation resulted in the first-ever conviction of an animal experimenter on charges of animal abuse.

In 1983, PETA successfully campaigned against a United States Department of Defense "wound lab" which had planned to test projectile weapons on dogs and goats.

In 2000, PETA successfully campaigned against McDonalds to implement more stringent welfare standards. The campaign took 11 months.

In 2001, PETA launched a successful campaign against Burger King. After months of vocal public pressure, the fast-food giant agreed to implement welfare standards demanded by PETA. These standards increased the amount of cage space given to laying hens and promised unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses, among other things. (For more information, see press releases from PETA ( and Burger King ( on June 28, 2001.)

Campaigns and reactions

PETA is well known for aggressive media campaigns and public demonstrations for animal rights. PETA is also famous for its attacks on large corporations for their alleged mistreatment of animals. In 2003, PETA received media attention for its boycott of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). PETCO and Procter & Gamble are other examples of companies which PETA claims are exploiting animals for profit. According to PETA, PETCO confines animals in filthy enclosures, where they are commonly left to die, and P&G tests its many products unnecessarily on animals.

On April 12, 2005, PETA announced that it had ended its boycott against PETCO in part because of PETCO's decision to end sales of large birds in its company stores.

Campaigns for a Vegan Diet

Jesus was a Vegetarian

PETA has created advertisements claiming that Jesus was a vegetarian, and other Christian-themed ads such as one showing a photograph of a pig with the caption, "He Died for Your Sins". PETA maintains a website (, which discusses these claims in depth. While some religious leaders and theologicans, such as Rev. Andrew Linzey, support at least some of PETA's ideas about Christianity and vegetarianism, most Christian leaders who have expressed an opinion have condemned these campaigns. An apparently contradictory portion of the Bible reads:

"And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took [it], and did eat before them." - Luke 24:41-43

The Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA) originally grew in response to a different approach to the Bible and vegetarianism, characterized by the CVA's first campaign known as "What Would Jesus Eat...Today?" - an effort PETA has subsequently co-opted, adopted, and enthusiastically supported.

Lettuce Ladies

PETA's 'Lettuce Ladies' are women (some of them Playboy models) who appear publicly in scanty costumes made to look like lettuce leaves, and distribute information about the vegan diet. (PETA also has a less well known male counterpart to the Lettuce Ladies, called the Broccoli Boys.) This campaign has been criticised by some other animal rights groups, who see it as sexist and exploitative. Their site, (, carries a sexually suggestive tone, but actually contains useful vegetarian information.

Holocaust on Your Plate

One of the most controversial PETA campaigns has been their "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign which draws parallels between the treatment of farm animals confined and slaughtered for food production and the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust.

PETA defends this comparison on the grounds that it is not "equating" the two horrors, but illustrating the strikingly similar indifference that people showed toward both the Holocaust and now the mass slaughter of animals. The side by side imagery of slaughtered animals and Holocaust victims attempts to implicate the mechanical ways in which humans and animals are killed as creating this distance from moral and ethical responsibility.

PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign was strongly criticized by many elements of the Jewish community for comparing raising and killing animals for food to the Holocaust. Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have strongly attacked this moral equivalency between the killing of animals and the Holocaust. A press release from the ADL stated:

PETA's effort to seek approval for their Holocaust on Your Plate campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights. Rather than deepen our revulsion against what the Nazis did to the Jews, the project will undermine the struggle to understand the Holocaust and to find ways to make sure such catastrophes never happen again.

Name Changes of Cities

PETA regularly asks towns and cities whose names are suggestive of animal exploitation to change their names. For example, a campaign was launched in the late 1990s to have the cities of Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany to change their names, since the names are associated with hamburgers and hot dogs. The cities were offered free veggieburgers for all of their residents for life if they agreed to the change. Both cities refused. However, these campaigns have been effective in generating media coverage of animal rights issues.

Anti-Fur Campaigns

PETA may be best known for their long-running campaign, "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur", in which activists and celebrities appear partially nude to express their opposition to fur-wearing. This tactic has resulted in widespread media coverage, to use an ironic term.

Criticism of PETA

Reception of the group's actions is sharply polarized.

PETA supporters say that the organization has brought greater attention to animal rights issues and encouraged many people to become vegan. PETA is credited with closing the largest horse slaughterhouse in the United States and stopping the use of cats and dogs in vivisection laboratories. Supporters believe the group's actions to be justified to combat what they see as avoidable cruelty. They also claim that critics fail to address their fundamental belief that animals deserve some kind of moral consideration.

Some critics allege that PETA is deceptive and uses immoral means to achieve its ends. PETA distributed a video that the Animal Liberation Front took from the laboratory of Adrian R. Morrison of the University of Pennsylvania, which showed experimenters smashing the heads of conscious monkeys and laughing about it. He claims that the group "cleverly edited" 60 hours of video tape into a damning 30-minute segment, that it cooperated with radical groups, and that it used questionable tactics to silence, discredit, and smear their opponents. Another case where similar concerns arose and PETA was accused of orchestrating and mis-representing animal owners for P.R. purposes, was Berosini v. PETA.

Another cause of concern is the degree of financial support given by PETA to listed eco-terrorist organizations such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF), article ([2] (, both associated with firebombings and other actions of industrial sabotage; PETA's tax exempt status has been challenged for this reason. PETA has also conducted press releases on behalf of firebombings by ALF[3] (

Many opponents of PETA see them as extremists; many take offense at the statements by Bruce Friedrich, a PETA executive, "If we really believe animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we're going to be blowing things up and smashing windows. I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them, exploded tomorrow."[4] (

In the United States, individuals have humourously formed a group also known as "PETA," except that the letters stand for "People Eating Tasty Animals." Its members are usually drawn from the segment of the population that eats meat, and usually mock and insult members of PETA as idiots and idealists who lack a proper sense of humor and perspective.

Targeting Of Vulnerable Groups

PETA has also been accused of targeting vulnerable or emotionally sensitive groups, particularly teenage girls, and was widely criticized in the United Kingdom for its anti-milk campaign, in which it targeted school children with ‘game cards’ claiming that dairy products caused obesity, acne, belching and flatulence, and excessive nasal mucus build up.

While these claims are marginally true, such reactions are only found in a small minority of Caucasians, and are common only amongst Asians. This was not made clear by PETA.

PETA has also been accused of promoting vegetarian and vegan lifestyles without providing sufficient information on the health risks involved in excluding meat and dairy from a typical Western diet without providing an alternative source of nutrition. It has also linked both lifestyles to weight loss, prompting concerns over groups targeting of groups that are vulnerable to eating disorders.

Extremism and support of industrial sabotage

  • "We're here to hold the radical line." (Ingrid Newkirk, founder and director of PETA, 1991)
  • "Arson, property destruction, burglary, and theft are acceptable crimes when used for the animal cause." (Alex Pacheco, director of PETA at the time, and its co-founder, in 1989)
  • "We cannot condemn the Animal Liberation Front ... they act courageously ... [their activities] comprise an important part of today's animal protection movement." (PETA statement concerning ALF's activities, 1991. ALF is listed by the FBI as a terrorist organisation)
  • Paid a claimed $70,000 in support of convicted ALF arsonist Rodney Coronado (1998).
  • Donations to ELF. The United States FBI considers ELF to be the "most active domestic terrorism group in the country" (2000/01)
  • Paid $34,900 fine for convicted ALF activist Roger Troen.

PETA's response to a suicide bombing

In response to a news report in January of 2003 that a donkey was laden with explosives and intentionally blown up in a failed attack on a busload of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk sent then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat a request that he "appeal to all those who listen to [him] to leave the animals out of this conflict." However, Newkirk deliberately did not ask Arafat to try to stop suicide bombings that killed people but did not harm animals. She later explained what many saw as a morally untenable stance, to the Washington Post, "It is not my business to inject myself into human wars."

Use of nudity and accusations of sexism

Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) have published articles criticizing PETA for its use of female nudity in campaigns such as "I'd rather go naked than wear fur," and for using Playboy models in some campaigns. Animal rights lawyer Gary L. Francione has also been outspoken in his condemnation of what he sees as PETA's sexism. Many also feel that PETA's use of gimmicks such as nudity trivializes the seriousness of animal rights issues. PETA's defenders respond that they are not sexist (both males and females appear in the campaigns) and they use arresting images to gain publicity for their campaigns against animal abuse.

Famous members and supporters

PETA has many celebrity members and supporters, including Pamela Anderson, Bea Arthur, Ed Asner, Alec Baldwin, James Cromwell, Sir John Gielgud, Dick Gregory, Dalai Lama, Emmylou Harris, Tippi Hedren, Benji Madden, Bill Maher, Paul McCartney, Rue McClanahan, Grant Morrison, Martina Navratilova, Conor Oberst, Richard Pryor, Alicia Silverstone, Charlize Theron, and Betty White.

Related articles

External Links

Official PETA sites

Sites which are critical of PETA

PETA Activist Photo Galleries


pl:People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals zh:人道对待动物协会


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