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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a non-profit advocacy group that promotes animal welfare. PETA believes in total animal liberation. PETA opposes human uses for animals including the following: eating food derived from animals, wearing clothes made from animal products, animal testing and keeping animals as pets. PETA often uses shock campaigns that include nudity or violent imagery to promote its causes.
History / Mission
Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco founded PETA in 1980. In its mission statement, PETA states that: “PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry… PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.” 
PETA believes animals are entitled to the same rights that humans enjoy. According to PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, “[w]hen it comes to feelings, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They are all mammals. They all feel pain. There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights.” 
PETA is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia and boasts a membership of more than two million people worldwide. 
In describing its work, PETA explains, “[e]very day in countries around the world, animals are fighting for their lives. They are enslaved, beaten, and kept in chains to make them perform for humans’ ‘entertainment’; they are mutilated and confined to tiny cages so that we can kill them and eat them; they are burned, blinded, poisoned, and cut up alive in the name of ‘science’; they are electrocuted, strangled, and skinned alive so that people can parade around in their coats; and worse.” 
According to the group’s website, PETA works on the following issues:
PETA and its members have pressured food service and clothing corporations to change their business practices. In a paper published by the Capital Research Center, Brian Tubbs wrote, “PETA is adept at giving companies a black eye in public and then extracting concessions from them. Like Jesse Jackson and many labor unions, it has learned the art of the shake-down.” PETA has run corporate campaigns against McDonalds, General Motors, L.L. Bean, Nike, Gillette, Eddie Bauer and more. PETA has gotten many of these corporations to adopt new policies towards animal products and food.
In 2003, PETA started a controversial campaign titled, “Holocaust on Your Plate.” According to Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online, the PETA campaign maintained, “like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps.” Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, denounced PETA’s campaign, saying, “[t]he effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent… The uniqueness of human life is the moral underpinning for those who resisted the hatred of Nazis and others ready to commit genocide even today.” In 2009, Germany’s highest court ruled that PETA’s holocaust campaign was not protected free speech in that country and called it “an offense against human dignity.” This was not the first time PETA made a controversial statement about the holocaust. In 1983, PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk said, “[s]ix million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.”
In late 2003, PETA ran an anti-fur campaign targeted at children outside of holiday plays such as The Nutcracker in 15 states. Activists handed children a comic featuring a cartoon mother slicing up a bunny complete with blood and gore with the headline: “Your Mommy Kills Animals.” The cartoon, which featured a skinned carcass, read, “there are terrible people who cause our furry friends to die that way every day. And guess what? One of those terrible people is your mommy. Your mommy kills animals! I bet you didn’t know that.”
In 2008, PETA ran an advertising campaign that linked cow’s milk to autism. PETA placed a campaign billboard in Newark, New Jersey that stated, “[s]tudies have shown a link between cow’s milk and autism.”At the time, ABC News reported that, PETA “cites two studies by researchers at the University of Rome as reason for the purported ‘link,’ even though the studies themselves do not prove any connection between milk and autism.” Shortly after it was put up, the advertising company that hosted the billboard removed PETA’s sign.
In 2009, PETA placed a billboard in Jacksonville, Florida that read, “Save the Whales.” Not referring to the marine animal, the billboard pictured a heavy woman in a bikini and stated, “[l]ose the blubber, go vegetarian.” PETA’s executive vice president Tracy Reiman commented that, “[t]rying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach… PETA has a free ‘Vegetarian Starter Kit’ for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.” Eventually, PETA removed the billboard and replaced it with another that read: “GONE: Just like all the pounds lost by people who go vegetarian.”
In 2011, PETA filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to release killer whales named Corky, Katina, Ulises, Tilikum and Kasatka “from bondage” in the SeaWorld theme parks in San Diego, California and Orlando, Florida. The court was asked to appoint a legal guardian for the whales and also to award PETA attorney’s fees and related costs. The PETA legal team, which reportedly spent 18 months preparing the 20-page legal complaint, argued the whales are being illegally detained in violation of the 13th Amendment’s prohibition against slavery. PETA General Counsel Jeff Kerr explained the team’s logic: “Slavery is slavery, and it does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on gender, race or religion.” SeaWorld officials released a statement calling PETA’s legal reasoning “baseless and in many ways offensive,” and Ak’bar Shabazz of the black leadership group Project 21 said, “Even Free Willy would likely find PETA’s lawsuit comical. If we are awarding these whales aspects of humanity, shouldn’t we also be looking for their Harriet Tubman to spirit the whole pod back to the open sea? And who’s protecting the rights of the seals and fish these killer whales ruthlessly hunt in the wild? But, to be serious, for PETA to invoke slavery and seek to employ the anti-slavery provisions of the 13th Amendment to advocate for animal performers is ignorant of the past and the treatment of real slaves at best and revisionist at worst. It’s a slap in the face to those who suffered in bondage as well as their descendants.”  Legal scholars gave the lawsuit little chance of success, saying the Constitution was written to cover human beings.
PETA often uses nudity in its campaigns. PETA defends its use of nudity by saying “[u]nlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations, PETA must rely on getting free ‘advertising’ through media coverage. This can be especially difficult with our fur campaign, since newspapers are often reluctant to cover our activities for fear of losing furriers’ advertising dollars. But, not surprisingly, colorful and ‘controversial’ demonstrations and campaigns like activists stripping to ‘go naked instead of wearing fur’ consistently grab headlines.”
In August 2011, PETA announced it was taking its nudity campaigns to the next level by establishing a PETA.XXX website. According to the Huffington Post, PETA has previously worked with porn stars and its new pornographic site “will feature graphic videos and photographs.”
The Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit consumer’s choice advocacy group, has consistently criticized PETA for what it views as the indoctrination of children. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, PETA “sees children as a way to effectively maintain its power by ensuring that its violent and destructive messages will be promoted for generations to come. Although many parents are familiar with PETA’s attention-grabbing media stunts, few are aware of PETA’s coordinated campaign to bypass parental authority and indoctrinate children with its radical philosophy.”
Brian Tubbs, writing for the Capital Research Center, has noted that other animal rights activists disagree with PETA’s tactics, saying, “PETA targets corporations for alleged mistreatment of animals and often succeeds even though its allegations lack merit. Even many animal rights activists believe that PETA does the movement more harm than good with its media stunts.”
In late 2009, PETA ran an advertisement displaying former Playboy cover girl Joanna Krupa, nude, standing in front of faux-celestial wings while holding a crucifix to cover her private parts. This image was part of a campaign to urge people to adopt pets (companion animals) from rescue shelters, not pet stores. Catholic League President Bill Donohue criticized PETA for the ad, saying, “[t]he fact is that cats and dogs are a lot safer in pet stores than they are in the hands of PETA employees. Moreover, pet stores don’t rip off Christian iconography and engage in cheap irreligious claims. PETA is a fraud. It also has a long and disgraceful record of exploiting Christian and Jewish themes to hawk its ugly services. Those who support this organization sorely need a reality check. They also need a course in Ethics 101.”
Famed Las Vegas headliners Penn and Teller have also criticized PETA. In their Showtime television series, the duo dedicated an episode to an effort to expose PETA as hypocritical.
Some groups and animal rights leaders have criticized PETA for euthanizing a large percentage of the animals it takes in. According to Petakillsanimals.com, PETA took in nearly 30,000 animals between the second half of 1998 and 2010, and it killed 85.9 percent of those animals.
Ties to the Animal Liberation Front
Critics have suggested that PETA supports the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified ALF as a terrorist organization.  According to the FBI in 2008, “[t]ogether, eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists are one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today… for several good reasons… ELF and ALF are probably the names you’re most familiar with. The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) are loosely-organized movements whose adherents engage in crimes like arson, fire bombings, vandalism, intimidation, assaults, stalking, etc. No membership dues are necessary – the only way to become a ‘member’ is to engage in ‘direct action’…criminal activity designed to cause economic loss or destroy the victim company’s operations.”
In a 2002 Washington Times editorial, David Martosko alleged that PETA has been connected to ALF since the 1980s. Martosko wrote, “PETA’s ties with terrorists are nothing new. PETA served as the de facto spokesgroup for ALF in the late 1980s, holding press conferences to praise ALF criminals and field media questions just hours after laboratories were destroyed or buildings burned down.” Martosko also claimed that PETA has donated thousands of dollars to ALF activists and also given to ALF’s sister organization the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). In 2001, PETA donated $1,500 to ELF.
On its website, PETA has a special section discussing its support for ALF’s activism.  PETA favorably compares ALF’s actions to the Underground Railroad and the French Revolution and states, “PETA is a legal activist organization, but we realize that other groups have different methods and we try not to condemn any efforts in behalf of animals in which no one is harmed. ‘The ALF,’ which is simply the name adopted by people acting illegally in behalf of animal rights, breaks inanimate objects such as stereotaxic devices and decapitators in order to save lives. It burns empty buildings in which animals are tortured and killed. ALF ‘raids’ have provided proof of horrific cruelty that would not have been discovered or believed otherwise.”
According to Discover the Networks, PETA has in the past received funding from the Bank of America Foundation, the Richard and Marcy Horvitz Foundation, the Diane Warren Foundation and the Tides Foundation.
In 2010, PETA had total revenues of $35,851,917.
Ingrid Newkirk, President (2010 compensation, $40,439)
Tracy Reiman, Vice President (2010 compensation, $72,203)
Wendy Taft, Veterinarian (2010 compensation, $114,535)
Jeff Kerr, Assistant Secretary
Jeanne Roush, Director
Michael Rodman, Chairman of the Board
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: 757-622-PETA (7382)
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