News Index > Sortable News 10/06 - now > February 2007
Should ARA's Continue to Support PETA?

by Pete Cohon

Despite People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA's) victory in last week's North Carolina jury trial, in which 2 PETA employees were acquitted of cruelty to animals and fraud in obtaining animals (although convicted of littering), the trial has raised questions among ardent and sincere animal activists who are concerned to learn that PETA euthanizes animals. Ironically, the folks at PETA, who taught so many of us to put our compassion into action, now appear hypocritical to some animal activists for preaching animal liberation while performing euthanasia. Former PETA supporters are threatening to withhold donations and disparaging the organization for what some see as unethical conduct. But are the criticisms and threats fair given all the circumstances of the situation? Let's look at the facts:

I was not at the trial but, based on numerous newspaper articles that I've read, it seems that two PETA employees, who were volunteers in 2005 when these events occurred, went to an Ahoskie County animal hospital and picked up some unwanted companion animals who were slated to be turned over to County authorities to be killed. Although gas is used for euthanasia in many North Carolina counties, the prescribed method for killing unwanted animals in Ohoskie County is, apparently, shooting, an exceptionally cruel method of killing an animal in the absence of an alternative as the possibility of needing more than one bullet is very real. Of course, if you've ever seen films taken of animals being gassed inside small death chambers, you know that this method of euthanasia is also horrific and cruel as the animals struggle to get out of the chamber until death finally slows their fight for life.

In order to save companion animals in Ahoskie County from being shot, as well as animals in danger of gassing in other counties, PETA had for some time been picking-up unwanted animals in that county. PETA knew from long experience that other facilities in the area as well as private breeders were selling or giving away animals and that there was no "market" for these Ahoskie County animals, which means that there were no adoption prospects in the real world. The only thing that PETA could do to give these animals a better death than either shooting or gassing was to euthanize them peacefully and lovingly by lethal injection. That is what PETA did and, as the jury found, it was not done out of malice but out of respect for the animals and in recognition of the fact that there was no more humane alternative. In a world in which unwanted animals are gassed and shot by the hundreds of thousands, a humane and peaceful death was all that anyone, even PETA, could do for these animals.

Although PETA has worked tirelessly for decades to encourage folks to spay and neuter their animals and to acquire companion animals from shelters, not breeders and puppy mills, some folks criticize PETA for not holding onto the Ahoskie County animals until homes could be found for them. But that completely disregards the severity of the situation in which a never-ending conveyor belt of animals with no hope of ever being adopted seems to be headed to our "shelters". If you think that PETA over-reacted to the endless stream of unwanted animals, ask yourself this: How many of those animals would you take into your home to save their lives? None? One? Five? Ten? Even if the answer is over 100, sooner or later you will get to the point where your sanctuary doors must be closed. What will you do then as more and more animals in need of homes are brought to your doors? If you turn them away, they might die in "shelters" of bullets or gas or, if left on the streets, they could die terrible deaths of starvation, disease or abuse. But, if you take them in, you'll have too many animals to care for properly and, once again, the animals will suffer. What do you do? In this world of seemingly endless pain and suffering for our fellow but non-human animals, what do you do when all the alternatives are unpalatable?

PETA's answer is to provide relief in the most humane way possible, even if it is not popular with some PETA supporters. It would be easy for PETA to mollify its disgruntled supporters by simply terminating the current policy of saving animals from cruel deaths, even if it's only to give them more dignified and peaceful deaths. But, that would mean condemning numerous animals to terrible deaths solely so that some PETA supporters could feel better about themselves and forget about the never-ending line of unwanted animals. The folks at PETA have made the decision to do what they always do at PETA - they decided to put the best interests of the animals first, even if it costs them donations. That's because PETA is not about donations. It's about helping animals in any and every way possible, even when it's not popular to do so. PETA has the guts to do the hard jobs that nobody else is willing to do, even when they're especially unpleasant. PETA has the guts to take the heat for doing the right thing, even when it hurts them. And PETA has the determination to work for the day when euthanizing animals simply because they are unwanted will be a sorry and sad part of history, but not the present or future. That's why I support PETA.

[Pete Cohon is the founder of VeggieJews:


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