This page is about the animal rights organization. For other meanings, see the disambiguation page peta (disambiguation).


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.

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

PETA's philosophyEdit

PETA's motto is, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." They believe that animals' interests are just as important as human interests. 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 therefore see themselves as an animal rights group; however, in the short term they are willing also to advocate animal welfare reforms of animal using industries. PETA is strongly in support of a vegan lifestyle.

Media campaigns and public demonstrationsEdit

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 has 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.

Campaigns for a Vegan DietEdit

Jesus was a VegetarianEdit

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.

Lettuce LadiesEdit

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.

Holocaust on Your PlateEdit

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. The controversy over this campaign is discussed in detail below.

Name Changes of CitiesEdit

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 CampaignsEdit

I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear FurEdit

PETA may be best known for this long-running campaign, in which activists and celebrities appear nude or nearly nude to express their opposition to fur-wearing. This tactic has resulted in widespread media coverage.

Criticism of PETAEdit

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 wound 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.

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."

Use of nudity and accusations of sexismEdit

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.

Condemnation of "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaignEdit

PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign has been strongly criticized by many elements of the Jewish community for comparing raising and killing animals for food to the Holocaust. For example, its website "" states:

Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer first noted the disturbing similarity between the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and that of animals raised for food when he noticed that the techniques of mass slaughter developed for use on animals had also been used on human beings. [...] If we are revolted by comparisons between the plight of animals and the plight of human victims of oppression, it can only be because we are not yet prepared to accept our own role in the animals' fate. It is easy to condemn barbarity when it is separated from us by distance and time. But what about violence that we are a part of, that we support financially every time we sit down to eat? [...]
Decades from now, what will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you whose side you were on during the "animals' holocaust"? Will you be able to say that you stood up against oppression, even when doing so was considered "radical" or "unpopular"? Will you be able to say that you could visualize a world without violence and realized that it began at breakfast? [...] PETA's thought-provoking display "Holocaust on Your Plate" spotlights this disturbing parallel by juxtaposing on freestanding 8-foot panels stomach-churning images of the torturous experiences of both Jews and animals.

The campaign was run by a Jewish member of PETA who lost family members in the Holocaust and was funded by a Jewish philanthropist who had spent 25 years working with prominent Jewish organizations that highlight the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust, but Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have attacked this moral equivalency between the killing of animals and the Holocaust. A recent press release from the ADL states that:

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.

Supporters of the campaign say that critics are unwilling to treat animal concerns seriously, as is shown by their outrage at comparison between the slaughter of human beings and the slaughter of animals.

PETA's response to a suicide bombing Edit

Jewish groups have expressed outrage at PETA for taking what they claim to be an ambiguous moral stance on suicide bombings against Jews in the State of Israel. Specifically, 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 intentionally stopped short of asking Arafat to try to stop suicide bombings that kill people, later telling the Washington Post, "It is not my business to inject myself into human wars."

Famous members and supporters Edit

PETA has many celebrity members and supporters, including Pamela Anderson, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Dick Gregory, Bill Maher, Paul McCartney, Grant Morrison, Alicia Silverstone, Charlize Theron, and the Dalai Lama.

See alsoEdit

External Links Edit

Official PETA sitesEdit

Sites which are critical of PETAEdit

References Edit

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