By Kathy Guillermo
There is a popular view that employees and activists
with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals do little but dress up
in skimpy costumes and rant about cruelty to animals. The reason many
people believe this is the same reason that PETA engages in this street
theater campaigning: It's what the media likes to cover. If we have
learned anything in 20 years of fighting to earn animals respect, it's
that silence means continuation of suffering and misery.
Because we are determined to keep the abuse of animals
in the news, we have had to think of clever ways to draw attention to
the issues, even if it means wearing Las Vegas-style "feathers," as we
did recently in the Fort Worth area to protest the dismal living and
dying conditions of chickens used by Kentucky Fried Chicken. To be
honest, marching through the streets wearing next to nothing isn't our
idea of fun. But we have found that our efforts to reach the public
through news coverage of more conventional events have not worked.
Instead, we came up with costumes and props and celebrity campaigns that
would attract the media so that the public could understand that, to the
animals, these issues are a matter of life and death.
What you probably don't know about, because these
activities are less "sexy" to the press, is the tremendous amount of
work PETA does on behalf of animals every day. Last year alone, PETA
received more than 10,000 reports of animal abuse. Our caseworkers
worked with local authorities in communities across the country to
rescue animals from deplorable conditions. We've ended pigeon
poisonings, worked with district attorneys and sheriff's departments to
ask that they charge offenders with cruelty, halted cruel medical
training exercises on kittens, and more.
In our own community of Norfolk, Va., where PETA is
headquartered, our mobile spay/neuter clinic has sterilized more than
5,000 dogs and cats at low or no cost. This has prevented the birth of
approximately 72,000 unwanted puppies and kittens. We have distributed
more than 650 doghouses with straw bedding, free of cost, to residents
who will not allow their companion dogs inside.
Thanks to courageous whistleblowers, PETA has placed
undercover investigators in facilities across the country, leading to
exposure of abuse and criminal charges against the people who harm
animals. For example, PETA's undercover investigation of the University
of North Carolina (UNC) animal laboratories uncovered multiple
violations of regulations -- cutting off the heads of live baby rats
with scissors without anesthetics, leaving live animals in cages with
dead ones, failure to euthanize wounded and sick animals, and leaving
hemophiliac mice with their tails cut off to bleed to death overnight.
Following our exposť, a supervisor resigned, scientists were
disciplined, and employee training was strengthened. The U.S. National
Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has issued a
new directive on euthanasia to all research institutions nationwide.
Even when issues fall out of the news, PETA has learned
that we must never give up. It took many, many months of pressure from
PETA before U.S. and Puerto Rican officials seized six thin, sick,
depressed, and filthy polar bears from the traveling tropical Suarez
Bros. Circus. PETA had rallied support from polar bear experts, the U.S.
Congress, government officials in Germany and Canada, and celebrities
including Ewan McGregor. Video footage showed the bears panting
constantly while being hit, whipped, and forced to perform frightening
tricks in sweltering temperatures. A seventh bear had been seized
earlier, after PETA alerted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
fraudulent documentation of her origin.
As for our street-theater-style campaigns, they work
too. Following more than 100 PETA protests at Safeway stores, the
grocery chain became the first in U.S. history to improve conditions for
factory-farmed animals. The $34 billion-a-year company pledged to
increase space for laying chickens, to stop starving hens in order to
force increased egg-laying, and to conduct unannounced inspections of
slaughterhouses and suppliers. We also persuaded Albertson's and Kroger
to pledge to follow Safeway's lead. McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's
responded to our campaign to make similar improvements.
Not everyone agrees with our belief that animals do not
belong to us to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. But
whatever your view on animal rights, PETA urges you to learn about what
happens to animals in these industries so that your choices are fully
informed. PETA will keep protesting, educating, and investigating to
make sure that the animals have a voice.
Go on to Open Letter To A Puppymill
Return to 24 August 2003 Issue
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