Huffpost Canada ca
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Douglas Anthony Cooper Headshot

PETA's Celebs: Naked in the Name of Mass Pet Slaughter

Posted: Updated:

(This is the first part of Douglas Anthony Cooper's examination of PETA. Part two is "Ingrid Newkirk's Death Wish." Part three is "The Humane Alternative to PETA's Pet Slaughter." Part four is "Katniss Fight: Could Jennifer Lawrence Take Down PETA?" Part five is "Has Bill Maher Been Sucked in by PETA's Naked Celebrities?" Part six is "PETA: Fighting For its Right to Kill". Part seven is "Why is PETA Opposing No-Kill Animal Shelters?")

A celebrity is at her most vulnerable when naked. This is when she is least likely to make sensible decisions. Often she is chilly and nervous. Hence, it is while naked that a famous person -- who genuinely loves animals -- finds herself shilling for people who are genuinely committed to slaughtering them.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) gathers up these A-list nudists like so many unwanted dogs. The difference between celebrities and dogs, however, is that PETA doesn't butcher celebrities.

Nobody does the euthanasia thing quite like PETA, Ingrid Newkirk's vaunted animal-rights organization. After long being dismissed as an outrageous slander -- just another right-wing slur -- this gruesome truth has finally gained traction in the mainstream press: PETA's headquarters in Norfolk has the highest kill rate in the nation. A rescued pet has the same chances of surviving PETA's sanctuary as it does of receiving genuine love and affection from Michael Vick.

This isn't my opinion: It is a legally documented fact. In 2011, PETA killed 97 per cent of the animals delivered into its care.

Forget the right-wing blogosphere -- this sorry business has now been covered at length by The San Francisco Chronicle and The Atlantic, among dozens of other respectable publications. It is not libel. People are routinely threatened by PETA's lawyers, but nobody has been sued for repeating this. For good reason: PETA would have a very bad day in court. It would do tremendous damage to their cause -- which is, above all, to appear both hip and compassionate.

You would rather go naked than wear fur? That's admirable. Can I interest you in posing for another slogan? "I would rather jump naked into an industrial meat grinder than lend credibility to Ingrid Newkirk's death cult."

This will be the first poster campaign for PEENC: People for the Ethical Exploitation of Naked Celebrities. Pronounced "pink." It will feature you, naked. Also Ingrid Newkirk, standing smugly beside a pit filled with 27,751 PETA-euthanized puppies and kittens and bunnies.

Nice people should not be taking off their clothes in the cause of euthanasia. Fame and prettiness are potent gifts, and should be flashed wisely. Nice people should not be convincing equally nice people to give their money to an outfit that kills pets, indiscriminately, at a rate that would shock seal hunters.

PETA no longer disputes the figures, by the way. Yes, almost every animal they take in is slaughtered, efficiently and quickly, by PETA employees.

But they are deeply hurt -- "floored," in fact -- that you question the depth of their compassion:

PETA refers adoptable animals to the high-traffic open-admission shelters rather than taking them in ourselves, thereby giving them a better chance of being seen and re-homed. As for the "no-kill" shelters, their figures are great because they slam the door on the worst cases, referring them, in fact, to PETA. We operate a "shelter of last resort," meaning that when impoverished families cannot afford to pay a veterinarian to let a suffering and/or aged animal leave this world, PETA will help, free of charge. When an aggressive, unsocialized dog has been left starving at the end of a chain, with a collar grown into his neck, his body racked with mange, PETA will accept him and put him down so that he does not die slowly out there.

That's sweet. Adoptable animals are referred elsewhere to be re-homed. And those evil no-kill shelters reject the most wretched cases; they deliver them willingly unto the angels at PETA. This really is quite touching. And, demonstrably, a complete lie:

In 2005, two PETA employees described as 'adorable' and 'perfect' some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van. The two were arrested after police witnessed them tossing the animals' dead bodies into a North Carolina dumpster.

That's from the employees. This from the man who placed three of those animals into PETA's care, veterinarian Patrick Proctor:

"They came to the office last Wednesday and picked up the cat and two kittens.... They were just kittens we were trying to find homes for. PETA said they would do that.... So imagine my surprise when I learned they allegedly dumped dead animals in a trash bin later that same day." He said the animals "were in good health and were very adoptable, especially the kittens."

Proctor was asked to examine one of the dead animals taken from the PETA crime scene. "The animal that I found was a very healthy six-month puppy that had been killed that day," he told TV station WNCT Channel 9. "It was a six-month-old lab mix and appeared to be in very, very good shape... and he had received some type of injection in his front right leg," he said. "PETA will never pick up another animal from my practice."

"The shelter of last resort" is an interesting euphemism for Death. PETA "accepts" those piteous creatures? Death is accommodating that way: It famously accepts all.

As for actual shelters knowingly giving their creatures over to Ingrid to be euthanized: appalled by the corpse-dumping scandal, two counties in North Carolina that had "animal collection agreements with PETA" -- Northampton and Bertie -- summarily terminated their relationship.

Now let's address the standard PETA slander regarding no-kill shelters: sorry, but they do not attain this status by simply turning away the most sickly. Some organizations are selective, yes, but the No Kill movement is overwhelmingly headed in the direction of open-admission shelters. They define "no-kill" as a euthanasia rate of not more than 10 per cent. No Kill Communities offers a list of organizations that have achieved this status: "More and more shelters are managing to be both open-admission and no-kill, which is a revolution in animal sheltering."

Study that quotation. And contrast it with Ingrid Newkirk's approach.

PETA's angels of mercy have another favorite slander: They tend to dismiss open-admission shelters with low kill rates as "hoarders." Which means that to achieve these statistics, these outfits have to take in far too many animals, and keep them alive under appalling conditions.

Let's see. The Amelia County Animal Shelter in Virginia is open-admission, and managed an 87 per cent release rate in 2011 (as opposed to PETA's 97 per cent slaughter). They've almost achieved no-kill. Must be a horrible place, right? "The shelter had a surprise inspection by the Virginia state veterinarian's office last July, and received the highest possible rating -- 100 per cent -- on the inspection."

If you'd like to know the official No Kill position on PETA, read Nathan J. Winograd, their most prominent spokesman. He is a Stanford-educated lawyer, and a strict vegan. Winograd used to do volunteer work for PETA, in fact. That was a long time ago. I assure you, no organization currently allied with this man would ever consider delivering the wretched unto Ingrid. He's written at great length about the woman, in an essay entitled, "The Butcher of Norfolk."

***

It is important to stress that most of the people who hate PETA are pretty unsavory themselves. They are trophy hunters, or perhaps just indifferent to animal suffering, or Ayn Randian libertarians opposed to welfare activism of any flavor. The most vocal tend to be associated with the Center for Consumer Freedom, Richard Berman's organization, which is a transparent front for -- amongst others -- the meat lobby and the tobacco industry. Lots of these parties have good reason to go after PETA, and I assure you it has nothing to do with improving the lives of innocent creatures.

Hence, many of the critics -- perhaps the great majority -- are no better than PETA, and many of them are even worse. "Consumer choice" is hardly a convincing argument for causing animals unimaginable misery. No question: Some of the ugliest facts about PETA have been dug up by Berman and his sponsors, as part of their own publicity war against Newkirk.

The facts themselves, however, are meticulously supported by evidence, and irrefutable. The CCF's discovery, for instance, that PETA has euthanized 27,751 animals since 1998, comes from records kept by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You don't have to get in bed with the CCF simply because you quote the same information: A truth is a truth, whether it's uttered by St. Francis of Assisi or Vlad the Impaler.

Luckily, the Center for Consumer Freedom is only one source among many, and finally unnecessary. Nathan Winograd, hardly a shill for the meat industry -- he's written a vegan cookbook -- has done a superb job of documenting PETA's crimes.

Full disclosure: I'm nowhere near as saintly as this guy. I'm not even a vegetarian; and if I were intellectually consistent, I probably would be. Nevertheless, I am deeply involved in ending the slaughter of the Galgos (the Spanish Greyhounds), and my sympathies are very much with Winograd. I am in no way connected to the Center for Consumer Freedom, and I suspect they wouldn't like me very much.

I am, in case you can't tell, seriously impressed by Mr. Winograd. He is not a blinkered ideologue, and the "No Kill" movement, despite the name, is not a PETA-like army of extremists. They tend to be fierce animal partisans, but they're not a glassy-eyed cult. Winograd himself supports euthanasia in certain circumstances; his reasoning here is careful, sane, and compassionate.

This is a pretty obvious dichotomy. On the one side you have people who shelter rescued animals; on the other you have people who butcher them. Yet the No Kill network's budget, relative to PETA's, is minuscule. The same kind of donors -- sincere animal lovers -- are attracted to both groups, but they find PETA much more seductive.

The reason is clear: It's a clever mix of dishonesty, fame, and cleavage.

So. Please. Speak to PEENC before you take off your clothes. Ingrid Newkirk may be the world's most effective name-dropper, but that doesn't mean you want anything to do with her, or her death cult.

To be fair, Newkirk insists that she doesn't pretend to run a shelter; you should not expect her to shelter animals with your money. Fine. But should you expect this?

Dave Shishkoff of the Friends of Animals pressure group claimed that he saw perfectly-healthy looking puppies and kittens killed at PETA when he worked there as an intern in 1991.

"Peta has a perverse definition of euthanasia -- one that apparently demands that any animal with the slightest discomfort ought to be killed," he said.

"The vast majority of the animals PETA kills are far from terminal or suffering from incurable conditions. PETA claims to have a $30 million annual budget, yet cannot find home for about 2,000 cats and dogs each year. Not with $30 million dollars, or millions of members and huge lists of email addresses.

"Literally an armful of cats and dogs somehow survive PETA's 'rescues' each year."

Yes, euthanasia is sometimes necessary. But it is a necessary evil. It is heartbreaking. It is the last resort, and should severely distress animal lovers forced to that extreme.

It sure doesn't seem to distress Ingrid. When she put in time in a "shelter" in the 70s, she relates, "I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn't stand to let them go through (other workers abusing the animals). I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day."

And she's put together quite the little euth group. Nobody knows how many pets Ingrid's troops have killed, but we do know that between 1998 and 2005, the number officially admitted to on PETA's paperwork was 17,806. Those were the good old days, when PETA's kill rate was only 90 per cent. Now that they've achieved 97 per cent mortality, I expect the numbers are truly heartwarming.

(The figure of 27,751 documented by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services represents a low minimum: I doubt we have an accurate accounting of those midnight body disposals, for instance.)

PETA noted on their 2002 federal income tax return that they used donors' money -- $9,370 of it -- to purchase a massive walk-in freezer. Okay, when you put this many animals to death, you do in fact want a meat locker. No argument there. The freezer is certainly preferable to their earlier habit of surreptitiously depositing their animal corpses in commercial dumpsters. But why do you have a freezer in Norfolk, with all of that money, and not a single shelter? Not a single veterinary clinic?

Surely any decent organization that takes in millions of dollars in the name of making this world less vile for animals would want to concentrate personally on rescue, sanctuary, and medical care. Especially in a state where that kind of money is truly needed, and could do wondrous things for the local animal populace.

PETA is involved -- to their credit -- in spay and neuter programs, and their international publicity stunts, although often ditzy and wrongheaded, can do some good. But when it comes to personally dealing with animals (as opposed to celebrities and the public), the PETA folk have decided to focus their efforts on one thing. And it's an odd choice for people who profess to adore these creatures. PETA has decided that their hands-on area of specialization, compassion-wise, is righteous slaughter.

Former director of Norfolk's SPCA, Dana Cheek, wrote, "I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will 'find them a good home.'... Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner's home."

I've been glib in my dismissal of celebrities deceived by PETA. It is not their fault. Almost all of them are, I'm convinced, well-motivated; some of them are very bright people. A woman like Natalie Portman could do a lot of good for a cause like PEENC: she's highly educated, and eloquent, and clearly a decent soul. People for the Ethical Exploitation of Naked Celebrities needs her.

Natalie, if you're listening: tell Olivia Munn to put her clothes on. George? Clooney, you there? You seem like a smart guy: convince your girlfriend to cover up. If they have to bare their souls for a cause, have them contact the No Kill Advocacy Center, or Best Friends, or (in Europe) Scooby Medina, or any number of organizations bent on rescuing and sheltering animals.

Otherwise, sorry Natalie, but they -- and you -- support this:

A former PETA employee spoke of one particular incident that burned into her mind forever: A teary-eyed man showed up at PETA headquarters one day with his beloved pet rabbit. The man had grown old and sick and was no longer able to care properly for his friend. He supplied a cage, bed, toys, and even vet records for this pet. He was assured by PETA workers that they would take "good care" of his rabbit and find him a home. The man left distraught but no doubt believing that his friend would be able to live out the rest of his life in a loving, compassionate home... PETA workers carried him to the 'death house' immediately and ended his life.

PETA will pretend to be floored by this article. We'll see a lawyer's letter, probably within hours. They will demand equal time in this publication. This is one of their most successful publicity stunts: They extort free editorial space.

PETA's smiling Senior Vice President of Communications, clutching a conspicuously uneuthanized puppy, will talk to Atlantic readers about how it's just broken their hearts that such bad things have been said about them. Or Daphna Nachminovitch, the vice president of PETA's Cruelty Investigations Department, will explain to Huffington Post readers that the report on PETA's euth addiction is "rife with inaccuracies." Again, we'll hear something like this:

Each animal, each "number," has a story, often a devastating one. We invite everyone to visit www.PETA.org and read about just some of them: Pokey, DJ, Trixie, Pepper, Sasha, Diamond, Tupac, Zoo, Asia, Sheba, Holly, Big Girl, Santana, Rikus, and so many more -- including some whose guardians never even bothered to name them but who suffered just the same.

Every single number. Quite right. That's 27,751 stories. Enough to keep a Vice President of Cruelty telling stories for a long long time.

When I read PETA's response here, the name and title rang a bell: Daphna Nachminovitch, VP. Funny. So I went back to the documents. Ingrid Newkirk personally signs off on a vast number of euthanasias in those papers kept by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (Real hands-on type, that Ingrid.) But the report dated January 29, 2009 -- listing 584 slaughtered dogs, 1589 butchered cats, and 294 "other companion animals" summarily executed by PETA for the crime of being alive -- that report is signed by one Daphna Nachminovitch: "Vice President, Cruelty Investigations."

The next year, in a report dated February 15, 2010, this same Daphna Nachminovitch personally signed off on 681 exterminated dogs, 1620 liquidated cats, and 51 more exotic corpses. Oh, and the previous year, on March 5, 2008, there's that same vice president, and similar numbers (although it was a particularly bad year for living kittens).

These numbers represent individual creatures, we're told, each with a story. Some with a name. You wouldn't know that from these documents. But hey: at least we get a collective body count for the species, the year of death, and an official signature.

Daphna? You want to earn your title? You want to be a real live, responsible, totally adult investigator of human viciousness, with full vice-presidential gravitas? Here you go: This is what's called a "mirror."

I too have a title. I just gave it to myself. I'm the "PEENC Subcommander for the Ruthless Exposure of PETA's Freezer Contents." My official position requires me to respond rigorously to in-coming propaganda from butchers. You can have your equal time, Daphna, and I'll take your teary, compassionate fiction to pieces, lie by lie.

By the way, that's me posing with the PEENC mascot: Pixel, our beloved Italian Greyhound. And let me assure you, if Pixel were ever to fall into the merciful claws of PETA, the Dear Leader and her official Vice Ghouls would quickly find out the meaning of the word "euthanasia."