The FBI recently declared environmental and animal rights extremism its top domestic terrorism priority. The bureau is currently investigating over 150 cases of arson, bombings, and other violent crimes related to these movements. Law enforcement authorities are rightly concerned about the fanaticism over animal “rights” used to justify violent criminal behavior.
The philosophy of animal “rights” espoused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is very different from a philosophy of humane treatment of animals. An organized movement for animal welfare dates back to 1824, when William Wilberforce—a leader in the campaigns to abolish slavery in the British empire and to improve conditions in factories—helped establish the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in London. Wilberforce’s revulsion over cruelty to animals was consistent with the Christian principles on which he based his life’s work.
But kindness to animals is a far cry from the extremism of animal “rights” advocates. Where once animal welfare organizations promoted Wilberforce’s understanding of man’s duty toward animals, PETA activists demand a recognition of animal “rights.” The difference between those two concepts is great. A decent concern for animal welfare has mutated into a tangle of ideas that have major social consequences. Industry and agriculture are disrupted, medical and scientific research are delayed, and the lives of those whose work involves animals are threatened by violence as a result of the passion for animal “rights.”
In 1983, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote these amazing words in a Washington Post article: “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.” This disturbing statement well illustrates PETA’s twisted worldview. According to PETA, animal “rights” derive from the moral equivalence between man and animal. Advocates are perfectly serious when they argue that just as we do not experiment on or eat babies, neither should we experiment on or eat animals. Taken to its logical conclusion, their view is that humans should not use animals for any purpose whatsoever.
Bear this in mind when you consider PETA’s recent allegations of animal abuse at a Fairfax County, Va., facility run by Covance, a Princeton, N.J.-based international medical research firm. PETA’s willingness to sponsor a long-term espionage project against a respected medical firm reveals the lengths to which it will go.
Covance develops new medicines to treat Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and leukemia. Lisa Leitten, a PETA employee, worked undercover at the firm for nine months in 2004-2005 collecting data on its animal care practices. PETA posted on its website several videos Leitten acquired, claiming they were evidence of animal cruelty. The group spent tens of thousands of dollars to buy a full-page ad in the New York Times in June 2005 publicizing the videos. Covance disputed the charges and filed a lawsuit against PETA protesting Leitten’s covert and deceptive actions. After a lengthy court battle, Covance and PETA reached a settlement last October. According to Covance, its terms bar PETA from “conducting any infiltration of Covance” for five years. In addition, Leitten agreed to a three-year ban “on infiltrating any commercial animal research facility worldwide.” According to the Associated Press, Leitten had in the course of three years “moved from Missouri to Texas to Virginia, applying for jobs at businesses dealing with animals.”
Frederick Goodwin, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Adrian Morrison, a University of Pennsylvania professor of veterinary medicine, have written, “PETA made it clear that alleged mistreatment of animals was not the real issue. In PETA’s view, animals cannot be used to alleviate health problems of people, period.” Kidney transplants, cardiac surgery, alleviation of manic-depression, and treatment of hypertension are all examples of medical advances that benefit from animal experimentation. Researchers are now testing new drugs on animals to find treatments and cures for many diseases that kill millions every year. Yet to the PETA activist, these potential benefits matter not one whit, because the animals used in tests have no fewer rights than any human.
PETA’s extremist views are accompanied by extremist associations. PETA activists have a long history of association with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and a related underground organization, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Former FBI Director Louis Freeh called ALF “one of the most active extremist elements in the United States.” PETA has made small grants to ELF over the past ten years, and it has provided money to ALF defense funds—such as a grant of $45,000 to a “support committee” for the defense of ALF member Rod Coronado. Coronado was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 57 months in a federal prison for the 1992 fire bombing of a research lab at Michigan State University. In 2002, he boasted about his involvement in six other cases of arson. When ABC news reporter John Stossel asked PETA president Ingrid Newkirk in 2003 about Coronado’s activities, she called him “a fine young man.”
Killing Animals to Save Them
On June 15, 2005, two PETA employees were arrested in North Carolina on charges of animal cruelty. Police caught the pair, Andrew Cook, 24, and Adria Hinkle, 27, dumping the corpses of eighteen dogs, including seven puppies, a cat and two kittens, and several other animals into a dumpster behind a Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Ahoskie County, N.C.
Police said that the animals were picked up—alive—from animal shelters in Bertie and Northampton counties. A veterinarian, Dr. James Brown of Northampton County, reported that he also had turned over several animals to PETA. “When they started taking them, they said they would try to find homes for them,” he told the Virginian-Pilot. “Nobody ever checked on them.”
Dr. Patrick Proctor of the Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH) said Cook and Hinkle promised to give the animals to a good home. He said he occasionally would call PETA to find homes for animals. He guessed that over the previous two years he turned over 50 animals for adoption to PETA. “They came to the office last Wednesday and picked up the cat and two kittens,” he told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald shortly after their arrest. “So imagine my surprise when I learned they allegedly dumped dead animals in a trash bin later that same day.” Barry Anderson, an animal control officer from neighboring Bertie County, confirmed to Dr. Proctor that a cat and two kittens were found among 13 dead animals in the van. “This cat and two kittens I gave them last week were in good health and were very adoptable, especially the kittens,” said Dr. Proctor, who was called in by police to examine one of the dead animals. “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. “PETA will never pick up another animal from my practice,” he said.
Police staked out the dumpster after animal carcasses were found dumped during the previous three weeks. David Harrell, the property manager at the Piggly Wiggly, said he and his co-workers frequently found dead animals at company properties: “Most of the time we would come here on Thursday morning and we’d find anywhere between 19 and 25 dogs per trip.” Harrell said the carcasses usually were in black commercial- strength garbage bags.
Cook and Hinkle were initially charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts of illegal disposing of dead animals. A Hertford County grand jury subsequently indicted the pair on 22 felony counts each of cruelty to animals as well as three counts each of obtaining property by false pretenses. Cook and Hinkle are also charged with eight misdemeanor counts of illegal disposal of dead animals and one count of trespassing. They are scheduled to appear in court on January 9. If the two plead not guilty, they cannot be put on the Superior Court trial docket for 30 days. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Va.) reports that PETA is paying their legal expenses.
Neither Cook nor Hinkle is a veterinarian licensed to put an animal to sleep. Yet police also found in their van a tackle box filled with syringes and vials of Ketamine and Pentobarbitol. According to Ahoskie police detective Jeremy Roberts, the lead investigator in the case, these are Schedule III drugs, regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and only available for purchase by a licensed veterinarian. Dr. Cheryl Powell of the Powellsville Pet Clinic told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that Ketamine is mainly used to sedate animals, while Pentobarbitol is used to euthanize them.
Northampton Sheriff’s Office animal cruelty investigator Karen Cole said that some of the animals were very sick or injured and would have been euthanized anyway, but even in those cases Hinkle and Cook acted improperly. “Some animals have to be euthanized,” she told the Virginian-Pilot. “But the way this crowd did it is sick.”
“We are appalled if this actually happened,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told the Virginian-Pilot. “We would absolutely never condone this behavior.” PETA said it has suspended Hinkle, but not Cook, who worked as Hinkle’s assistant. Newkirk called Hinkle “the Mother Teresa of animals. She’s a very kind, decent person.”
Can we believe Newkirk? In fact, documents filed with the state of Virginia show that PETA kills 85% of the animals it takes in. By contrast, the Norfolk SPCA finds homes for 73% of the animals entrusted to its care. Former Norfolk SPCA Director Dana Cheek told the Center for Consumer Freedom website petakillsanimals.com, “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.’ Many of them are led to believe that the animals will be taken to a nearby shelter. Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner’s home.”
PETA’s Real Modus Operandi
That PETA kills animals may shock some, but it is hardly news. In 1991, according to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders, PETA killed 18 rabbits and 14 roosters it had “rescued” from a research facility because it “didn’t have the money” to care for them and the PETA animal shelter was out of room.
How can PETA be so cavalier about killing animals? The answer is that PETA’s mission is not to advance animal welfare through humane treatment. Its mission is to promote the radical agenda of animal liberation, which holds that animals are better off dead than to be put to an immoral human use, whether for research or food, or even as pets and objects of appreciation.
For instance, in 2003 PETA and other animal liberation groups filed suit to prevent zoos in San Diego and Tampa from importing African elephants endangered by overcrowding. National Review writer Wesley Smith observed that the court denied PETA’s request for an injunction, saying that unless they were brought to the U.S. the elephants would be culled by South African authorities, since their numbers were a danger to the ecosystem of the famous Kruger National Park. The court said putting the elephants in zoos would save their lives. But the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the elephants “will be better off if … killed rather than imported and placed in zoos.”
PETA compounds the horror of its genuinely inhumane philosophy by employing treacherous methods. It is prepared to use stealth tactics to kill animals to prevent them from being used to enhance human welfare or increase human enjoyment. PETA says it kills animals to prevent animal suffering and humiliation. But if animals and humans have the same rights, then what stops PETA from harming humans too? This question may seem far-fetched, but there is a slippery slope between the ravings of the organization and the activism of its constituent members. PETA’s documented ties to violent activists, its deceitful tactics and its considerable financial resources create a frightening picture we dare not ignore.
This article is reproduced from the January 2006 edition of Organizational Trends, a Capital Research Center publication.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter