Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gary Francione's Scathing Indictment of PETA

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big PETA fan and a proud card-carrying member of the organization. I've also written columns and Blog entries in support of PETA. Nevertheless, I found Gary Francione's scathing critique of PETA compelling and troubling. I'm a huge Francione fan and this particular Blog Entry on his Abolitionist Approach Website left me deeply disturbed. In it, he cited a story about PETA that ran on AOL News stating that PETA
euthanizes over 90 percent of the dogs and cats relinquished to its headquarters in Norfolk, Va. In 2009, PETA euthanized 2,301 dogs and cats — 97 percent of those brought in — and adopted only eight, according to Virginia state figures. And the rate of these killings has been increasing. From 2004 to 2008, euthanasia at PETA increased by 10 percent.
Francione added:

I checked the documents that PETA filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and confirmed that the AOL story is correct. PETA killed 681 dogs and 1620 cats. PETA also killed 51 “other companion animals.”

That’s a total of 2352 animals.

And PETA adopted eight animals. Eight animals.

As Francione points out, PETA has a revenue of $31,053,316 and assets worth $19,759,999. Adopting eight animals, he concludes, is hardly impressive for such a powerful and wealthy organization.

I've heard other animal rights activists say similarly negative things about PETA. Francione also attacked PETA for giving an award to Temple Grandin for her "humane slaughterhouse" work (boy, those two words go together almost as well as "peaceful" and "war") and promoting the "happy meat" (or "conscientious carnivore") movement.

I have very mixed feelings about all of this. I am not going to run out and quit PETA tomorrow. At the same time, I think Gary Francione (and others like him) perform an invaluable service to the animal rights movement when they point out the contradictions and double standards in the struggle.

This movement has to be a broad front and we can't be too puritanical. Yet it becomes a problem when the movement compromises too much. It loses its meaning when it does.

But there is also a danger in being too reductionist about some of PETA's wrong-headed positions. Any organization that fights on as many fronts as PETA does is bound to stumble and make mistakes. I am deeply impressed and moved by the PETA literature I have read promoting veganism, attacking the factory farm system and supporting the most militant actions imaginable. PETA is not afraid to embrace radicalism. Moreover, our PETA comrades are on the front lines of so many vital struggles.

So I'll stay in PETA. But as a member, I will do what I can to try to change its policies so that all of its actions are consistent with a humanistic animal rights vision. Best to try to change it from within rather than abandon it altogether.

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