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The PeTA principle…

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“A crisis is a violation of your organizational vision.”
Overdrive, Michael Silva and Terry McGann

That’s one of the best definitions of a crisis I’ve ever seen. If you want to see crisis management in action, pay attention how PeTA spins its way out of its current mess.

The organization has staked its mission on animal rights and humane treatment. Now, two employees at the PeTA national headquarters have been charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty, and eight counts of illegal disposal of dead animals — in a shopping center garbage bin.

As bad as that sounds, this admission from organization president Ingrid Newkirk might raise a few eyebrows:

“PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized.”

Statistics show that from 1998 through 2003, PeTA actually euthanized a higher percentage of its animals than nearby branches of the SPCA.

Newkirk is already aware of the potential for negative press, considering how this seems to go against everything the group is for:

“It’s hideous… I think this is so shocking it’s bound to hurt our work.”

You would think there would be a response or a rebuttal on the PeTA website. I found nothing — and that’s a big mistake.

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About Ike Pigott

  • Ron,
    Yes, PETA is polarizing and I doubt this issue will do them much good. However, I have to take issue with your comment that “(euthanasia) is a much better end than the alternative I see on the sides of the road during my commute every day.” There are other options.
    Cat rescue groups all over the country are working with TNR programs (trap-neuter-release) which are highly effective in reducing the feral cat population. Where these programs have been aggressively put into action, the need for euthanizing cats has been all but eliminated.
    The other most effective way of preventing the killing of young, healthy animals is to educate the public on the need to spay or neuter both dogs and cats. It protects both the pet population as a whole as well as the individual pet.
    At the moment, I have 5 healthy 8 week old kittens who were turned in to a shelter by the “owners” and rescued on the day they were scheduled to be euthanized. All are now spayed or neutered and will soon be adopted. Pet owners have to be made aware of the problem. Ultimately, that’s the only humane answer.
    As for PETA, extremes have to be expected in any large organization. While I support the idea that animals should be well-treated, their excesses make them a target for both sides. For that reason, I don’t think the spin will make much difference.


  • Mark

    The point the general public is missing is the destruction of these animals is their highest goal. They don’t care if it’s legal, ethical or not. A dead pet is a good pet in their eyes.
    This is not the first report that PETA killed animals it claimed to protect. In 1991, PETA killed 18 rabbits and 14 roosters it had previously “rescued” from a research facility. “We just don’t have the money” to care for them, then PETA-Chairman Alex Pacheco told the
    Washington Times.
    In Virginia alone, PETA has killed more than 10,000 animals from 1998 to 2003. “In 2003, PETA euthanized over 85 percent of the animals it took in,” said a press release from the Virgina lobby, “finding adoptive homes for just 14 percent. By comparison, the Norfolk (Va.) SPCA found adoptive homes for 73 percent of its animals and Virginia Beach SPCA adopted out 66 percent.”
    Besides, PETA always has been about killing animals. A 2003 New Yorker
    profile included PETA top dog Ingrid Newkirk’s story of how she became
    involved in animal rights after a shelter put down stray kittens she
    brought there. So she went to work for an animal shelter in the 1970s,
    where, she explained, “I would go to work early, before anyone got
    there, and I would just kill the animals myself. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.”
    And you support Peta? For years, we all have been trying our best to spread the truth about Peta and their terrorits supporting groups, but no one would listen. How come you believe almost everything you read in the media as truth, but when it is about Peta and their supporters, you turn the other cheek?
    Did you know that Peta is trying to get your states, and cities to pass new ordinances, bans and laws, stating that you are only allowed to have in your possession, 2 domesticated cats, and 3 domesticated dogs? spayed and neutered? That if an “irresponsible” pet owner allows their domesticated cat out at night, they want their supporters to grab the cat and give it to a shelter? Who are they to infiltrate our local, state and federal governements, in wining and dining our legislature, in employing them to do Peta’s bidding?
    Who has given Peta the right to tell us what animal we should possess?
    And above all, who has given Peta the right to go after our children, and teach them to become future terrorists?

  • A link on “helpinganimals.com” is not an answer.

    When people want to know what PeTA directors and PR professionals have to say in response to a controversy, they are going to look for it on http://www.peta.org

    Again — this is a commentary about effective public relations. Not about the politics. And if PeTA is putting a “response” to the arrests (which the Helping Animals link is not) in a place where it can’t be easily found, then their PR people need to be canned.

  • cas

    What strikes me is that they are not adequately explaining how the animals died. PETA says that it was removing animals from NC shelters because they wanted them to be euthanized in a non-cruel fashion (which they define as lethal injection). However, neither of the arrestees are veterinarians (and there don’t seem to be any veterinarians involved) – so how did twenty some animals die in the back of the van???

  • “You would think there would be a response or a rebuttal on the PeTA website. I found nothing — and that’s a big mistake.”


  • I am not looking at this as a partisan political issue. I am offering this as a study of crisis management.

    No matter what your personal expectations or leanings toward PeTA, the fact remains that these sorts of headlines run counter to the stated mission that most people would ascribe to PeTA. How Ingrid Newkirk and others handle the reconciliation of this apparent contradiction is a measure of their public relations skills — not of their intentions or morality.

  • Millie

    ummmm…and to think, the donations that Peta receives goes to the registration, the upkeep, the travel expenses, for that van for their two Peta workers to “murder” the innocent cats, kittens, dogs and puppies. I wonder what other areas they are doing this?
    ummmmm….also think, your donations is helping them to buy stock and to buy companies, so they have influence as to what we eat and what we wear.
    ummm….also think, your mother or your father will not have the drugs available to them to prolong their life, or your children will not be healthy, due to Peta’s influence in the medical and the testing field.
    They make no qualm about supporting terrorists groups.

  • Ike, I think PETA is one of those naturally-polarizing groups that you either support or dispise. Their enemies will certainly make a great deal of publicity “hay” from this unfortunate incident and their supporters will “spin it” as best they can.

    For my two cents, it’s a non-issue. The fact that PETA and the SPCA and other organizations do their best to care for the abandoned and unwanted animals of this country is enough for me. If some (I don’t think “percentages” are relevant) ultimately must be euthanized, it is a much better end than the alternative I see on the sides of the road during my commute every day.



  • Mario Rosales

    Perhaps PETA doesn’t view euthanizing animals, per se, as cruel as much as the way animals are uethanized.
    I am not trying to spin it for them, but the more you understand their mission and their vision, then you can decide if they are in crisis. Or you can play it off and we’ll forget about it when the latest thing comes out on the next news broadcast.