17 Times PETA Has Been Criticized For Unethical Behavior

PETA stands for "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals"... or so they say. Historically, however, many of their ads and campaigns show more controversially bad things about PETA than good. While they may try to fight for animal rights, and they sometimes succeed, the way they do it, and how they spend their time and money often just emboldens why PETA sucks at their mission. They're well known, sure, but not for the good they do. More often, it's for PR nightmares, skewed ethical decisions, and more wasted finances than you would believe.

If you're wondering if there are any legitimate reasons why you shouldn't support PETA, this list only brushes the surface. From encouraging Ben and Jerry's to use human breast milk to pretending to grill a naked woman at a BBQ festival, this organization is baffling. Not to mention, these guys kill a whole lot more animals than most shelters do! 

This may seem like it's being pretty hard on a group that really does aggressively fight for animal rights, but there are just too many reasons PETA is actually bad to overlook. Perhaps support your local no-kill shelter or wildlife rescue hospital instead?

  • PETA Criticized Steve Irwin's Google Doodle And The Late Crocodile Hunter's Career

    Google celebrated famed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin's 57th birthday in February 2019 with a Google doodle.  Irwin was the host of The Crocodile Huntera show in which he used his wildlife expertise to relocate dangerous animals who wandered too close to populated areas. He lost his life during a snorkeling expedition in 2006 when a sting ray pierced his heart. The doodle featured Irwin holding a crocodile as it chewed on the letter 'L.'

    In response, PETA - who is actively against using animals for entertainment - tweeted that Irwin was "harassing a ray" when he passed and that the doodle "sends a dangerous, fawning message." They further stated that, "A real wildlife expert and someone who respects animals for the individuals they are leaves them to their own business in their natural homes." 

    PETA received backlash for their accusations, and some withdrew their support for the organization and labeled them an "embarrassment to animal rights." The organization told USA Today, "People should examine Steve Irwin’s record of wildlife [harassment]."

  • They Harassed And Intimidated A Scientist Trying To Save Birds

    In 2017, Louisiana State University ornithologist Dr. Christine Lattin began receiving hate mail and threats. According to Lattin, she was receiving 40 to 50 messages a day. “You should kill yourself, you sick b*tch,” one message read. “I hope someone throws you into the fire…” said another. She discovered the animal rights organization began a campaign against her. Under the headline “Tell Yale University Stop Tormenting Birds!” PETA posted about her research on their website claiming she was committing animal abuse through wasteful and pointless experiments.

    At the time the controversy began, Lattin was working for Yale University, studying the effects of climate change and environmental disasters on birds. Her work began at Tufts University in Medford, MA during her Ph.D. research, where she was investigating how birds responded to manmade disasters like oil spills and human encroachment by measuring changes in their stress hormones with the hopes that her research could aid in conservation efforts.

    When she began at Yale as a postdoc she also pioneered the use of medical imaging techniques to study hormonal and physiological changes in living birds. Though the research required she capture and ultimately euthanize wild house sparrows, the hope and goal of medical imaging was to minimize the amount of birds needed for the experiments, and alternatively release them back in the wild.

    PETA, however, claimed her research had no relevance to conservation efforts. They filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urged Yale and her funders to stop supporting her research, and organized protests against her outside Yale, her research building, and her home. Other publications and advocacy groups have evaluated the claims PETA has made and the validity of Dr. Lattin’s research, concluding firstly that PETA’s claims are based on misrepresentations of the research, but also Lattin’s research has had applicable benefits, direct conservation applications, was done according to humane practices.

    Harassment, however, still continues, calling for “LSU to end her cruelty.

  • They Sued A Man For Taking A Picture Of A Monkey On Behalf Of The Monkey

    In 2011, British Photographer David Slater traveled to Sulawesi, Indonesia, and captured a photo most photographers only dream of taking: an endangered Celebes crested macaque giving a toothy grin directly into the lens. Titled “Monkey Selfie,” Slater claimed he coaxed a troop of macaques towards his unattended camera and snap a photo of themselves. Slater made only enough money from the image to pay for his ticket to Indonesia and included it in his book Wildlife Personalities.

    But in 2014, the image became a matter of legal dispute when multiple online publishers used the image. Slater asked they take the images, but they argued the monkey owned the copyright, not Slater, since it was the monkey who ultimately took the picture. US Courts determined the monkey could not legally own the copyright. In response to the case, the US Copyright Office amended its policies to state that works produced by animals would not qualify for copyright.

    Among the many complexities of this case (Can animals own copyright? does Slater own the copyright if he didn’t press the shutter to take the photo? How much intent or intellect is needed to rightfully own copyright?) PETA filed their own lawsuit – on behalf of the monkey, Naruto. The suit asked the court to allow PETA to administer all proceeds of the photo for Naruto and other macaques living in the reserve where the photo was taken.

    After years in court, PETA’s attempts to appeal, and financial struggle for Slater, a US judge determined there is “no indication” that the Copyright Act extended to animals. PETA and Slater did come to an agreement, however, that Slater will donate 25% any future revenue from using or selling “Monkey Selfie” to charities that protect the endangered monkey species.

  • They Have Campaigned Against The Idea Of 'Pets'

    PETA has a problem with the way humans have turned animals into "pets." Members are against even the word "pet" because they consider it to be "speciest language." Instead, they use the term "Companion Animals."

    The organization "believe[s] that it would have been in the animals' best interests if the institution of 'pet keeping' - i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as 'pets' - never existed." In other words, PETA aims its ire at both puppy mills - which are known to use inhumane practices - and breeders, even if they are safe and humane.

    PETA would also like to see a world without pets someday. As John Bryant, a representative of PETA, put it:

    The cat, like the dog, must disappear… We should cut the domestic cat free from our dominance by neutering, neutering, and more neutering, until our pathetic version of the cat ceases to exist.

  • One PETA Shelter In Virginia Euthanized The Majority Of Animals In Its Care

    PETA believes that euthanasia is a necessary tool in correcting the overpopulation of animals in shelters. According to the organization: 

    Euthanasia literally means 'good death,' and true euthanasia - delivered by an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital - is painless, quick, and dignified. Because of the high number of unwanted companion animals and the lack of good homes, sometimes the most humane thing that a shelter can do is give an animal a peaceful release from a world in which dogs and cats are often considered 'surplus.' [...] Until dog and cat overpopulation is brought under control through spaying and neutering, we must prevent the suffering of unwanted animals in the most responsible and humane way possible.

    Indeed, at least one PETA-run shelter practiced euthanasia at high rates. According to records from 2011 published by The Atlantic, of the 760 dogs brought into a PETA shelter in Norfolk, Virginia, only 19 were adopted, and 36 were sent to other shelters. The remaining 713 dogs - 93% of them - were euthanized. The numbers were similar with cats: 1,198 of the 1,211 animals - nearly 99% of them - brought in were put down. 

    According to Certified Humane, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving conditions of livestock and farm animals, PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk, defended the organization's actions:

    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. The animals…got the gift of euthanasia, and to them it was the best gift they’ve ever had. How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!

  • They Said That Shearing Sheep Is Murder

    There is some validity to the argument that domesticated sheep - unlike wild sheep - have been bred to require shearing.

    But a 2015 PETA ad spread misinformation about about the sheep-shearing process. The ad shows a "lamb" (actually a foam and plastic model) that has been killed to harvest its wool for a coat. The suggestion here is that wool clothing causes lambs and sheep to die - and that's not true. Domestic sheep need to be sheared, or they can get severe health problems, including infections and exhaustion. Still, PETA maintains that wool clothing causes sheep suffering because they are kept captive and forced to grow hair for our benefit, and that shearing lambs can cause mutilation and death. 

    Farmers objected to this ad, and launched a formal complaint. Some responded by doing counter-ads, where the shearers posed naked while shearing sheep, to show that they were not uncaring, and that the sheep were not harmed in the process.