PETA rehash thread

Ok, so I just finished reading a bunch of the PETA threads from the last couple of years. I’m not convinced that PETA is a legitimate activist group, and I’m very skeptical of animal rights, but I’m a little surprised at the willfull ignorance by most of the posters in the other PETA threads. Almost more than any other issue there seems to be a total lack of rationality when it comes to PETA. Most anti-PETA claims seem to fall into three categories: criticism of the principle of animal rights without offering any warrant for the criticism, unsubstantiated rumors, and ad hominem attacks.

So, those of you that are vehemently anti-PETA, which of the following premises is wrong?

        1.  Animal rights, as defined in the PETA FAQ, is an intellectually honest, and internally consistent philosophical position.

        2. PETA's advocacy is consistent with the principle of animal rights.  

I sort of think the anti-PETA feelings on the board stem from hostility toward animal rights theory, but very few people have actually expressed arguments against it, instead choosing to flame PETA. Is that what’s going on?


Peta engages in obnoxious human behaviors. It isn’t about animal right thepries. It’s about some people being obnoxious.

I think so, but I think that the reason that it goes on is because it’s hard to actually debate “animal rights,” because the concept of animal rights is an almost axiomatic belief: either you think that animals have rights and that their interests’s should come before those of humans, or you don’t. It’s a question of how much you value animals relative to people, which is ultimately a subjective personal belief.

I make little distinction between the legal PETA and its terrorist allies it supports. PETA is simply a Popular Front for the terrorists.

These people are bullies. Unable to get what they want through the political process, they go outside it to make people do as they would wish them to do.

Ideological consistency may be a Good Thing, but it is not the only or main thing.

I agree that it a personal belief, but I do think there is a reasonable middle ground. Of course, I also think I occupy it! :wink: I’m strongly in support of animal rights as far as avoiding needless pain and suffering goes, but I am not altogther opposed to their use in medical research, use for food or leather or use as muscle (riding, plowing, catching vermin, etc.).

This means that me personal crusades are things like free-range grass-fed cattle, chicken with access to a yard, and pigs with reasonable living space, all treated well before being killed humanely and as painlessly as possible. Giving painkillers and appropriate medications to lab animals when their illness is not directly related to the research, and again, humanely and as painlessly as possible killing them when they’re no longer of use.

I think PETA is a bunch of slavering loonies with no grasp of public debate, pursuasive discourse or simple public relations. That’s not to say I think (some) of their crusades are wrong, per se. I’d like to see more humane treatment of chickens destined for sandwiches, too. But I think they’re going about it in entirely the wrong way, pissing off many people (who then go an order a chicken sandwich just to be ornery) and losing any credibility they might hope to have. They are a joke, and no one listens seriously to a joke.

So while I don’t find 1 or 2 to be entirely the case, I’d have to add “3. Their techniques are obtrusive, obnoxious and just plain silly, and I suspect do more to move people away from their agenda than bring them into it.”

This is actually untrue. The seminal work in the field, Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights, assumes only two axioms (if I recall correctly):

  1. We are beings existing in an objective universe comprehensible through reason, logic, and perception; and
  2. Typical humans are beings capable of making moral decisions.

From that position, the book closely argues several further positions, including:

  1. Fido is capable of sensing pain and pleasure. (note that there’s a tradition dating back to at least Descartes that denies this).
  2. Fido is capable of thinking, remembering things, being aware of his own identity over time, having and expressing desires, and having and expressing a self-interest.
  3. A utilitarian moral system is based on incorrect assumptions.
  4. A social contract moral system leads to unacceptable outcomes (e.g., parents may torture their children to death, as long as they do so prior to the point that the child is capable of harming other people).
  5. A rights-based system most accurately reflects our intuitions, is most consistent, and in other ways most conforms to the ideal moral code.
  6. Rights must be handed out in a reasonable fashion, not arbitrarily.
  7. It is arbitrary to grant certain rights (e.g., the right not to be tortured) to all humans but to no nonhuman animals.

While I think Regan makes a very strong case, I acknowledge that there are avenues of attack on his case; for example, I think he both overstates the interest most animals have in not being killed, and understates the interest most humans have in adhering to their culture. However, it is incorrect to state that animal rights is an axiomatic position: it is a position that may be argued intelligently from either side based on a few shared common principles.


As for the OP:

  1. I think this position is accurate.
  2. I also think that they’re generally behaving in manners consistent with these principles.

However, that’s not enough. As whynot said, they often act in manners that are not consistent with advancing their principles.

Operation Rescue holds a position that is intellectually honest and internally consistent. Their activism is consistent with their pro-life position. However, it is offensive and repellent and may work to drive more people away from the anti-abortion position than otherwise. I think PETA holds a similar place, and can be very fairly criticized for it.

Add to that the fact that PETA, unlike Operation Rescue, often seems enchanted with their own outre attitude, and I find their campaigns occasionally contemptible.


The missing link from the OP: PETA’s FAQ

Please provide specific examples.  (Not that I think they don't exist, but I'd like specific acts for us to be able to discuss...i.e. is it the battles they choose, the righteous tone of the campaigns, etc.).  

Also, if PETA’s goal is to get people to discuss and think about animal rights, surely they’ve had more success than similar organizations. Or do you think that people actually reject animal rights just out of disdain for PETA?

I think using the word “terrorist” to apply to ALF unecessarily dilutes the meaning of the word. If destruction of property is terrorism, was the Boston Tea Party a terrorist act? This definition distracts us from the pursuit of real terrorists (note the FBI’s labeling of ELF as the most important domestic terror concern). ALF acts recklessly and it may eventually cost the life of a fireman, but let’s not put them in the same camp as Timothy McVeigh.

Also, I’m not convinced that PETA is the popular front. What is your proof?

How is PETA different from any other activist group in this regard?

I think that if I were convinced that animals had rights equal to humans, PETA would seem like a beacon of restraint. If slavery were around today, would you burn down the plantation in order to free the slaves? PETA doesn’t even go that far (unless Paul in Saudi is right about their connection to ALF). They march around businesses that sell slave-made products asking you not to purchase them. Sure they have a righteous tone, but…wouldn’t you?

The classic example: their campaign of showing photographs of a henhouse next to photographs of Nazi concentration camp victims, drawing a supremely offensive comparison between the two. There’s a line you don’t cross, and that’s like fifty million miles over the line.

No, but I think people end up rejecting animal welfare out of disdain for PETA. A lot of people lump all animal advocates into one group of animal whackos, and PETA, as the biggest publicity whore in the group, too often becomes the face for animal advocates.

I absolutely agree.

Again, this is a very good point. They’ve chosen, for very valid strategic reasons, to remain nonviolent, and I applaud that choice, but I’d understand if (given their assumptions, ones that I don’t share) they turned violent. HOWEVER, much of their nonviolent activism is, in my opinion, extremely stupid, offensive, and counterproductive.

Other bits of their activism are not. You may have notice in other threads that I advocate a nuanced view of them, and have gotten called all sorts of choice names for it; I stand by my assessment of them.


Animal rights is totally absurd concept held by people with truly bizzare fetishes (not in the sexual sense) for animals. PETA wishes for these bizzare fetishes to become accepted social norms and advocates laws that discriminate against cultures that they feel are inferior solely because of their traditional, religous, or cultural, treatment of animals. They’re evil, not unlike the HSUS or most SPCAs. The people involved in these organizations are bigots who wish to impose by the force their culture on others who they feel are culturally inferior to them.

My thoughts about animal rights are entirely independent of PETA.
PETA gets people to talk about PETA.

There is also evidence that Peta is a hypocritical organization – there is some reasonable suspicion regarding the fate of animals that they “rescue.”

I do like the pictures of naked people that they put up, though.

I went to the PETA dotorg website, and I read the FAQs. I feel they are dodging at least a couple of obvious questions.

1.) PETA says we don’t have the right to use animals for testing. Assuming that testing of living beings is necessary for the development of drugs and surgical techniques, would PETA rather have that testing done on humans instead? Have PETA members volunteered themselves and their children for testing?

2.) PETA says we don’t have the right to eat animals, or use their skins after they are dead. What do they propose we do with all the farm animals, once they are homeless street creatures? Are you ready to have cattle calmly break down your hedge to get to your veggie garden? Will you accept the chickens’ right to nest in the shrubs under your bedroom window, waking you up at dawn every day? When a marauding band of hogs wipes out an acre of wheat, what is the farmer to do, sue them?

Asknott, I encourage you to write to PETA and ask these questions, or just read the last chapter or two in The Case for Animal Rights. Some off-the-top-of-my-head answers to them:

  1. Your assumption is not necessarily true; even if it is, it’s not necessary that such testing occur. Even if that testing must occur and is inevitable, you might make the case that it should only be done on volunteers, and there’s nothing requiring PETA to volunteer for it. This is an invalid complaint against them; their failure to answer your question is not a dodge.
  2. One simple answer would be to stop breeding farm animals and let attrition take its natural course. There’s no reason why farm animals would need to be taken off the farm for this to occur.

I have to say that I don’t consider your objections to be reasonable. Nevertheless, if you believe they are, it’s incumbent on you to get answers to them from the horse’s mouth, so to speak; I bet if you write to them, they’ll send you some answers.


1.) In every one of the wondrous transplant surgery techniques, the procedures were first tried on animals, so they wouldn’t have to risk the lives of people. I don’t buy this “A rat is a dog is a boy” motto I’ve heard from animal rights folks. If surgeons are going to try out a new surgical method, I want it tried on a heifer instead of my brother.

2.) Your “simple answer” is not simple at all. If the animals are kept on the farm and segregated to prevent breeding, they will continue to eat lots of expensive grain and hay. What farmer can afford to feed a score of 1-year old cattle for the rest of their natural lives, if they’re producing nothing but manure? (I’m assuming 20 years.) Besides, do we “have a right” to confine these beings against their will and keep them from breeding? How ethical is that?

If we are to treat animals ethically, as we treat each other, wouldn’t we expect them to try to make a living without stealing food from humans? What would you pay a sow to do? The only job hogs have ever done, other than making pork, is finding truffles. There aren’t enough truffles in the world to employ more than a few hundred hogs.

The original poster asked if this statement is false:

I believe I have effectively challenged that concept. PETA didn’t start this thread. Zhao Daoli did, and that’s why your attempt to shunt me off to PETA is bogus, Daniel.

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I agree that it is offensive, but I don’t agree that it is immorally or counterproductively offensive. The offense is felt by individuals that don’t believe that people are equal to animals, and they are offended at the comparison. But PETA’s point is that if you believe in animal rights then you need to see that there is a holocaust (little h) going on right now. I agree that it does nothing to persuade people that are already against animal rights, but I think it might motivate people that nominally believe in animal rights or are on the fence to take action or learn more.

The idea for the campaign came from Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote: "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for them it is an eternal Treblinka.”

Really? John Doe believes that we ought to treat animals with kindness, but after being subjected to an offensive PETA campaign believes that animals don’t deserve kindness?

If the argument is that PETA diverts attention away from other, potentially more persuasive groups, I think you might have something. But I wonder if there’s any reason to believe that these groups would accomplish everything that PETA has accomplished in terms of actually convincing corporations to change their practices (which is quite a bit).

A claim, but no warrant, followed by an appeal to cultural relativism. Not very convincing.

I think this was covered pretty well in the thread about this, but I’ll just re-cap. There is no evidence that PETA is systemically illegally disposing of euthanized animals. And there is no reason to believe that these animals wouldn’t have been euthanized anyway. A painless death is better than torture.

I don’t know enough about this to comment. Anyone care to muster the evidence that animal testing is unnecessary?

Even if it were necessary, though, your argument assumes that humans are superior to animals. This is, of course, the assumption being challenged.

This one the PETA FAQ answers pretty well. I’ll post it for ease:

Left Hand of Dorkness, I applaud your nuanced view of PETA. It seems like a reasonable one.

Just to be clear, I do not completely disagree with PETA. I oppose unnecessary cruelty to animals. My definition of cruelty is not as far-reaching as PETA’s is. I eat meat (but no veal or foie gras,) and they say that’s cruel. I don’t need to wear fur, but I have found no effective subsitute for leather shoes. PETA says I’m a bad guy for that.

I respect their positions, but I disagree with them.

AskNott: I’m pretty much in your camp when it comes to PETA; I’m not particularly persuaded by animal rights philosophy. But it seems that so many on this board despise PETA for stupid reasons. I started the thread in the hope that those people would try to state their positions reasonably. I’m still hoping Unregistered Bull comes back.

But why would we keep the animals then? Will PETA give the ranchers a stipend per head to keep them? Part of the price of raising them is factored into the price of selling them. :confused: :confused: :confused:

It’s a good question; part of the problem is that the central idea (PETA gets its way) is so phenomenally unrealistic that it’s hard to figure out what the world would look like in which this premise occurred. If it occurred due to PETA’s persuading folks that they were right, can we also assume that society will get together and spend the massive funds necessary to care for all livestock until they die of old age?

I just don’t know how to answer it without positing something equally unrealistic. It’s like asking, “Okay, if we DO get everyone to live in peace and harmony, what are we going to do with the millions of people whose livelihood depends on the possibility of war and crime?”

Asknott, if you’d like to dismiss animal rights philosophy as internally inconsistent, you need to know more about it than you do. I’m moderately familiar with the philosophy, but I don’t adhere to it (the shrimp are thawing for my dinner as I type this). I referred you to PETA because that’s a place where you can get answers from folks who advocate the philosophy. Nobody in this thread advocates it, so nobody here can provide it an adequate defense.