There are a number of reasons why you might be familiar with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the most obvious one being that it’s one of, if not the largest animal rights group in the world. Claiming to have over 6.5 million members and supporters, it’s hard to miss their commercials and actions of opposing ill treatment of animals everywhere, especially so if you’re an animal-lover and a pet owner yourself. Truly, their motto and advocated conduct are hard not to relate to whether you own a pet or not.
However, there’s a dark(er) part of PETA’s campaign, one you won’t be presented with along the celebrities in their ads or videos. Though it’s expected for PETA to have to euthanize some of the animals it saves, just like most other such organizations are forced to do in a number of cases, PETA is unique and unparalleled in its approach, putting down between 70 and 95 percent of animals in its Virginia shelter each year! As astonishing as this may sound, it’s not something that is unknown to the public. In fact, a lot of people are (naturally) protesting this state of affairs at PETA’s shelter, forming massive social groups and condemning the way PETA does business.
There are two sides to each coin, and PETA has claimed numerous times through a myriad of media that it has good reasons for such a high euthanasia rate. Whether or not these reasons are truly justifiable for an organization that is built on the principals of helping and saving animals, we’ll let you decide.
Let’s begin with the most up-front issue: the sheer number of euthanized animals at the PETA Norfolk, Virginia shelter. Based on a publicly available report delivered to and found on Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website, PETA’s employees have euthanized 1,428 animals (mostly dogs and cats) out of 2,007 that they have received in their facility throughout the year of 2016. That’s just above a whopping 71%! And if you think that’s high, think again: judging by the records of previous years found on petakillsanimals.com, yearly euthanasia rates go up to 97% when it comes to cats and dogs which make up the majority of animals PETA receives into its facility! As hard as it might be to believe, 2016 was probably the best year for PETA in the past two decades regarding the ratio of received/euthanized animals in its Norfolk shelter. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the adoption number; with so many animals being euthanized there isn’t much left to adopt in the first place, but even so, the rate of adoption in 2016 was a meekly 4%. That’s 80 animals put into care out of more than two thousand. Again, even though these aren’t the best numbers PETA put out on a yearly basis, they certainly aren’t the worst: in 2008, the Norfolk shelter managed to adopt 7 cats and dogs out of 2,216 that were accommodated throughout that year.
The numbers are shocking to say the least, and one can’t but wonder how and why did one of the biggest animal-rights groups get to a point where it kills most of the animals it takes into its shelter. Moreover, it’s far behind other such groups when it comes to adoption of the same animals, and it keeps assuming the same position year after year for decades; come the end of 2016, PETA has killed over 36,000 animals since 1998. It certainly can’t be about the money… Remember those 6.5 million members and supporters? The organization spends literal millions of dollars each year on its business and even makes a surplus, claiming that most of it goes back to fighting animal exploitation through their programs.
PETA’s two-decade milestone brings it close to 40,000 animals euthanized in its Norfolk shelter
Let’s put that into yet another perspective. In 2016 alone, PETA received $65,740,009 just in contributions, spending over $50 million on “operating expenses” that include research, investigations, rescue, membership development, etc. I’ll spare you the number crunching: that makes for a net change in assets of over $16 million at the end of the year. Compare that to, say, KC Pet Project’s Missouri Animal Shelter in Kansas City whose 2015 annual report dictates a total revenue of $3,194,270, almost half of which is from the city contract, and you get the idea of where PETA is in this “food chain.” Other shelters aren’t even that lucky, and operate at a far lower level when it comes to annual funds (a $29,700 budget for the year of 2014 for Seagoville Animal Services in Texas). How well do these groups fair on the animal saving front? KC Pet Project had a euthanasia rate of 6% in 2016, taking in 9,264 cats and dogs and euthanizing 608. Lynchburg Humane Society took in 3,909 cats and dogs, euthanizing no more than 137! That’s a rate of 3.5% on a larger total number than PETA is handling, with both organizations being based in Virginia.
So how come PETA has the resources yet performs so poorly? Why are the majority of animals in its care being euthanized despite the success stories other similar groups are putting out? Obviously, PETA’s upper management and representatives aren’t oblivious to the devastating numbers that represent their shelter. After all, the quarterly statistics can be found on their very website before they can be found anywhere else, and a curious mind wouldn’t be wrong to look for answers in the same place.
And answers you’ll find… PETA’s website contains posts that address many of the issues brought up either by people themselves or the very numbers at the base of their business. Whether these answers are satisfactory is a different matter altogether, and truth be told, the perspective they assume in majority of situations is questionable if you presume they’re actually trying to help the animals. When it comes to euthanasia, the concept is largely glorified as “good death,” one delivered painless, quick, and with dignity to animals whose numbers are too vast to be controlled. Justifying disturbing figures on their annual reports, PETA states that “euthanasia is a sad reality caused by people who abandon animals, refuse to sterilize their animals, and patronize pet shops and breeders instead of adopting stray animals or animals from animal shelters.” In fact, if you go through their official statement on euthanasia, you’ll find that they’d rather vilify every other aspect of animal treatment than address the one occurring in their own shelter, blaming others for having to euthanize so many animals. At the heart of it stands a quote:
“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. Euthanasia, performed properly, is often the most compassionate option.”
There’s no denying that euthanasia is sometimes the answer to the suffering of living creatures that have no hope of surviving with our current medical knowledge and technology. It’s even been an acceptable practice to perform on humans in several states of the US, titled as the right-to-die law. But what PETA is preaching and has been doing for years is euthanizing animals before they even get a chance to possibly be sick, wounded, or dying, in order to prevent the problem from ever occurring. There were many accusations of PETA killing perfectly good and healthy animals under the coverage of “unadoptability,” a word used often on the group’s website, (presumably) to try and compensate for the large number of animals that there are no homes for. But even HSUS’ (Humane Society of the United States) Vice-President for Companion Animals stated a couple years back that there are far more homes for shelter animals than there are shelter animals, putting a “myth sign” on the pet overpopulation subject. In the end, if other similar shelters are “floating on the tides of success,” why is PETA drowning when they work in the same environment and with far better resources?
From an outsider’s perspective, the answer is somewhat obvious: while most of these shelters are racing in who’ll do a better job at saving as many animals as possible, PETA is spending a lot of its time and money on aspects that are vaguely tied to the matter of animals in need. If you just compare the social media of both sides, you’ll see where the difference lies: one fights for animal lives, and the other (ironically) fights for animal rights. Don’t get me wrong, PETA helps a lot of animals through its practice; just in the first quarter of 2017, their local services have helped 4,660 animals, counseling 196 families in regard to retaining their animals. But out of 608 animals accepted into PETA’s shelter, 490 have been euthanized in the same time period, holding the euthanasia rate at 80% for the beginning of 2017.
While PETA may have a more-or-less controversial standpoint on various contemporary ways of dealing with animals, its direct involvement in trying to save and adopt animals in need is being questioned with a good reason. With the level of attention, support, and resources PETA has available, it’s impossible not to ask whether it could go without having to kill that many animals under its roof. It seems like PETA has a certain fixation towards euthanization even of healthy animals as a means to reduce their number and though it might be a more “humane” death than most, it certainly isn’t better than living. Putting PETA’s other business aside, its rate of euthanizing animals in its shelter and even advocating euthanasia, like in the Seaside Heights feral cat concern, is more than disturbing, and it doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon.