No other animal rights group has become as much of a lightning rod for criticism as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and portions of that criticism are somewhat valid. Having said that, I still support them for two very big reasons.

First, whatever their methods I truly believe their intentions as an organization are legitimate and pure and their overall goals are extremely noble and worth fighting for. In spite of all the somewhat mixed messages they send and the "LOOK AT ME!" stunts to grab attention, at their core they just want what we all as ethical vegans want. A world free of injustice, falsehoods, irresponsibility, and cruelty where humans allow animals the space, freedom, and dignity they were endowed with by nature before humans ever existed on this planet.

Secondly, FWIW I think the original founders, Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, are wonderful people and their intentions when they created the organization were only to help animals and free them from the cowardice and cruelty of mankind. As an agnostic I'm not convinced there is any form of heaven or hell, heck I'm not convinced of anything. However, if it turns out there is a heaven and an afterlife and there exists a just god or gods then these two have already secured their spot there because I cannot think of too many other people who are better examples of the potential nobility and courage of humanity than Ms. Newkirk and Mr. Pacheco. They will always be heroes to me no matter what.

However, and it does pain me to say this because I wish it wasn't so, there are a lot of aspects about the way PETA operates which I strongly disagree with. For starters, their penchant for euthanizing animals sends a very bad message and costs them and the animal rights movement a lot of support and credibility. I know PETA has offered what they believe to be unavoidable reasons for euthanasia but with all due respect if other organizations such as the ASPCA can make a stronger effort to encourage adoption from shelters and spaying/neutering as opposed to killing then I can't see why PETA cannot do the same.

Another thing which bothers me is PETA's decision to pick fights with other animal rights organizations or individuals such as the ASPCA, Friends of Animals, or the late Steve Irwin. Nothing saddens me more than people within the animal rights movement fighting amongst themselves. We should be fighting against our common enemies and trying to unite the entire, and admitedly broad, spectrum of the animal rights movement under one tent rather than splintering and weakening it with petty infighting. If PETA has legitimate criticism of other animal rights groups it should open constructive dialog without trying to destroy them completely which ends up doing more harm than good. Having PETA left standing as the only AR organization isn't going to make things better. The more people and groups fighting for the rights of all animals the better things will be and the quicker things will change.

Lastly, and this is what bothers me the most, is PETA's strategy of enlisting any and every celebrity it can in order to give the false impression that Hollywood is somehow a bastion of decency and compassion towards animals. I do not doubt there are some individuals out there such as Bob Barker, who in spite of being only vegetarian instead of vegan has done more to promote animal rights than any other Hollywood celebrity I can think of, that are truly devoted to helping animals and do so with honor and integrity. Others such as Joaquin Phoenix, Alicia Silverstone, and Pamela Anderson seem to be earnest in their love for animals although in the case of Ms. Anderson her rather promiscuous image is such a sideshow that it detracts somewhat from the message in spite of its merits. Oh well, still I'd rather have her with us than against us since her heart seems to be in the right place. The problem is that for every celebrity who is acting with conviction and principle there are a number of selfish, hypocrite, "posers" for whom appearing in a PETA ad is nothing more than public self-promotion and who know nothing about the animal rights movement and couldn't care less about animals if it gets in the way of their career or their personal satisfaction. There is a certain individual who I won't mention by name but he has played the character of Spiderman in film who was quoted as basically saying he doesn't give a dang about animals but he became vegan in order to improve his health. When PETA enlists such an individual, and they did, it sends the message that all there is to veganism is a vegan diet and that helping animals is only a worthwhile endeavor provided you get some primary benefit out of it. Enlisting another celebrity such as Silverstone or Phoenix who are vegan for both moral and health reasons sends a much more useful and positive message. It seems there is no one that PETA won't work with. Even one of the Kardashians has appeared with PETA and I'm sorry but the moment you start trotting out any member of that family as a tool for trying to convince people to act honorably and with compassion your message is going to run off the tracks. Then you have the case of someone such as Bill Maher who is apparently on the PETA board of directors but who seemingly wants nothing to do with any part of helping out animals if it intrudes on his greed and self-appetites. In a Larry King interview he was quoted as saying that in spite of PETA's endorsement of veganism he still consumes meat and animal products and that he "does not march lock-step with everything PETA says". So here we have not just any individual but one who sits on the PETA board openly putting down what I consider the most important message PETA proclaims which is a call for veganism. If that doesn't send a destructive message I don't know what does. He goes on to offer as justification for his decision to contribute to the suffering of animals the fact that "animals eat other animals" and he sees no reason why humans shouldn't do the same. He even had the gall to say that the difference is that animals don't kill with cruelty. Well Bill, problem is that when you consume animal products you are contributing to the pain and suffering of innocent creatures because, unlike animals, humans do kill with extreme cruelty. He also conveniently ignores the fact that humans differ from animals in their ability to *nalyze the choices they make and in knowing the consequences of such choices.

Like I said, overall I still support PETA because this world needs more people fighting for justice not less but I wish People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would rely less on people who might be famous and rich and more on others who may lack fame or wealth but are full of compassion and conviction. Ok, time to end my speech because I am going to go eat. I think I will have some vegan bean burritos with a nice helping of fresh green salad. If you have anything to add to what I wrote I'd love to read it when I come back.

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