Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PETA releases typically bad response to critics

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PETA has released a statement in response to the recent Atlantic piece slamming the group for its continuing practice of killing all but a handful of the animals it supposedly cares for, and it’s distinctly lacking. The whole thing is essentially whining about supposedly being unfairly portrayed, yet without presenting any real rejoinders to the claims in the original exposé, and the end result only makes the group come across as thin-skinned to boot.

PETA was floored by the title and tone of James McWilliams' article about PETA's euthanasia of some of the saddest dogs and cats in Virginia. While we appreciate that the editorial included some points on our perspective, it did a disservice to homeless animals by failing to examine the causes of and ways to reduce euthanasia -- something PETA works on every day. It waved aside PETA's vital preventative work -- from the more than 10,000 no-cost to low-cost spay-and-neuter surgeries we performed last year in Virginia alone to the time, money, and effort we spend promoting shelter adoptions and spaying and neutering -- to focus on Nathan Winograd's comments against our organization and against PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, thereby leaving The Atlantic's readers with a grossly incomplete picture of what PETA does and why. The fact is that we do more than almost any group to reduce euthanasia, and more than most to clean up after members of our society who sorely neglect animals and create such misery to begin with.

Quick tip: When responding to criticism, the proper way to address the claims made against you – especially when the foremost is concerning your 95% kill rate (which really cannot be emphasized enough) – is not to ignore them and instead deflect attention to the good things you have accomplished. People’s attention spans aren’t short enough to let them forget about the muck just because you point them to something comparatively shinier. Sadly, this is the tone that carries on throughout the rest of the piece:

The fact that PETA will take in even the most broken animals may not "change the fact that Virginia animal shelters as a whole had a much lower kill rate of 44 percent," but it does explain it. That's because PETA refers adoptable animals to the high-traffic open-admission shelters rather than taking them in ourselves, thereby giving them a better chance of being seen and re-homed. As for the "no-kill" shelters, their figures are great because they slam the door on the worst cases, referring them, in fact, to PETA. We operate a "shelter of last resort," meaning that when impoverished families cannot afford to pay a veterinarian to let a suffering and/or aged animal leave this world, PETA will help, free of charge. When an aggressive, unsocialized dog has been left starving at the end of a chain, with a collar grown into his neck, his body racked with mange, PETA will accept him and put him down so that he does not die slowly out there. As Virginia officials speaking of PETA's euthanasia rate acknowledged to USA Today, "PETA will basically take anything that comes through the door, and other shelters won't do that."

The vast majority of the animals with whom PETA interacts are not part of that count. They do not enter our custody at all, because we do everything possible to ensure that they remain with their families. In addition to free veterinary care, including sterilization surgeries, PETA provides bedding, shelter, food, and counseling so that low-income families can keep their dogs and cats instead of abandoning them at shelters. We do this for tens of thousands of animals every year, but the state of Virginia only counts the animals who are given into our custody -- often, specifically so that we might grant them a peaceful death.

Note the continuing deflections, the huffing and puffing without blowing any arguments down. Look, PETA: Yes, you do good things. Congratulations. No-one’s ever said you were all bad. And ending the suffering of truly hopeless animals is indeed a noble endeavor. But none of the arguments and claims presented above have any real bearing on the issue at hand – that PETA has put down an absolutely staggering 87.7% of all animals put in their charge over the last 13 years, including 95.9% in 2011 alone (which is still less than the 97.3% in 2009). You can’t just go, “Sure, we kill nearly every single creature placed in our care, but we do help some!” That really isn’t a valid counter-argument. To anything. Ever. Either come up with a credible and substantive reason why the vast majority of your charges had to be put down, or just admit you’re full of crap.

But better yet, as if all that weaseling weren’t enough to put you off PETA for good, the article then closes by unleashing the false dichotomy guns full-blast on the group’s critics:

Every time someone attacks PETA -- or any other organization -- for doing the heartbreaking work of cleaning up after a throwaway society that thoughtlessly buys, breeds, and discards animals, the puppy millers, breeders, and irresponsible guardians who create the homeless animal overpopulation crisis get off scot-free. At PETA, we know that the only way to a "no-kill" nation is to stop bringing more puppies and kittens into a world that does not offer them the chance for a home. Pointing a finger at us does nothing to help the animals who are suffering today and won't stop animals from having to be euthanized tomorrow.

PETA: You’re either with us, or with the kitten-torturing puppy mills!

Yeah … I’m sure accusing your critics of being enemies of animal welfare is going to win you a lot of friends, folks. Keep it up.

To end on a somewhat ironic note, though, PETA is right about one thing. Their claim of being a “shelter of last resort” is spot-on – just not in the way they intend.

(via Joe. My. God.)