Information

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded


On August 21, 1980, animal rights advocates Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Rising from humble beginnings, PETA will soon become the world’s foremost and most controversial animal rights organization.

Newkirk’s interest in protecting animals began 11 years prior, when she found some abandoned kittens and was appalled by the conditions that awaited them at a New York City animal shelter. She set aside her plans to become a stockbroker and instead focused on animals, eventually becoming the first female poundmaster in the history of the District of Columbia. In 1980 she began dating Pacheco, a graduate student and activist who had sailed aboard a whale-protection ship, and the two co-founded PETA a short time later.

PETA’s first major campaign came the following year, when Pacheco got a job at a research facility in Silver Spring, Maryland in order to expose the experiments being conducted on monkeys there. PETA distributed photos of the monkeys being kept in horrific conditions, leading to a police raid and, eventually, the first-ever conviction of a researcher on animal-cruelty charges.

Having made a national name for itself, PETA continued to shine a spotlight on animal cruelty. PETA continued to conduct undercover operations and file lawsuits on behalf of animals, but is is perhaps best known for its marketing campaigns and stunts. An early-'90s ad campaign depicted bloody scenes from slaughterhouses with captions like “Do you want fries with that?” while another ad series featured a number of naked celebrities in protest of the fur industry. PETA activists have been known to wear elaborate costumes, body paint, or nothing at all to draw attention to their causes, and to throw red paint symbolizing blood on people wearing fur.

PETA has been criticized from all sides—many believe them to be extremists and find their methods distasteful, while other activists criticize PETA’s willingness to work with corporations in industries like fast food or fashion to make incremental improvements to animal welfare. Still others within the animal rights movement argue that PETA plays an outsized role, focusing attention on media controversies instead of concrete changes.

Nonetheless, PETA has achieved a litany of animal-rights reforms: convincing some of the world’s largest fashion brands not to use fur, animal-testing bans by more than 4,6000 personal-care companies, ending the use of animals in automobile crash tests, closing the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and exposing thousands of instances of animal cruelty across the world are just a few of the organization’s accomplishments.

READ MORE: 5 Animals That Helped Change History


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

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  • Overall, we rate PETA far left-biased and a strong pseudoscience source based on promoting false and unproven claims related to science.

Detailed Report

Founded in 1980, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. According to their about page “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.”

Funded by / Ownership

PETA is a nonprofit that is funded through donations. The website and organization lacks transparency as they do not disclose top donors.

Analysis / Bias

In review, PETA “opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry.” PETA has been called “one of the world’s largest, most aggressive, and most controversial animal liberation groups.” Articles and headlines on the website are often highly emotional such as this WATCH: Mice Struggle to Crawl After Experimenters Crush Spinal Cords. When it comes to sourcing most videos and photos displayed on the website come from anonymous sources, indicating poor sourcing and a lack of transparency.

When it comes to science PETA has promoted that Milk is a cause for Autism. They have also claimed that beer is more healthy than milk as a way to protect cows. Finally, PETA is known for extreme measures such as throwing red paint on people wearing fur and for comparing “Livestock treatment to both the Holocaust and to the mass lynching of African-Americans.” In general, news reporting is not always factual and aligns with the far left when it comes to animal activism.

Failed Fact Checks

Overall, we rate PETA far left-biased and a strong pseudoscience source based on promoting false and unproven claims related to science. (D. Van Zandt 2/8/2017) Updated (2/27/2021)


PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international nonprofit organization that supports animal rights and has spawned a tremendous amount of conflict and controversy from its inception. The organization, which has been headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, since 1996, was founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk, who had worked at an animal shelter and then as a deputy sheriff in Montgomery County, Maryland, where she focused on animal-cruelty cases. She was also chief of Animal Disease Control for the Public Health Commission of the District of Columbia.

Newkirk became increasingly horrified at the inhumane treatment of animals that she encountered in her work, particularly in socalled "factory farms," which confine hundreds to thousands of animals (usually chickens, pigs, turkeys, or cows) in one facility, and in research laboratories. While other organizations are dedicated to seeing that animals are treated humanely, none is as radical in both outlook and strategies as PETA. Newkirk has been quoted as saying, "When it comes to feelings like hunger, pain, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." The organization's philosophy is uncompromising: "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." The organization's goals to inform and educate the public and policy-makers about animal abuse and to stop such abuse wherever possible are carried out in a number of ways.

PETA is a grassroots organization run by hundreds of volunteers under the leadership of Newkirk, Dan Mathews, vice-president of campaigns, and Bruce Friedrich, director of vegan outreach. The vegan philosophy prohibits eating, wearing, or using any kind of animal products including milk, eggs, honey, and wool or leather products.

PETA has been called "the most successful radical organization in America." With over 750,000 members and supporters in the United States and around the world, the organization has an annual budget of approximately $14 million, almost all of which is raised by small contributions from individuals.

In addition to familiar protest tactics such as letter-writing campaigns and corporate boycotts, the organization makes prolific use of multiple Web sites that proselytize against numerous issues, including the fur trade (furismurder.com), fishing (fishinghurts.com), zoos (wildlifepimps.com), tobacco companies that continue to do animal testing (smokinganimals.com), and fast food restaurants. PETA has been particularly successful in appealing to youth between the ages of 13 and 24 who are interested in the humane treatment of animals as well as vegetarianism and veganism. The organization's youth-oriented Web site peta2.com advertises PETA as the "largest and boldest animal rights organization in the world."

PETA supporters have staged hundreds of flamboyant activities in the United States and Europe in which they have sprayed red paint on fur coats while the coats were being worn, tossed containers of currency covered with fake blood on audiences at the International Fur Fair, dropped a dead raccoon on the plate of a Vogue magazine editor as she dined at a fashionable New York restaurant, sat naked in cages and crawled along streets wearing leg-hold traps on their feet.

In November 2002, PETA activists disrupted a Victoria's Secret lingerie show that was being watched on network television by 11 million viewers. Despite extremely high security, several women managed to leap onto the stage in front of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen with signs that read "Gisele: Fur Scum." Bundchen had been featured in a series of ads promoting a line of Blackglama brand mink furs. Although the PETA supporters were quickly arrested and jailed, the subsequent news stories and video clips of the incident were played throughout the world, eclipsing coverage of the show and gaining maximum publicity for PETA.

Like its other strategies, PETA advertising campaigns are designed to create maximum interest by both attracting and repelling political and public attention. Some of PETA ad campaigns featuring nude female celebrities under the slogan "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" have drawn the ire of both conservative and feminist groups. When PETA ran a series of ads lampooning the dairy industry's "Got Milk?" campaign with a "Got Beer?" ad that ran in numerous college newspapers, the organization was attacked by mothers against drunk driving (MADD) for making light of alcohol abuse by college students.

In February 2003, PETA launched what many considered its most inflammatory campaign to date, a traveling exhibit called "Holocaust on Your Plate," which compared human abuse and mistreatment of animals to the torture, cruelty, and death inflicted by the Nazis on concentration camp victims. Numerous writers and organizations including the anti-defamation league denounced the PETA exhibit, but the organization succeeded once again in making the news.

Other organizations have sought IRS revocation of the PETA nonexempt status citing the violence of the rhetoric used by PETA leaders and activists and its support of the Animal Liberation Front, which has been labeled a "domestic terror-ist" group and openly claims to use damage and destruction of property to save animals.

Even the organization's critics, however, agree that PETA has been instrumental in a number of victories ranging from closing laboratories where animals were mistreated to getting cosmetic corporations to stop animal testing and persuading car manufacturers not to use animals as auto crash test subjects. PETA also successfully applied pressure to various fast food corporations to add vegetarian options to their menus and to institute regulations for better treatment of poultry and livestock by their producers.


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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than five million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all animals. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests", and the abuse of backyard dogs. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than five million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all animals. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests", and the abuse of backyard dogs. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.


All violence is equal

PETA will often try to compare violence against humans with violence against animals, saying they're essentially equal. This will often manifest itself in physical protests by getting naked to protest fur, lying in a coffin to show death, or having an activist dress or act like an animal and face faux cruelty in a public space.

These are all unconventional and flashy measures designed to elicit feelings to get people to think about these subjects.

This becomes controversial, and maybe even violent when PETA pushes people's emotional well-being to the edge. Because of artificial insemination practices that can hurt the cow when repeatedly done, PETA has compared modern birthing cows to human rape victims.

Many women's rights activists, who might also be left-leaning or vegetarian, found to be this a step too far. PETA feels that the disregard of the feelings of all women, including the non-human ones, must be taken into account and that there is no difference in the mass rape.


10 Insane Facts About PETA

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was formed in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco. While hardly the first animal rights organization, PETA is one of the most extreme, known for staging wild publicity stunts, including comparing the activities of serial killers to the butchering of livestock and hosting nude protests. Like many extremist factions, many of PETA&rsquos philosophies are noble unfortunately these are often overshadowed by the ridiculous things to which they take offense. Below are ten of the more bizarre aspects of the world&rsquos most controversial animal welfare groups.

It should come as no surprise that PETA, which endorses a vegan lifestyle, is strictly anti-dairy. They&rsquove gone as far as to claim milk is a &ldquoracist drink&rdquo, because certain minorities show a greater propensity for lactose intolerance. Perusing the PETA website, they claim that not only is it a terrible cruelty to relieve cows of their milk, but the beverage itself is practically poison to the human system, causing a litany of health problems from asthma to osteoporosis. Hoping to draw publicity to their cause, the group even urged ice cream giant Ben & Jerry&rsquos to replace cow&rsquos milk with human milk in their recipes. Not surprisingly, the idea fell flat.

For a desperate pet owner with nowhere else to turn, it would seem that there would be no safer place to bring their animal than a shelter run by PETA. After all, an organization so dedicated to the well-being of all creatures great and small would do anything in their power to make sure Fluffy had the opportunity to find a loving home. Unfortunately, PETA feels it is a &ldquokindness&rdquo to euthanize homeless pets, and they do so at a staggering rate. Their shelters kill vastly more cats and dogs than do those run by the ASPCA. PETA shelters have been known to euthanize over 90% of the animals that are rendered into their care, adopting out only a small handful. According to Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA&rsquos vice president of cruelty investigations, &ldquoOur euthanasia program has never been a secret. This is one of many, many things that we do to alleviate the suffering of animals.&rdquo

It is generally accepted that the idea of laboratory testing on animals can be somewhat cruel, but often a necessary evil in developing products, specifically medications, which benefit humans. PETA roundly rejects such testing, and while sensibly advocating methods such as computer programs, they have also suggested that humans are better suited to endure treatment than animals. According to their website &ldquoThere are some medical problems that can probably only be cured by testing on unwilling people, but we don&rsquot do it because we recognize that it would be wrong.&rdquo

Celebrity superchef Gordon Ramsay has continually found himself in the crosshairs of PETA. In 2007, when he cooked horse meat on his tv show &ldquoThe F-Word&rdquo, he brought down the thunder. PETA representatives responded by dumping a ton of manure outside Claridge&rsquos, his London restaurant. More recently, PETA released an undercover video filmed at Hudson Valley Foie Gras factory in Sullivan County, New York, which supplies a restaurant in Manhattan that operates under Ramsay&rsquos name. The ducks are shown suffering under deplorable conditions, being fed grain by tubes down their throats, meant to fatten their livers.

Although it might seem PETA relies solely on ludicrous publicity stunts to get their point across, the organization is actually far more cunning. Indeed, they have parlayed a great deal of their revenue into buying stock in the very companies they despise, including fast food chains and meat packing plants, where they can use their clout to change policies from the inside out. One such hot button issue was battled out with McDonald&rsquos PETA protested the way the fast food giant killed chickens. While some companies used gas to slaughter their birds, McDonald&rsquos was known to dip them into an electrically charged bath.

While campaigns against the drinking of milk are likely judged by most as absurd, many people seem to believe that the fur trade is probably an unnecessary cruelty. With the exception of those few people who make their livelihood from raising, trapping, and selling fur, eliminating the trade entirely would not likely have any huge impact on society. While fur protesters in the past went to such drastic measures as throwing red paint on people wearing minks, even extremists like PETA have recently taken a different tack. They have begun donating fur to the homeless, a double edged sword which serves not only to benefit the disenfranchised, but also to dilute the elitist appeal of the garments. While the pro-fur community largely keeps its own counsel, PETA has attracted one huge celebrity to the fray&mdashLady Gaga, whose unfortunate wardrobe constitutes entire menageries of the animals.

Ingrid Newkirk is the co-founder of PETA and the mastermind of some of their more off-the-wall schemes. One such tactic was releasing a public will, wherein she suggested that her body be &ldquoused&rdquo like an animals&rsquo. She asked that her flesh be cooked in a human barbecue, her skin made into leather products, her feet made into umbrella stands, and one of her eyes delivered to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other parts of her body were to be severed, preserved, and sent around the world to draw attention to various causes, including circuses and mink farms.

PETA has long used images of nude celebrities in awareness raising ads, and in 2009, NBC pulled the plug on a PETA Superbowl ad which featured scantily clad women making erotic intimations with vegetables. In 2012, they unveiled a porn website, which, while containing some provocative content, is largely just a ploy to attract unsuspecting viewers to its website. Disturbing videos of animal abuse far outweigh anything the lascivious might enjoy.

Helmed by the adorable yellow mouse Pikachu, Pokemon is about as innocuous a source of entertainment as could be imagined a children&rsquos franchise about imaginary creatures who do battle. However, PETA has asserted that Pokemon glamorizes violence against animals, much in the way of dog fighting. When Pokemon released a video game featuring their characters called &ldquoBlack & White&rdquo, PETA released a parody version called &ldquoBlack & Blue&rdquo, in which the player attempts to rescue animals from their cruel trainers.

PETA has a long history of protesting the video game industry, which tends to produce games that feature extravagant violence (though rarely against animals). One of their more ridiculous and public rows was against the Super Mario franchise, particularly Mario&rsquos raccoon dog &ldquoTanooki&rdquo suit, an item you can acquire that allows Mario to fly.

Although mankind has kept pets since before recorded history (and indeed many historians would assert that civilization itself would have been impossible without domesticating animals), PETA is committed to a future in which people would not be able to own pets, claiming on their website &ldquoThe selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering,&rdquo Their vision includes a future in such our dogs and cats would be successively neutered into extinction.

Even more bizarre, PETA makes the claim that dogs and cats should be relegated to a vegetarian diet. Cats in particular are obligate carnivores, and must have a diet primarily composed of meat, with heavy doses of protein, fat, and taurine. While they might be able to live some time on supplements and the like, their health will eventually falter.

Mike Devlin is an aspiring novelist. He will continue to drink chocolate milk, no matter what anybody says.


PETA’s History: Compassion in Action

Before PETA existed, there were two important things that you could do if you wanted to help animals. You could volunteer at a local animal shelter, or you could donate money to a humane society. While many of these organizations did useful work to bring comfort to animals who are used by humans, they didn’t question why we kill animals for their flesh or their skins or why we use them for tests of new product ingredients or for our entertainment.

PETA’s founders sought to give caring people something more that they could do and to provide them ways to actively change society. They wanted to promote a healthy vegan diet and show how easy it is to shop cruelty-free. They wanted to protest, loudly and publicly, against cruelty to animals in all its forms, and they wanted to expose what really went on behind the very thick, soundproof walls of animal laboratories.

Aided by thorough investigative work, consumer protests, and international media coverage, PETA brings together members of the scientific, corporate, and legislative communities to achieve large-scale, long-term changes that improve animals’ quality of life and prevent their deaths.

PETA’s first case—the precedent-setting 1981 Silver Spring monkeys case—resulted in the first arrest and criminal conviction of an animal experimenter in the U.S. on charges of cruelty to animals, the first confiscation of abused laboratory animals, and the first U.S. Supreme Court victory for animals in laboratories. And we haven’t stopped fighting—and winning—in our efforts for animals since.

Historic Cases
Every year, with the help of generous supporters, PETA is able to secure victories for animals. And every victory is important and celebrated, from the smallest mouse spared a horrific death in a glue trap to the thousands of cows, pigs, chickens, and fish whose lives are saved every time someone goes vegetarian.

The following are just a few of PETA’s major accomplishments for animals:

  • Undercover investigations of pig-breeding factory farms in North Carolina and Oklahoma revealed horrific conditions and daily abuse of pigs, including the fact that one pig was skinned alive, leading to the first-ever felony indictments of farm workers. See other victories for animals on factory farms.
  • PETA’s undercover investigation of a Florida exotic-animal “training school,” which revealed that big cats were being beaten with ax handles, encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop new regulations governing animal-training methods. See other victories for animals who are used for entertainment.
  • PETA persuaded Mobil, Texaco, Pennzoil, Shell, and other oil companies to cover their exhaust stacks after showing how millions of birds and bats had become trapped in the shafts and been burned to death.
  • A California furrier was charged with cruelty to animals after a PETA investigator filmed him electrocuting chinchillas by clipping wires to the animals’ genitals, which caused the animals to experience the pain of a heart attack while they were still conscious. In another undercover exposé, PETA caught a fur rancher on videotape causing minks to die in agony by injecting them with weedkiller. Both farms agreed to stop these cruel killing methods. See other victories for animals who are killed for their skins.
  • After two years of negotiations with—and more than 400 demonstrations against—the company worldwide, McDonald’s became the first fast-food chain to agree to make basic welfare improvements for farmed animals. Burger King and Wendy’s followed suit within a year’s time, and within two years, Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons had also agreed to adopt stricter guidelines in order to improve the lives of billions of animals who are slaughtered for food.
  • Thanks to PETA’s lengthy campaign to push PETCO to take more responsibility for the animals in its stores, the company agreed to stop selling large birds and to make provisions for the millions of rats and mice in its care. See other victories for abused companion animals.

Success Stories
PETA has made groundbreaking advances for animals who are abused by corporations, governments, and individuals throughout the world, and these successes have led to dramatic improvements in the lives of millions of individual animals.


History of Animal Testing

Marmoset monkeys used for testing being offered marshmallows in an animal research facility.
Source: Ben Goldacre, “Animal Research Study Shows Many Tests Are Full of Flaws,” theguardian.com, Jan. 22, 2010

An estimated 26 million animals are used every year in the United States for scientific and commercial testing. [2] Animals are used to develop medical treatments, determine the toxicity of medications, check the safety of products destined for human use, and other biomedical, commercial, and health care uses. Research on living animals has been practiced since at least 500 BC.

Proponents of animal testing say that it has enabled the development of numerous life-saving treatments for both humans and animals, that there is no alternative method for researching a complete living organism, and that strict regulations prevent the mistreatment of animals in laboratories.

Opponents of animal testing say that it is cruel and inhumane to experiment on animals, that alternative methods available to researchers can replace animal testing, and that animals are so different from human beings that research on animals often yields irrelevant results.

Regulations

Animal testing in the United States is regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), passed in 1966 and amended in 1970, 1976, and 1985. [27] The AWA defines “animal” as “any live or dead dog, cat, monkey (nonhuman primate mammal), guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, or such other warm blooded animal.” The AWA excludes birds, rats and mice bred for research, cold-blooded animals, and farm animals used for food and other purposes. [3]

The AWA requires that each research facility develop an internal Institutional Animal Committee (more commonly known as an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, or IACUC) to “represent society’s concerns regarding the welfare of animal subjects.” The Committee must be comprised of at least three members. One member must be a veterinarian and one must be unaffiliated with the institution.

While the AWA regulates the housing and transportation of animals used for research, it does not regulate the experiments themselves. The US Congress Conference Committee stated at the time of the bill’s passage that it wanted “to provide protection for the researcher… by exempting from regulations all animals during actual research and experimentation… It is not the intention of the committee to interfere in any way with research or experimentation.” [66]

Animal studies funded by US Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are further regulated by the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. [27] All PHS funded institutions must base their animal care standards on the AWA and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (also known as “the Guide“), prepared by the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research at the National Research Council. Unlike the AWA, the Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the Guide cover all vertebrate animals used for research, including birds, rats and mice. The Guide “establishes the minimum ethical, practice, and care standards for researchers and their institutions,” including environment and housing standards and required veterinary care. The Guide stipulates that “the avoidance or minimization of discomfort, distress, and pain when consistent with sound scientific practices, is imperative.” [71]

Undercover photo taken in 1981 by a PETA activist of a monkey at the Institute for Biological Research in Silver Spring, MD.
Source: wikipedia.org (accessed Oct. 22, 2013)

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reports the number of animals used for research each year, though it excludes animals not covered by the AWA. For fiscal year 2010 (the latest year for which data are available as of Oct. 11, 2013), 1,134,693 animals were reported. [26] Since the data excludes cold-blooded animals, farm animals used for food, and birds, rats, and mice bred for use in research, the total number of animals used for testing is unknown. Estimates of the number of animals not counted by APHIS range from 85%-96% of the total of all animals used for testing. [2][65][72][1]

The USDA breaks down its data by three categories of pain type: animals that experience pain during their use in research but are given drugs to alleviate it (339,769 animals in 2010) animals who experience pain and are not given drugs (97,123) and animals who do not experience pain and are not given drugs (697,801). [26]

The US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the development of new medications, states that “At the preclinical stage, the FDA will generally ask, at a minimum, that sponsors… determine the acute toxicity of the drug in at least two species of animals.” [73]

Public Opinion

A public outcry over animal testing and the treatment of animals in general broke out in the United States in the mid-1960s, leading to the passage of the AWA. An article in the November 29, 1965 issue of Sports Illustrated about Pepper, a farmer’s pet Dalmation that was kidnapped and sold into experimentation, is believed to have been the initial catalyst for the rise in anti-testing sentiment. [74] Pepper died after researchers attempted to implant an experimental cardiac pacemaker in her body. [75]

A May 2013 Gallup poll found that 56% of Americans say medical testing on animals is morally acceptable (down from 65% in 2001), with 39% saying it is morally wrong. [76] Younger Americans are less likely to accept animal testing. 47% of people aged 18-34 say that animal testing is morally acceptable, whereas 60% of people aged 35-54 and 61% of people aged 55 and older say it is morally acceptable. [77] 67% of registered voters in the US are opposed to using animals to test cosmetics and personal care products, according to a 2013 nationwide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners. The poll found that women are more likely to object, with 76% of women under 50 and 70% of women over 50 being opposed to animal testing, and 63% of men under and over 50 being opposed. 52% of voters said they feel safer using a product that was tested using non-animal methods, while 18% said they feel safer with products tested on animals. [78]

Early History

Descriptions of the dissection of live animals have been found in ancient Greek writings from as early as circa 500 BC. Physician-scientists such as Aristotle, Herophilus, and Erasistratus performed the experiments to discover the functions of living organisms. [79][80] Vivisection (dissection of a living organism) was practiced on human criminals in ancient Rome and Alexandria, but prohibitions against mutilation of the human body in ancient Greece led to a reliance on animal subjects. Aristotle believed that animals lacked intelligence, and so the notions of justice and injustice did not apply to them. Theophrastus, a successor to Aristotle, disagreed, objecting to the vivisection of animals on the grounds that, like humans, they can feel pain, and causing pain to animals was an affront to the gods. [80]

Vivisection performed on a dog, painted by Emile-Edouard Mouchy in 1832.
Source: Lindsey Nield, “History: The Nature of the Beast,” bluesci.org, Jan. 4, 2010

Roman physician and philosopher Galen (130-200 AD), whose theories of medicine were influential throughout Europe for fifteen centuries, engaged in the public dissection of animals (including an elephant), which was a popular form of entertainment at the time. [81][80] Galen also engaged in animal vivisection in order to develop theories on human anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. [82] In one of his experiments, he demonstrated that arteries, which were believed by earlier physicians to contain air, actually contained blood. Galen believed that animal physiology was very similar to that of human beings, but despite this similarity he had little sympathy for the animals on which he experimented. Galen recommended that his students vivisect animals “without pity or compassion” and warned that the “unpleasing expression of the ape when it is being vivisected” was to be expected. [80]

French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), who occasionally experimented on live animals, including at least one rabbit, as well as eels and fish, believed that animals were “automata” who could not experience pain or suffer the way that humans do. [66] Descartes recognized that animals could feel, but because they could not think, he argued, they were unable to consciously experience those feelings. [83]

English Physician William Harvey (1578-1657) discovered that the heart, and not the lungs, circulated blood throughout the body as a result of his experiments on living animals. [84][85]

Animal Testing in the 1800s and Early 1900s

There was little public objection to animal experimentation until the 19th Century, when the increased adoption of domestic pets fueled interest in an anti-vivisection movement, primarily in England. This trend culminated in the founding of the Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection in 1875, followed by the formation of similar groups. [79][87]

One of the first proponents of animal testing to respond to the growing anti-testing movement was French physiologist Claude Bernard in his Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865). Bernard argued that experimenting on animals was ethical because of the benefits to medicine and the extension of human life. [79]

Queen Victoria was an early opponent of animal testing in England, according to a letter written by her private secretary in 1875: “The Queen has been dreadfully shocked at the details of some of these [animal research] practices, and is most anxious to put a stop to them.” [88] Soon the anti-vivisection campaign became strong enough to pressure lawmakers into establishing the first laws controlling the use of animals for research: Great Britain’s Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. [15]

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) demonstrated the “conditioned reflex” by training dogs to salivate upon hearing the sound of a bell or electric buzzer. In order to measure “the intensity of the salivary reflex,” wrote Pavlov, the dogs were subjected to a “minor operation, which consists in the transplantation of the opening of the salivary duct from its natural place on the mucous membrane of the mouth to the outside skin.” A “small glass funnel” was then attached to the salivary duct opening with a “special cement.” [86][75]

A mouse with an “ear” seeded from implanted cow cartilage cells growing on its back, the result of a 1997 experiment created by Joseph and Charles Vacanti to explore the possibility of fabricating body parts for plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Source: thedailytouch.com, Mar. 20, 2013

In 1959, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by zoologist William Russell and microbiologist Rex Burch was published in England. The book laid out the principle of the “Three Rs” for using animals in research humanely: Replacement (replacing the use of animals with alternative research methods), Reduction (minimizing the use of animals whenever possible), and Refinement (reducing suffering and improving animals’ living conditions). [89] The “Three Rs” were incorporated into the AWA and have formed the basis of many international animal welfare laws. [90][91]

Animals in Space and the Military

Since as early as 1948, animals have been used by the US space program for testing such aspects of space travel as the effects of prolonged weightlessness. After several monkeys died in unmanned space flights carried out during the 1940s, the first monkey to survive a space flight was Yorick, recovered from an Aerobee missile flight on Sep. 20, 1951. However, Yorick died several hours after landing, possibly due to heat stress. [7][116] The first living creature to orbit the Earth was Laika, a stray dog sent into space on the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 in Nov. 1957. Laika died of “overheating and panic” early in the mission, according to the BBC. [92] The record for the most animals sent into space was set Apr. 17, 1998, when more than two thousand animals, including rats, mice, fish, crickets, and snails, were launched into space on the shuttle Columbia (along with the seven-member human crew) for neurological testing. [7][8]

Since the Vietnam war, animals have also been used by the US military. The US Department of Defense used 488,237 animals for research and combat trauma training (“live tissue training”) in fiscal year 2007 (the latest year for which data are available), which included subjecting anesthetized goats and pigs to gunshot wounds, burns, and amputations for the training of military medics. [6][93] In February 2013, after an escalation of opposition by animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals (PETA), Congress ordered the Pentagon to present a written plan to phase out live tissue training. The US Coast Guard, however, which was at the center of a 2012 scandal involving videotaped footage of goats being mutilated as part of its live tissue training program, said in May 2013 that the program will continue. [94][95]

The Modern Debate

The 1975 publication of Animal Liberation by Australian philosopher Peter Singer galvanized the animal rights and anti-testing movements by popularizing the notion of “speciesism” as being analogous to racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice. Addressing animal testing specifically, Singer predicted that “one day… our children’s children, reading about what was done in laboratories in the twentieth century, will feel the same sense of horror and incredulity… that we now feel when we read about the atrocities of the Roman gladiatorial arenas or the eighteenth-century slave trade.” [66]

In 1981, an early victory by then-fledgling animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) served to revitalize the anti-testing movement once again. A PETA activist working undercover at the Institute for Biological Research in Silver Spring, MD took photographs of monkeys in the facility that had engaged in self-mutilation due to stress. The laboratory’s director, Edward Taub, was charged with more than a dozen animal cruelty offences, and an especially notorious photo of a monkey in a harness with all four limbs restrained became a symbolic image for the animal rights movement. [96]

In 2001, controversy erupted over animal experiments undertaken by a veterinarian at Ohio State University. Dr. Michael Podell infected cats with the feline AIDS virus in order to study why methamphetamine users deteriorate more quickly from the symptoms of AIDS. After receiving several death threats, Dr. Podell abandoned his academic career. [97] Over 60% of biomedical scientists polled by Nature magazine say “animal-rights activists present a real threat to essential biomedical research.” [35]

A 2007 report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences called for a reduction in the use of animal testing, recommending instead the increased use of in vitro methods using human cells. Though the report touted new technologies that could eventually eliminate the need for animal testing altogether, the authors acknowledged that “For the foreseeable future… targeted tests in animals would need to be used to complement the in vitro tests, because current methods cannot yet adequately mirror the metabolism of a whole animal.” [104]

Pro animal testing billboard posted by the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
Source: Jane E. Allen, “Animal Rights: Scientists’ Billboards Ask Whether You’d Save a Child or a Lab Rat,” abcnews.go.com, Apr. 14, 2011

In Mar. 2013, the European Union banned the import and sale of cosmetic products that use ingredients tested on animals. Some proponents of animal testing objected, arguing that some animal tests had no non-animal equivalents. A spokesman for the trade association Cosmetics Europe stated it is likely “that consumers in Europe won’t have access to new products because we can’t ensure that some ingredients will be safe without access to suitable and adequate testing.” [98] India and Israel have also banned animal testing for cosmetic products, while the United States has no such ban in place. [99] China is the only major market where testing all cosmetics on animals is required by law, and foreign companies distributing their products to China must also have them tested on animals. [65][43] China has announced that its animal testing requirement will be waived for shampoo, perfume, and other so-called “non-special use cosmetics” manufactured by Chinese companies after June 2014. “Special use cosmetics,” including hair regrowth, hair removal, dye and permanent wave products, antiperspirant, and sunscreen, will continue to warrant mandatory animal testing. [114]

After ceasing to breed chimpanzees for research in May 2007, the US National Institutes of Health announced in June 2013 that it would retire most of its chimpanzees (310 in total) over the next several years. While the decision was welcomed by animal rights groups, opponents said the decision would have a negative impact on the development of critical vaccines and treatments. The Texas Biomedical Research Institute released a statement claiming that the number of chimps to be retained (up to 50) was “not sufficient to enable the rapid development of better preventions and cures for hepatitis B and C, which kill a million people every year.” [100] On Nov. 18, 2015 the US National Institutes of Health announced that its remaining 50 research chimpanzees will be retired to the Federal Chimpanzee Sanctuary System. [117] Gabon remains the only country in the world that still experiments on chimpanzees. [4]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a plan on Sep. 10, 2019 to reduce studies using mammal testing by 30% by 2025 and to eliminate the mammal testing altogether by 2035. [131] In Nov. 2019, the FDA enacted a policy allowing some lab animals used for animal testing to be sent to shelters and sanctuaries for adoption. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) adopted a similar policy in Aug. 2019 and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did so in 2018. [146]

Animal Testing and COVID-19

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic brought attention to the debate about animal testing as researchers sought to develop a vaccine for the virus as quickly as possible. Vaccines are traditionally tested on animals to ensure their safety and effectiveness. News broke in Mar. 2020 that there was a shortage of the genetically modified mice that were needed to test coronavirus vaccines. [133]

Meanwhile, other companies tried new development techniques that allowed them to skip animal testing and start with human trials. Moderna Therapeutics used a synthetic copy of the virus genetic code instead of a weakened form of the virus. [143] The FDA approved an application for Moderna to begin clinical trials on a coronavirus vaccine on Mar. 4, 2020, and the first participant was dosed on Mar. 16, 2020. [147]

A shortage of monkeys, including pink-faced rhesus macaques, threatened vaccine development at the beginning of the pandemic and as variants of COVID-19 were found. The monkeys were previously flown in from China, but a ban on wildlife imports from China forced researchers to look elsewhere, a difficult task as China previously supplied over 60% of research monkeys in the United States. [148]


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded

On August 21, 1980, animal rights advocates Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Rising from humble beginnings, PETA will soon become the world’s foremost and most controversial animal rights organization.

Newkirk’s interest in protecting animals began 11 years prior, when she found some abandoned kittens and was appalled by the conditions that awaited them at a New York City animal shelter. She set aside her plans to become a stockbroker and instead focused on animals, eventually becoming the first female poundmaster in the history of the District of Columbia. In 1980 she began dating Pacheco, a graduate student and activist who had sailed aboard a whale-protection ship, and the two co-founded PETA a short time later.

PETA’s first major campaign came the following year, when Pacheco got a job at a research facility in Silver Spring, Maryland in order to expose the experiments being conducted on monkeys there. PETA distributed photos of the monkeys being kept in horrific conditions, leading to a police raid and, eventually, the first-ever conviction of a researcher on animal-cruelty charges.

Having made a national name for itself, PETA continued to shine a spotlight on animal cruelty. PETA continued to conduct undercover operations and file lawsuits on behalf of animals, but is is perhaps best known for its marketing campaigns and stunts. An early-󈨞s ad campaign depicted bloody scenes from slaughterhouses with captions like “Do you want fries with that?” while another ad series featured a number of naked celebrities in protest of the fur industry. PETA activists have been known to wear elaborate costumes, body paint, or nothing at all to draw attention to their causes, and to throw red paint symbolizing blood on people wearing fur.

PETA has been criticized from all sides—many believe them to be extremists and find their methods distasteful, while other activists criticize PETA’s willingness to work with corporations in industries like fast food or fashion to make incremental improvements to animal welfare. Still others within the animal rights movement argue that PETA plays an outsized role, focusing attention on media controversies instead of concrete changes.

Nonetheless, PETA has achieved a litany of animal-rights reforms: convincing some of the world’s largest fashion brands not to use fur, animal-testing bans by more than 4,6000 personal-care companies, ending the use of animals in automobile crash tests, closing the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and exposing thousands of instances of animal cruelty across the world are just a few of the organization’s accomplishments.


Watch the video: Why Everyone Hates PETA (January 2022).