If like me when you think PETA you think of a organization that has a seemingly worthwhile cause, the ethical treatment of animals, but whose tactics are so extreme that they actually harm that cause. You think over-the-top or short sighted. But you probably don't think of them as money grubbing extortionists who also happen to fail at the most basic level.
Well, sadly, you should.
It seems that what PETA does best is not help animals but shakedown companies for money by attacking their competitors while at the same time failing to save animals from being put down.
A look at the facts reveals that PETA is more about money (over $34 million in revenue in 2008) than about helping animals. Through a network of “alternative product” companies and opaque partnerships with big corporations, PETA seeks to raise millions of dollars in legal kickbacks and grants by attacking its partners’ competitors on the grounds of animal cruelty, regardless of the validity of the claims.
How does this work? One major source of revenue is PETA's Seal of Approval. Seems harmless, right? Companies get to feel good and PETA has more funds to help animals. Fine, except there is a wrinkle in this particular tactic.
Conveniently, whenever PETA attacks a company they have an alternative product to recommend. These companies agree to contribute anywhere between 1% to 13% of the purchase price of these items back to PETA. You can see how this might lead to trouble. PETA has all the motivation in the world to attack the competitors of those who have signed on to this kind of agreement or to threaten those who don't sign on with protest campaigns.
In case you think I am getting conspiratorial, here are some real life examples:
- PETA targeted MasterCard for sponsoring the Ringling Brother’s circus, which supposedly mistreated its animals. The “NastyCard” campaign encouraged MasterCard customers to cut up their cards and mail them back. At the same time this campaign was going on PETA entered into an exclusive deal with Visa to offer a PETA Platinum Credit Card, which was advertised on PETA’s website. As a benefit to PETA, 1% of purchases made with the branded card are paid to PETA as royalties.
- IAMS, a dog food brand made by Procter & Gamble, has been targeted by PETA through
its “IamsCruelty” campaign. PETA accused IAMS of practicing inhumane animal studies rather than modern, non-invasive research procedures. This despite the fact that IAMS has been recognized for its research procedures and animal welfare advocacy and has been a pioneer for PETA-endorsed in-home research among major pet food
companies. Coincidentally I am sure, PETA has a partnership with a “holistic” pet care clearinghouse, promoted on their websites, that gives them 8% of all purchase proceeds.
- PETA has also developed a corporate partnership program that seeks to leverage these relationships with companies looking for a competitive advantage. PETA’s “Business Friends” program includes three levels: Silver ($500), Gold ($1000), and Platinum ($5,000 +). In exchange for these monetary contributions, PETA grants increasing levels of access to its membership (and their purchasing power) and its celebrity supporters.
You don't have to be a hardened cynic to see that the line between fund raising and advocacy has all but been erased. PETA attacks certain companies and signs a lucrative agreement, or negotiates a corporate sponsorship, with their competitors. This little scheme rakes in millions.
But the truly sad thing is that PETA fails at its basic mission of protecting animals. According to the website www.PETAkillsanimals.com, an analysis of public records shows that PETA found adoptive homes for less than 1 out of every 300 animals in 2008, and the organization killed 95 percent of the dogs and cats in its care last year.
So not only has PETA used questionable tactics that end up turning off potential supporters, but they have used these same tactics to extort money from competitors, and keep the marketing racket going, rather than actually helping animals.
I didn't think it was possible for me to think less of PETA, but I was wrong. They aren't a well intentioned organization who occasionally get carried away because of a passionate belief in their cause. They are a fund raising racket that uses questionable tactics to further their own needs at the expense of that cause.
It would be sad if it wasn't so infuriating. So the next time you are talking to an animal lover who thinks PETA helps the cause make them aware of the true business of these extortionists.