Written by PETA
Every Tuesday night, I grab a comfy couch, flip on American Idol, proceed to squeal and shout comments at the screen for the next hour, and then dial in incessantly to vote for my fave.
On the show, judge Simon Cowell is known for being a little harsh when he gives the contestants a dose of the hard truth, but in reality he is full of compassion, especially when it comes to animals. Not only has he lent his celebrity to important campaigns in the past (like when he recorded a video message to remind people not to leave dogs in hot cars or when he has spoken out about the importance of spaying and neutering (and against fur), but now he's taken the time to sit down and chat with us about everything from his thoughts on Michael Vick to Obama's new White House pup, and much more. Check it out below and let us know what you think!
Do you think it's important to adopt a dog or cat rather than buying one from a pet store? Well, I mean, if I was buying a dog, I wouldn't buy it from a pet shop, I'd go to a rescue shelter. Or I'd go to a friend who couldn't take care. … It's not where the dog came from, it's the dog. … I get really annoyed when people start telling me about the make and the model of their dog like [for] a car. … A dog is a dog, no matter what background they've got. … Often, the mutts, the strays have got more personality than a highly bred pedigree.
Why do you think some people are obsessed with buying purebred dogs? They are plagued with physical issues, and some breeds are so popular that folks can't tell their own dogs apart from their neighbors' dogs.Well, I think the fashion accessory thing has become quite the thing here. You've got the rap and pop stars carrying around the highly bred dogs …. They think it'd be embarrassing to be seen carrying a mutt … when actually it would be endearing—people would think they cared more about the dog than their image. The other thing which is a problem, as you know, is they'll make movies about, you know, Chihuahuas, and thousands of people will go out and buy Chihuahuas like in the movie.
Right. And we're concerned that the same thing might happen now with the first family. What do you think about their Portuguese water dog? I think we've got to be balanced on this. I think—on a positive note, I think it's nice that they have made an issue of buying a dog for the kids. What I think would be great would be if they also took in a shelter dog, just from anywhere, to balance it. I'll even pay for the dog food!
The Westminster and Crufts dog shows are always controversial because they promote purebred animals when so many mutts are dying in animal shelters. What do you think of these shows? Well, again, I have two thoughts about them, because I think the vast majority of people who go and watch something like Crufts or who are involved are animal lovers, not animal haters. The problem (in the U.K. at least) is that we have elitism in the dog world, which does bother me, for who's to say what makes the perfect dog? The fact that these judges are saying that a bulldog who can't breathe properly is the proper way to breed a dogâ€•that's just insane! Because, in their warped minds, that's what a dog should look like. I've got a show called Britain's Got Talent, where we have crazy dog acts, and I like those dog shows better. The dogs are having a blast, obviously having a great time.
We see a lot of dogs chained outside like bicycles, for life. What is your message to people who do that? That's disgraceful. The awful thing about what that person doesn't realize is that in the dog's mind, as he's being chained up … that dog has put his trust in the person who's chaining him. That dog would give up his life nine times out of 10 for the person who's chaining him up. … For a dog, under those circumstances, just to be left alone, starving to death, lonely and thirsty, is about as low as a person can go. You've got to have a really warped, disgusting personality to want to do something like that. That really disgusts me.
What makes you angriest when someone is cruel to an animal? I think the fact that they get an enjoyment out of it. I think the disrespect—a dog's sole purpose in life is to guard you, and it's your responsibility, and the dog will give up his life for you—would literally die for you—is unbelievable! It shows a really … like Michael Vick. He should never, ever be publicly supported again. Ever. If people really knew the gory details of what he was doing …. They think it was just a dogfight, but what do you do after the fights? The way they kill the maimed dogs ….
Right. And it came out last winter that Vick even threw his family pets into the fighting ring. That's not a human beingâ€•that's a sadist.
As you know, your image is posted on our mobile spay-and-neuter clinic, which rides around in low-income, rural areas of Virginia and North Carolina. People cheer when they see you on the van, and they bring their dogs out for their vaccinations. Thank you for that. Can you send some words to people who are having a hard time putting food on the table about why they shouldn't forget their dogs in these tough economic times? Well, I think that a life is a life, and I totally respect the fact that it's very easy for pampered celebrities like me to lecture, and sometimes I despise people like me because we don't do enough. But I can tell you that if you give an animal kindness, it will come back to you a thousand times over. … You get so much out of it, I cannot tell you. And for us, certainly, I am always willing to do—if I can help you financially, I will do that. If you need a donation anytime, we'll set it up straight away. Never hesitate calling me about that.
Did you know that several of your American Idol graduates have gone on to help animals? Carrie Underwood, Reuben Studdard, and Kellie Pickler are, for example, all vegetarians and are all on PETA's "sexiest vegetarian" list. If you know someone is good with animals, does that make you more inclined to be kind to them after they perform? Well, funny enough, there's normally something that connects me to them. Certainly with Carrie, the second she walked in, I sensed a real kindness about her, and I think it's part of her appeal. And to me, it just shows that you're a nicer person. So I'm not surprised to hear all of that, to be honest with you. I'll do more to encourage it. We'll put it on the questionnaire!
Written by Christine Doré
Here's a rare glimpse into what it's like for an undercover investigator. We would like to give a heartfelt thank you to the two brave individuals who went undercover at this pig factory farm in Iowa (and to undercover investigators everywhere). The investigators hope their experiences will motivate you to make a difference for animals each day in your own way. Here's what they had to say:
What exactly was your reaction when you saw just how badly the animals were really being treated? Did you cry?
Investigator 1: I was horrified and terribly saddened. But I had a good idea of what I was going to see, and I prepared myself for it. … Because it is so critical to conceal my identity and my sympathy for animals while undercover, I [can only] cry on the inside when I see the abuse and the cruelty. I can never let my coworkers see that side of me. Sometimes, I will let out a good cry at home or in my car after a particularly disturbing day.
Investigator 2: There were some nights I would get home and get emotional about the day's events. You have to hold it inside until you get home. If the other employees see you react in an emotional way, it would blow your cover. The people whom I have met working at a hog farm would never get emotional or upset due to the mistreatment of the animals, and so we must act in that same manner.
What toll does it take on you mentally and emotionally? How do you handle working in facilities that abuse animals?
Investigator 1: The job is challenging, both mentally and emotionally. It always helps me tremendously to look at the big picture and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Personal sacrifice is almost always necessary to achieve great change. But I take solace in those … moments that I spend, one-on-one, with the animals whom I meet on an assignment. Looking into the sad eyes of a suffering animal motivates me and energizes me to do more. And I realize that my mental and emotional anguish pales in comparison to the suffering and pain this animal is feeling right now. I get to go home after work every day, but the animals never leave.
Investigator 2: It can take a large toll on you. Seeing what happens firsthand day in and day out definitely affects you. There are times during a case when I have had nightmares about it. The only way to really get through it is to always keep in mind that this would all be happening if I was there or not. By being there, I have the opportunity to help stop abuse.
To read all of the questions and answers from the investigators, click here.
Do you think you'd be able to handle being an undercover investigator?
Written by Christine Doré
Well, as we promised last week, Ingrid has responded to 10 lucky commenters' questions (see, it always pays to leave comments). Check out her responses below.
1. Question from Sasha: When will a movie about your life be made, and who will take your place in PETA when you retire?In a way, the HBO special, I Am an Animal was about my life, but beyond that I do not know. As for "succession," a few years ago, when my plane almost crashed, I had time to reflect on my legacy at PETA, and it was exciting to think about what good hands PETA is in. We each have our talents, and there are plenty of stunningly talented leaders at PETA and the PETA Foundation who each make a mark in their own areas, from marketing and youth outreach to IT and law, and from rounding up stars and making heartbreaking videos to going undercover—and, of course, raising and bringing in money so that we can hire more staff and help more animals. The multi-talented Tracy Reiman is my right-hand person, and I feel confident she would lead the team when I pop off.
2. Question from Aneliese: How supportive is your family on your views of animal rights and welfare? Do they agree with you on such matters?I don't have much of a family; my mother is the only one left, and she is wholly supportive. She has a "Proud PETA Member" bumper sticker on her car, puts copies of our "Vegetarian Starter Kit" in people's hands, and makes sure animal rights books are on the library shelves. She also makes great vegan cakes! In fact, her recipe for almond tarts is in the PETA cookbook.
3. Question from Ben: Was there a particular life-changing experience or event that led to you become an animal rights activist?I've told many of my personal stories in my books, such as Making Kind Choices and my latest book, One Can Make a Difference. I was a slow learner, and my late father and I basically ate our way through the animal kingdom before I met a pig who had been cruelly treated. That's when I stopped eating all animals. As I say, I was a slow learner, so before that I had stopped eating lobsters (one wiggled his antennae at me when I chose him from a platter to be broiled alive) and snails (I let a bag of them go at the bottom of my garden rather than cook them). It wasn't until I found a fox and a squirrel in steel traps that had been set for fun by some youngsters that I stopped wearing fur! Oddly enough, those were the very two types of animals whose furs had been used to make the first fur garments I owned: a suede coat with a collar made of silver-fox fur and an artsy coat made from the bodies of about 100 squirrels. I also inspected laboratories for the government, and what I saw inside them convinced me that animal experimentation is crude and cruel and can easily be replaced with sophisticated non-animal research.
4. Question from Mitch: What was the most exciting campaign or event—a specific demonstration, press conference, undercover investigation, arrest, etc.—that you have worked on with PETA?It's all exciting when you know that animals are being rescued and that people's minds and hearts and eyes are being opened. And stopping car-crash tests on animals, getting men who beat pigs on factory farms convicted on cruelty charges, seeing an elephant who has spent her entire life in chains be retired to sanctuary—it's all exciting. But if I have to pick one, I think the very first lab case, the Silver Spring monkeys case, in which PETA got the police to serve a search warrant—the first in U.S. history—to take those monkeys out of the hellhole in which they lived—that would be it.
5.Question from Brielle: If someone truly wants to make a difference for animals, how do they choose the cause that will have the most impact for animals and spreading awareness? What is the most crucial step now in the cause—promoting veganism? Saving animals? Fighting big KFC-like corporations?I believe in personal activism and that every single thing we do makes a difference—the more we do, the more difference we make and the more quickly animal liberation from exploitation and torment will come. Because everyone eats, washes their hair, puts on clothes, finds amusement in life, and buys stuff, it is vital to start setting an example and encouraging others to follow. Eat a vegan diet and shun animal skins in all their forms—they are all stolen and/or animals have been killed for them. Cook for friends and give vegan cookbooks and cruelty-free toiletries as gifts. Leave copies of Animal Times in the doctor's office and at the bus stop and put "Free Vegetarian Starter Kit" cards on every bulletin board. Hand people literature and engage in conversation to spread the word—and never, ever be silent in the face of abuse. When you speak up, others listen, and people who felt confident getting away with cruelty are shaken—perhaps not visibly, but shaken on the inside all the same. If you want to help with one particular campaign in addition to all this, then just jump in and do your best—it all counts.
6. Question from Sharon: What are your opinions on what happens to the "fighting dogs" who are rescued from dogfighting, and what is the proper way of evaluating a fighting dog to determine if rehabilitation would work for the animal? With so many homeless dogs being killed for lack of homes, I would rather the time, effort, money, and work that goes into trying to rehabilitate a fighting dog be used to help the ones who don't need such an evaluation. It just makes more sense. Also, if you find a home for a cocker spaniel or a Chihuahua or a mixed terrier, there is no likelihood that even if he or she goes nuts he or she will kill a child or a cat, but the same can't be said for the ex-fighter who is likely too strong to control and can have a fighting mindset. It isn't the dog's fault, but we have choices. The most sensible choice is to put our money and time into sterilization programs as well as combating fighting and making fighting breeds unpopular so that people do not breed more of them.
7. Question from Kathleen: I wanted to know—how do you keep a positive attitude after all the horrible things you have seen while working at PETA?I look back at how far we have come: SILK in the supermarkets, veggie burgers too. Faux "chicken" at most KFCs in Canada. Students able to say "no" to dissection. Medical schools having abandoned the use of animals in training. Pleather, faux fur, the great youth movement. Many circuses, such as Cirque du Soleil, getting out of the animal business. That means that our work pays off, so we must keep doing it!
8. Question from 4 The Animals: I read that you believe having "pets" is keeping them in captivity. Is this true?I prefer the term "companion" to pet, as that is more respectful, don't you think? Semantics can be important in how we view others. It drives me wild to see Britney Spears and Paris Hilton acquiring dogs as arm candy, which is why I wrote a book called Let's Have a Dog Party! I wanted to draw attention to the fact that these dogs are individuals with needs and wants. They aren't fashion accessories; cigarette smoke, loud music, and being left alone to stare at the apartment walls bothers them—it isn't a real life. I ask that people stay clear of pet shops and breeders, who exacerbate the overpopulation crisis. But if a person has enough love, patience, understanding, time, and money for veterinary care, I would ask him or her to go to the animal shelter and get two dogs or cats—so that the animals can keep each other company when their guardians are at work or play.
9. Question from Dan: I will be turning 70 years of age in a few years and my wife is in her 50s. We are guardians of two dogs—one of whom is a puppy. My wife and I have no immediate family. I don't mean to sound maudlin, but if anything were to happen to my wife and me, I would like to set aside some money in our will for the lifelong care of our dogs. Do you know of any organizations that have been "approved" by PETA that would be able to take in our dogs and treat them in a loving manner in the event of our demise? We reside in the southern California area (but we would be willing to send them anywhere if the organization is "top notch"). Please be very careful and always visit the place you might leave your animals to. You have to be very sure that they are right for your dogs. I have seen many "sanctuaries" where animals are miserable. Caged for life and patronized, they have lost the spark of joy that animals should have. Many of these places are warehouses, really—you can't call them much more. If you get stuck, please write to the PETA Foundation's Tim Enstice, and we'll see what we can do to help you find the right place.
10. Question from Liz: If you could make a magic wish to banish something immediately and forevermore, what would it be? The fur trade? Vivisection? Factory farming? What kind of abuse has the most pressing urgency above all others?If I had a magic wish, it would be that human beings would put themselves in the place of all "others," and then they'd really live by the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, I would wish for empathy. And studies show that some people have a very poorly developed part of their brain—the mirror neuron. This means that they can't extend much beyond their own selfish interests. But, if I could influence only one area of animal abuse, that's a very hard call. It might be "pest control," as billions upon billions of mostly little animals—raccoons, beavers, mice, birds, insects, etc.—are poisoned with gut-wrenching chemicals or drowned in underwater snares, or their backs are broken in traps, or their faces get stuck in glue boards—and so on.
Thank you, Ingrid, for giving us a better insight into your life and the animal rights movement. To read more about Ingrid, check out her personal blog at IngridNewkirk.com.
Well, if you missed 30 Days on FX last night, don't say we didn't remind you. Fortunately for everyone, George Snedeker—the hunter (and incredibly good sport) who agreed to spend a month with a family of animal rights activists, including PETA's very own Melissa Karpel—has taken some time to answer a few questions about his experience. To watch this episode in its entirety, please click here. Check our the interview below ...
1. When you were first selected to participate in this show, what did you expect the experience to be like? I was pretty scared. I expected to be surrounded by people that just wanted to argue for a whole month. I'm not afraid of an argument, but I thought the numbers were stacked against me. All I was told was that I would be totally immersed in the animal rights movement. As far as the people I would meet, I expected a lot of angry people that yelled a lot. I figured girls and guys alike would be hairy-legged sandal-wearing hippies. For the most part, I was mistaken.
2. How did your opinion of animal rights activists change after your 30 days with the Karpels?I realized almost immediately that animal rights activists, PETA members specifically, were very normal folks. That being said, there are some out there—just as with the factory farms—that give everyone involved a bad name. I learned about several examples of the abuse, neglect, and suffering that occur in factory farming. It's not a pretty industry, and if people were able to experience what I did, you might see a major change.
3. What were your best, and worst, experiences during the 30 days? Living with Melissa and her family as a vegan for the month was by far the most fun. It just took a few days for us to find common ground, and then we worked from that point in a nonjudgmental way. The Karpels are a wonderful family that I was proud to be a part of throughout my adventure. I have made great friends with them, and I miss them. I am a lucky man. It's not hard to find the worst experiences—there were two. First was the initial time I spent at Animal Acres, and second was the time I spent at the UCLA protest. Without getting into specifics, I can just say that being the loudest is not always the best way to be heard. These people were deliberately offensive and were the most close-minded individuals I have ever met. On several occasions, I was verbally abused. I traveled 3,500 miles with an open mind to learn, not to be judged.
4. Are there any animal rights issues that are particularly important to you now that you hadn't thought about before staying with Melissa and her family?I am aware that there need to be changes in factory farming, but aside from veganism, I haven't heard about a practical alternative. I personally prefer to buy my meat and produce from grocers that support the smaller local farms. The Burberry demonstration was hard-hitting, but we don't have very many fur coats in North Carolina. The one subject that I find the most offensive is vivisection. I can't give away anything about the show, but I had no idea how unnecessary it was. Tissue samples are infinitely more effective. For the sake of money, it seems people are abusing animals just because they can. They should be ashamed of themselves and pray that they never have to answer for their actions.
5. What are your views on the tactics that PETA uses to draw attention to the suffering of animals? One area where I think PETA could use some P.R. work is separating themselves from some of the other animal rights groups out there. The term most people relate to animal rights is PETA. Anything that happens for the sake of animals, regardless of how offensive it is, gets hung on the neck of PETA. Consequently, most people think PETA people are nuts. I believe PETA does it the right way: education. ... They keep it fun and provide people with information.
6. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?I can't imagine changing a thing. Our director, Jay Blumke, and producer, Matt Hobin, did their homework. It would take years for anyone else to get the entire experience that I had. I had total access. It is amazing what can happen if you walk into something with an open mind, even if it is against everything you know already. You might think you are 100 percent right on a particular subject. Here's a news flash: You don't know everything. Just watch, listen, and learn. I still can't get a hold of "bugs." Is it against the PETA tenet not to like them? I have about 1,000 red bugs (chiggers) that hate me. They're trying to eat my legs clean off. Is it OK to hate them back?
And here are some photos of George and Melissa delivering doghouses that didn't make the final cut of the episode:
Without letting even the tiniest opportunity to help nonhuman animals swim by, my inventive comrades have devised a delightful new stratagem to help free some of our sea-dwelling sisters and brothers.
The Pitch: To open the world's fist-ever Lobster Empathy Center in the lobster-execution capital of the world (Creative, yes?) The Setting: A prison (Bloody genius!)
The proposed attraction would include wrapping visitors' hands in giant rubber bands for the duration of their stay, serving faux-lobster treats, and giving kiddies free stuffed toy lobsters labeled "Lobsters Are Friends, Not Food."
Can't wait to go, right? I know, me neither! Sadly, our dreams will have to be put on hold for a bit, as the prison was just sold to the highest bidder. But do keep us in mind if you hear of any sweet oceanfront prison property up for grabs!
Now if all this talk has given you a hankering for some vegan lobster tail, here's a recipe to satisfy your urgings.
Killer birds from PetSmart. It sounds like a reimagined version of Hitchcock's The Birds or maybe Troma's follow-up film to Poultrygeist, but it's a true, tragic story. A bird-loving family from Corpus Christi, Texas, reportedly lost their beloved father—and the daughter almost lost her life—after they both contracted psittacosis from a cockatiel whom they had purchased at PetSmart and named Peachy. Check out the Associated Press Article here if you don't want to take my word for it.
Peachy, who also died, allegedly from this "parrot fever," was bred at Rainbow World Exotics, a breeding mill that PETA recently investigated, where we found rampant abuse and neglect of small animals and exotic birds. Bird-breeding facilities such as Rainbow World Exotics are no different than puppy mills—they're massive animal factories that crank out birds with no regard for their health, happiness, or individual best interests. It doesn't just hurt the birds when unsanitary, inhumane conditions are the norm.
The good news is that this heroic and forever scarred family is now standing up to PetSmart and demanding an end to the sale of all birds. And you can help them succeed!
And please read this important info about how to keep you and your bird safe.
Angel's Story: Another PetSmart Casualty
The following open letter is a response to this letter.
Dear Best Week Ever, We really appreciate that you shared your suggestion with us about tiny footwear being the key to convincing people not to eat animals anymore. I don't know why we didn't think of this sooner. Your idea is genius.B.W.E., we couldn't agree more that upping the cute factor to nearly vomit-inducing levels is a tactic that perhaps we should try more often in order to dissuade people from eating animals. And we're going to start now. We are adding "provide boots to all chickens" to our list of demands for KFC. Sure, it might not be the most pressing issue the twisted corporation needs to address (they should probably focus on fixing the whole scalding birds alive thing and preventing future rat infestations), but every little bit helps!In addition to cuteness, there's also the practical value of wearing boots while crammed in pens or sheds with zillions of other animals. Unsurprisingly, those floors aren't too clean and even Britney Spears wouldn't be caught barefoot in a factory farm. OK, maybe she would, but little chicks shouldn't be. Not to mention that the boots will provide extra ankle support for chicks and make it harder to hang them upside-down in shackles.Again, thanks for the great suggestion and we'll be sure to keep you posted on the status of our new "Chicks for Boots" campaign. Regards,The PETA Staff
She's blue about being pimped out to a circus and a zoo! Meet Sydney—the pachyderm protagonist in Sanctuary Song, a new opera opening this summer in Toronto. A dynamic combination of song, dance, and theater, this ele-friendly opera follows Sydney as she recounts her life during a journey to a sanctuary in Tennessee. Discussing her abduction by poachers and her years spent in a circus and a zoo, she relives the fond memories of her friends and family as well as the fearful memories of captivity. Will Sydney be reunited with her childhood friend in the last act? No spoiler alert here! Like they say, it's not over until the elephant sings.
Can't make it to Toronto to see Sanctuary Song? Put on your favorite aria, and check out the lovely ladies at this real-life Tennessee sanctuary.
The USDA just completed an investigation of a Butterball turkey slaughterhouse in Arkansas that confirmed PETA's findings of intentional cruelty to animals, including punching, kicking, and tormenting turkeys destined for slaughter. So what happens next? Well, not much, as far as the law’s concerned: Because there simply aren’t any federal legal protections for chickens and turkeys. None. The only thing that can be done is to take matters into our own hands and put pressure on places like Butterball to make changes that will benefit the animals they profit from. And, more importantly, boycott these companies by going vegetarian. Here’s the video of the Butterball supplier’s abuses:
The photo speaks for itself. OK, OK, I may have doctored it a bit to get the point across, but COME ON! As you can see, Jessica Simpson was recently caught wearing a "Real Girls Eat Meat" T-shirt. Puhleeze!
For a gal who's best known for her less-than-stellar brains (Chicken of the Sea, anyone?) and her ability to proportionately fill out daisy dukes, I'm gonna go on record saying that if anyone had to wear a ridiculous shirt like this, I'm glad it was Jessica—as people are more likely to follow the opposite of her lead ... ya know, since she's so well respected and all (yes, that was difficult to type without tossing in a hefty LOL). Maybe the meat-eaters of the world will be embarrassed to be categorized in the same field as Jessica Simpson. Ecorazzi has more on the story.
Just for funsies, here are the top five reasons that only stupid girls brag about eating meat:
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.