Year-End Memo to PETA Staff

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12 min read

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks to all your hard work—and the invaluable support of our millions of members and supporters—there are a lot of things that we can cross off our to-do list. Smash “ag-gag” bills designed by agribusiness to thwart our undercover investigations? Done! Save 70 beagles who were destined to be tortured and killed in Indian laboratories? Mission accomplished! Put an end to cruel kangaroo “boxing” displays in U.S. circuses? Absolutely!

Perhaps most inspiring and hard-fought of all, 11 bears from the hellish Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee, N.C., which PETA investigated in 2012, have now traded their barren concrete pits for woods, thickets, and pools at their new home in a sanctuary. Instead of begging tourists for junk food, they now feast on fresh fruits and vegetables. Rather than turning in endless circles or rocking back and forth, the bears now climb trees, amble through underbrush, and forage. And thanks to years of protests and letters from PETA supporters, Chief Saunooke has closed its doors for good.

To put the long-term progress that we’re making for animals in perspective, consider that each of the following statements once would have seemed like pie in the sky even to the most optimistic among us, and yet at the end of 2013, they are all true: Harvard University is shutting down its notorious New England Primate Research Center; the former director of the National Institutes of Health has admitted that experimenting on animals hasn’t worked, saying, “We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one”; an elementary school in Queens, N.Y., has become the first entirely meat-free traditional public school; Bill Gates is funding the development of vegan meat and eggs; and hideous glue traps are no longer sold in more than 40,000 stores.

As you know, PETA’s role in bringing about a sea change in the way people think about and treat animals continues to focus on campaigns in the areas where the most animals suffer the greatest: the meat, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment industries.

Exposing Factory-Farm Cruelty

In 2013, thanks to PETA’s undercover investigations, the following abuses were revealed and victories won:

·       PETA revealed that on foie gras farms owned by Palmex, Inc., and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, ducks have steel tubes shoved down their throats and are force-fed huge amounts of grain until the birds’ livers swell to up to 10 times their normal size. More than 43,000 people wrote to companies through our action alert and demanded that they stop selling this vile product. This year’s additions to the list of companies that we persuaded to stop serving foie gras include American Airlines, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Celebrity Cruises, and Wendy’s restaurants in Japan.

·       PETA documented that mother pigs at Southern Quality Meats, Inc., a Mississippi slaughterhouse, are jabbed with electric prongs, hoisted up by one leg, and have their throats slit in full view of other terrified sows. Our exposé prompted a federal investigation and confirmation of “inhumane handling” in violation of federal law.

·       PETA filmed live lobsters and crabs who were ripped apart limb from limb at Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster slaughterhouse. PETA is the only group that has ever gone undercover to expose the slaughter of lobsters and crabs. The groundbreaking footage has been viewed more than 270,000 times.

Drying Up the Market for Fur and Down

This year, PETA’s campaign against Canada’s annual seal slaughter—the largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals on Earth—cleared a huge hurdle when the European Court of Justice rejected a challenge by the sealing industry and upheld the EU ban on seal products from Canada.

Then we set our sights on the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the last challenge of the ban now stands. The WTO fell under the international media spotlight after film star Jude Law’s letter to the agency, sent on behalf of PETA U.K., made worldwide headlines. We also got help from Canada native Pamela Anderson, who, together with PETA, met with trade officials at the Russian consulate in New York and received assurances that Russia’s recent ban on seal imports would not be overturned.

Because the last hope for the seal trade is China, PETA Asia members are flooding the Canadian Embassy with e-mails, and Chinese celebrities are starring in PETA Asia’s ads against the seal slaughter.

Coleman, one of the world’s leading outdoor gear manufacturers, agreed never to use down again in its sleeping bags or jackets, and Sports Authority announced that its private-label products are down-free. These victories are the result of PETA’s campaign against down—the first such campaign in the U.S.

After a PETA Asia investigation found horrific routine cruelty to angora rabbits, PVH Corp.—the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, ARROW, Van Heusen, and other brands—banned products made with angora. After more than 53,000 actions were taken online, Gap suspended the placement of orders that contain angora. We will continue to rally supporters to write to Gap and urge the company to implement a complete ban on angora products.

Unlocking the Cages

In 2013, after years of campaigning by PETA, the U.S. Army began requiring that many personnel be taught medical skills using lifelike simulation and other non-animal methods instead of by stabbing, shooting, and killing animals. Internationally, PETA convinced the Polish military to completely replace its deadly animal laboratories with simulators.

Following decades of PETA protests, the National Institutes of Health ended federally funded experiments on chimpanzees and announced that it will retire to sanctuaries 310 of the 360 federally owned chimpanzees who are still in laboratories, with the rest to follow.

PETA pressured Washington University in St. Louis and Madigan Army Medical Center to stop forcing hard plastic tubes down cats’ and ferrets’ delicate windpipes in crude medical training courses.

Following a push by PETA, the state of Connecticut and the Baltimore school district passed dissection-choice policies that will allow students to use modern methods—such as virtual dissection software, a better teaching tool—instead of animals. PETA has also convinced many schools to end dissection and has donated computers and state-of-the-art software to facilitate the switch.

Thanks to PETA, in 2013, Air Canada, United Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines stopped shipping monkeys for use in experiments. Because of PETA’s efforts, only a handful of airlines still do so, and there has been a 40 percent drop in the number of monkeys imported for use in U.S. laboratories over the last five years.

PETA, PETA U.K., and PETA India achieved crucial changes in regulatory testing policies across the globe, including a ban in India on the use of animals in cosmetics testing and the implementation of the EU ban on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.

PETA continued to work with personal-care product companies following our exposure of regulations that require such companies to pay for tests on animals in order to sell their products in China. As a result, Paul Mitchell Systems, Dermalogica, Pangea Organics, Nature’s Gate, Juice Beauty, and Logocos  withdraw from that market and Urban Decay, NYX Cosmetics, Paula’s Choice, The Body Shop, Yes To Inc., Jack Black, and 100% Pure Cosmetics pledged not to sell there as long as poisoning tests on animals are required.

All these changes will save millions of animals from being poisoned and killed in painful tests.

Hanging Up the Whips and Chains

This year, we won major victories in our campaign to end the advertising industry’s use of primates, who are often subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Thanks to PETA, Converse, Pizza Factory, and Great Clips pulled their commercials featuring primates, and all three companies have promised never to use great apes in future ads. Our list of advertising agencies that have pledged not to use great apes in advertising expanded to include 30 of the top 50 agencies in the U.S. We also released a video narrated by Adrien Brody featuring a state-of-the-art, computer-generated chimpanzee.

PETA made important strides to end captive elephants’ suffering, including persuading online retailer Gilt Groupe and deal sites and Travelzoo to end all promotions of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (more than 27,000 actions were taken online to help us secure this victory), convincing a Calgary car dealership to stop sponsoring the Royal Canadian Circus, and helping with the passage of an ordinance that bans the use of bullhooks on elephants in Los Angeles, which will effectively ban all circuses that insist on using bullhooks.

We helped support the rescue of Terry the chimpanzee, who had been held in solitary confinement for more than a decade at a horrible roadside zoo. He now lives at a spacious tropical sanctuary in Florida. Also relocated to a sanctuary after years of campaigning by PETA and other groups were Toka, Thika, and Iringa, three elephants who had been in declining health at the Toronto Zoo.

We brought about the cancellation of dozens of harmful “sports” and entertainment events—including “monkey rodeos,” goldfish-swallowing contests, donkey basketball games, circus performances, and elephant rides—thanks in large part to our many e-mail blasts and action alerts sent to supporters. We also secured the denial of permits and/or the issuing of citations for animal welfare violations to numerous cruel circuses and other exhibitors—including notorious chimpanzee abuser Mike Casey—and helped prevent the Georgia Aquarium and its SeaWorld affiliates from importing 18 wild-caught beluga whales.

Protecting Animal Companions

PETA’s December 2012 undercover investigation of Global Captive Breeders, LLC (GCB)—an animal breeder and dealer in Lake Elsinore, Calif.—led to the largest-ever seizure of animals in California (nearly 16,000 rats and more than 600 reptiles). Two hundred and twenty-three felony cruelty-to-animals charges were filed after our investigator found that GCB workers bludgeoned rats and froze them alive, deprived countless injured and sick animals of veterinary care, and left rats to dehydrate without water or to drown in flooded enclosures. While the seizure—which most members of PETA’s Marketing Department helped with on the ground—occurred in 2012, our work releasing the information to the public and the filing of charges occurred in 2013.

In 2013, PETA helped pass a total ban on tethering dogs in Suffolk, Va. This means that countless dogs who had been chained for their entire lives will finally be able to step outside the tiny patch of barren dirt that previously encompassed their entire world.

PETA’s Community Animal Project fieldworkers and Emergency Response Team rescued thousands of animals from dire straits and forced abusers to face legal consequences. Here are just three of the many animals we rescued in 2013:

  • Blackie, a malnourished pit bull, was found in a feces-filled pen with no drinkable water. He was transferred to a shelter, and his owner was convicted of cruelty to animals and banned from owning animals for two years.
  • Nigel, a Rottweiler whose feet were covered with ammonia burns from living in his own waste, had been chained inside a dark garage for at least three years. After PETA swore out cruelty charges, Nigel’s owner pleaded guilty and is prohibited from owning animals ever again.
  • In another heartbreaking case, an older dog in Nebraska who appeared matted and underweight was being kept penned outside 24/7 with only a garden shed for shelter. A massive snowstorm had just hit the area, and photos confirmed that the dog had icicles hanging off his face because it was so cold! We rushed law enforcement to the scene, and although the owner was not home, the situation was deemed extremely unsafe, and the dog was promptly seized! Charges are now in the works. The kind person who alerted us to the situation wrote to us, “You really make a difference in the world with what you do and you are a true heroine. For years I have donated to PETA and I never thought that someday you would be helping me, personally. Your phone call made me happier than I have been in a long time. I am truly grateful.”

Our mobile low-cost to no-cost veterinary clinics have now spayed or neutered more than 98,000 animals in poverty-stricken regions, meaning millions of puppies and kittens were never born into homelessness. And this year, we got approval for a fourth huge mobile veterinary clinic, which we have just purchased, so that we can do even more.

Animal Rights: The Next Generation

Not a day went by in 2013 that young people around the world weren’t impacted by the work of PETA’s youth outreach division, peta2. We gave classroom presentations in elementary and middle schools and helped college students successfully petition for more vegan options on campus, teaching hundreds of thousands of young people this year how to create a kinder world for animals.

peta2 changed the hearts and minds of young people by giving them a visceral, eyewitness, hands-on experience through our innovative, interactive exhibits, including the following:

·       Our “WTF?!” campaign inspired more than 80,000 young people to take the “Try Vegan” pledge via their mobile phones and to subscribe to our text message tips on eating vegan. This exhibit, designed to resemble a carnival sideshow tent, accompanied the massively popular annual Vans Warped Tour. Inside, interactive and cheeky displays and games encouraged visitors to consider that our present society’s treatment of animals is often just as antiquated and bizarre as we now regard “human oddity” sideshows of the past.

·       Our Paul McCartney “Glass Walls” exhibit rolled onto more than 60 college campuses this year, including Northwestern University, Arizona State University, and the University of Georgia. The attention-grabbing walk-through display—featuring a life-sized gestation crate and compelling footage of how chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows suffer before they are killed for the table—sparked enormous student interest from coast to coast.

PETA’s websites were visited by more than 38 million people, and our powerful online videos were viewed more than 18 million times this year. We reached an average of 16 million people each month with our PETA Facebook posts, and through our online action platforms, caring citizens sent more than 12 million messages to corporate executives, government officials, and other decisionmakers in support of PETA’s campaigns to relieve animal suffering.

We also bolstered our outreach efforts to the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S.—the Latino community. We released Spanish-language versions of our undercover videos, recruited popular Latino celebrities to speak out for animals, and launched—a bicultural resource to explore the world of animal rights through a Latino lens—to counteract the anti-animal messages from the fast-food, dairy, clothing, and entertainment companies that have their sights set on the Latino consumer.

So congratulations to everyone who worked on these programs and campaigns! Of course, there is much work that remains to be done. Billions of animals are still being killed for the fleeting taste of their flesh, animals are still being skinned alive on Chinese fur farms, sheep are still having the skin and flesh cut off their backsides by Australian wool farmers, stray animals are still eking out an existence in alleys and behind dumpsters, and the Ringling Bros. circus still drags shackled, beaten elephants from town to town to perform in pathetic, old-fashioned shows.

As you know, the key to our vital work to change hearts and minds is embodied in PETA’s “Never Be Silent” campaign. Because it is true that all it takes for evil to triumph is for enough good people to do nothing. Please bear it in mind as we leave one year for another.

We can change the world. We can inform people that there is no such thing as a “responsible breeder” as long as even one litter of dogs or cats is born only to be euthanized for want of a good home … that as long as animals are crammed onto trucks, slammed into shackles, hoisted upside down, and slashed across the throat, it is delusional to believe in “humane meat” and “humane butchers” … and that for every cruel choice, there is a kind option.

We can save lives and end suffering. Don’t think we can’t. We can continue to get tethering bans passed and to free lonely, neglected backyard dogs from their chains. We can continue to persuade more and more companies to refuse to sell clothing that causes pain and death to animals such as snakes, lizards, lambs, rabbits, pigs, and cows. We can close the last of the dismal bear pits. We can make vegan living, in all aspects of our lives, the thing to do.

Do you know the story about the man who stood on the banks of the Mississippi for the first riverboat launch? He listened to it shudder and smoke and said, “It’ll never start, it’ll never start.” Suddenly, the steamboat leapt forward and started down the river, wheels a-turning. The man shook his head and said, “It’ll never stop, it’ll never stop.” Well, we have certainly started this, and let us not stop until animals are recognized for the sensitive, inquisitive, intelligent individuals they are. Let us not stop until the bullhook and the meat hook and the pipe used to force-feed geese for foie gras are found only in museums!

With kind regards,

Ingrid E. Newkirk


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