PETA Fires Back at Gov. Mills’ Attack on Free Speech

For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2022

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Portland, Maine

After Gov. Janet Mills contacted the Portland International Jetport to demand the removal of PETA ads that point out that fishing gear kills 300,000 whales and dolphins every year, PETA fired off a letter to the governor today, taking her to task for attempting to trample on the group’s First Amendment rights.

PETA made the same suggestion to the governor that it had made just yesterday to another critic of its ads, state Rep. Genevieve McDonald: Stop defending the fishing industry, as New England’s North Atlantic right whale population is declining in large part because the animals become entangled in fishing gear, and promote Maine’s booming vegan food industry instead.

“Silencing PETA’s message that going vegan saves animals is about as un-American as you can get,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on the governor to stop protecting the exploitative fishing industry at the expense of everyone else, including New England’s whales.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Mills follows.

March 1, 2022

The Honorable Janet T. Mills

Governor of Maine

Dear Gov. Mills:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals U.S.—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including many thousands across Maine—in response to your attempts to take down our “Save the Whales” ads in the Portland International Jetport. It’s un-American to stifle our right to free speech for any reason but particularly scurrilous to do so in seeking to protect an exploitative industry and prioritize profit over protecting whales. We ask that you consider the suffering that marine animals endure when slaughtered for food. Fishing causes pain and suffering to other sentient beings you may not relate to—just because they don’t look like us—but they certainly do suffer greatly because of this industry.

A livelihood for one species should not be a death sentence for another. Fishing gear kills 300,000 whales and dolphins annually, and these animals are callously referred to as “bycatch,” a euphemism for non-target animals who become caught or entangled in fishing gear and then are discarded or simply die. Death from fishing gear is the single biggest threat to the survival of many of the world’s 86 cetacean species, and eating fish contributes to the decimation of ocean ecosystems. More fish are killed for food each year—billions in U.S. waters alone—than all other animals combined. Fish, who feel pain as acutely as mammals do, have long-term memories, are savvy social learners, develop cultural traditions, and use tools.

As you know, Maine’s lobster industry has faced increased restrictions to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose population has shrunk by an alarming 30% over the last decade, from going extinct. Estimates suggest that there are fewer than 350 of these whales left, and fewer than 100 are breeding females. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, if we want the population to recover, we must reduce human-caused deaths to an average of less than one per year, but the agency estimates that the number of observed deaths and serious injuries caused by entanglements with fishing gear at least five each year. The actual number is no doubt higher.

Our previous offer stands to assist with retraining Mainers who want to quit the cruel, ugly fishing business and pursue a nonviolent occupation such as photography or gardening.

We hope that instead of backing this outdated industry, you’ll realize how important it is to evolve with the times and support the vegan businesses in your state. The vegan market is expected to grow by 451% within the next 10 years, and it’s already thriving in Maine, which ranks third in the nation for the prevalence of vegan options and the availability of all-vegan restaurants. For every 1 million residents, Maine has 4.6 all-vegan restaurants. And the number of people going vegan has been skyrocketing—there’s been a 300% increase in the U.S. in the past 15 years, and more than half of all U.S. households now buy vegan food products.

If you haven’t already seen it, we recommend watching the eye-opening documentary Seaspiracy on Netflix, which exposes how the commercial fishing industry is harming all ocean life. In addition, we’ll be sending you Gardein vegan fish filets, vegan lobster, and vegan tartar sauce so you can see how delicious vegan fish is—along with a copy of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk


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