Edison Unfit and Unkind: He Electrocuted Animals, Abused His Family
For Immediate Release:
December 2, 2020
Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382
San Francisco – In response to San Francisco’s plan to change the names of 42 schools that pay homage to problematic historical figures, including those “connected to any human rights or environmental abuse,” PETA has fired off a letter urging the San Francisco Unified School District School Names Advisory Committee and San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez to add Thomas Edison Charter Academy to its list, after it had been previously turned down by the committee for “not meeting the criteria.” That, PETA says, was an oversight.
PETA points out that Edison was a cruel person whose human-supremacist beliefs led him to electrocute scores of animals—including an elephant named Topsy—fatally and painfully and who abused his own family. PETA suggests that the school be renamed after Mark Twain, Mahatma Gandhi, William Wilberforce, or Leonardo da Vinci, all enlightened individuals who were demonstrably kind to all living, feeling beings.
“PETA hopes to see a lightbulb go on—everyone must realize that an inclusive world means consideration for not only humans but also all other animals,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “Anyone who was cruel enough to electrocute vulnerable animals shouldn’t be honored by having his name on a teaching institution.”
PETA’s letter to Jeffries and Sanchez follows.
December 2, 2020
School Names Advisory Committee
San Francisco Board of Education
Dear Messrs. Jeffries and Sanchez:
I’m writing on behalf of PETA and its more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including over 16,000 in San Francisco, to urge the San Francisco School Names Advisory Committee to reconsider its decision not to add Thomas Edison Charter Academy to the list of school names to be renamed.
It’s laudable that the committee has recognized that individuals involved in abhorrent human right abuses, such as slavery, oppression, and genocide, should not be held up as examples for children to follow. However, speciesism allows people to acknowledge the suffering that these marginalized groups endured and yet dismiss the suffering of other thinking, feeling beings. In addition to being a greedy and corrupt businessperson and an unkind husband and father, Edison committed disturbing acts of cruelty to animals.
If curious schoolchildren at Thomas Edison Charter Academy search the internet for information on their school’s namesake, they’ll find that he held public animal-electrocution events, painfully killing horses, cows, stray dogs and cats, and Topsy the elephant. Allowing the academy to bear Edison’s name sends kids the harmful message that it’s acceptable to commit violent acts against an individual who is different from them, a lesson I’m sure the committee does not want to teach. In addition, research in psychology and criminology has repeatedly shown that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals often don’t stop there—many of them move on to hurting their fellow humans.
Committee member Mary Travis Allen rightly stated, “The names of all the schools in this city should reflect people to be admired.” Many worthy candidates meet that criterion. Mark Twain was called the “Moralist of the Main” for his abhorrence of corruption, greed, and violence—including objecting to vivisection. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world’s strongest advocates for kindness and peace, noted, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” William Wilberforce was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and was a staunch supporter of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In addition to being one of the greatest painters and thinkers in history, Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have been a vegetarian who refused to wear animals’ skins and was said to purchase caged birds so as to let them fly away.
Please use this opportunity to spread a message of compassion to all. We look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals