What is PETA?

The official PETA logo. Editorial credit: William Howard / Shutterstock.com.
The official PETA logo. Editorial credit: William Howard / Shutterstock.com.

PETA stands for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. This organization is located in Virginia USA and is led by Ingrid Newkirk. PETA has close to 400 employees and it boasts as being the biggest animal rights group in the world with over 6.5 million supporters globally. It is a non-profit corporation that was founded in March 1980 by the current President Ingrid Newkirk with fellow animal rights activist Alex Pecheco. The organization believes that we do not own the right to wear, eat, experiment on, entertain ourselves with, or abuse animals as we please. In fighting for animals’ rights, PETA emphasizes on four main issues; obstruction of factory farming, fur harvesting, animal experiments, and animal entertainment. It dissuades fishing, slaying of animals considered pests, chaining of backyard dogs, eating of meat, and they also encourage a vegan lifestyle.

PETA's Beginnings

PETA became popular a year after its formation, in 1981, in what would later would be called the Silver Spring monkeys case. This was a publicized difference about tests that had been conducted in the Behavioral Research institute located in Silver Spring. The experiments involved 17 macaque monkeys and a case lasting 10 years ensued. The case stands out as it was raised by police; it was the only case of a police raid in an animal laboratory in America. It also triggered an amendment to the country’s Animal Welfare Act in 1985.

PETA Controversies

This organization has been subject to controversy, within and without the human rights movement. While Newkirk and Pacheco are perceived to be leading an exportation of animal rights by the traditional animal-protectors, others feel that the group is just not radical sufficiently. Even from within the movement itself, there has been condemnation towards using scantily-dressed women in the organization’s campaigns. In countering the feminists’ criticism, Newkirk says that nobody is being misused as everyone is a non-compelled volunteer.

In the year that ended in July 31 2016, the group had received over $65 million worth of donations with its website getting over 40 million hits a month. Of its employees, only 56% earned over $45,000 while 7% earned below $30,000. Newkirk made a little over the latter. Her co-founder Pacheo on the other hand left PETA in the year 1999.

PETA's Work

PETA is known for its aggressive media campaigns coupled with a solid base of celebrity backing. Many notable celebrities have made appearances in PETA ads, like Eva Mendes, Ellen DeGeneres, Charlize Theron, Alicia Silverstone, and Paul McCartney on top of its honorary directors.

PETA has been involved in many cases, apart from the Silver Springs monkeys’ case in 1981. In October 2004, the organization launched a boycott against Australian wool industry, a boycott that led to some retailers banning any product with Australian wool. The Australian wool industry in reciprocation sued the corporation and later a settlement was agreed with PETA stopping the boycott. In 2010 when Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat, PETA objected the dress in a conference.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ offices used to be in Rockville, Maryland before they were moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1996. They also have offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Washington, DC. It also has affiliates in Germany, India, Asia-Pacific region, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom.


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