Here’s what the activist organization has been up to, as well as some tips that you can adopt to live happier, more compassionate lifestyle.
Few activist organizations have profoundly impacted the world like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). From staging protests to raise awareness about animal cruelty in the agricultural industry to helping shut down entertainment parks like SeaWorld, the advocates involved with the organization are known to be some of the boldest and bravest.
Recently, True Activist gained an exclusive interview with activists from the organization who have some important messages to share with the world. From enlightening the public on recent campaigns that have been successful to sharing advice every person can benefit from, there is a bounty of wisdom to be gleaned from the following interview:
What is the biggest obstacle in spreading PETA’s cruelty-free message?
Nearly everyone agrees that animals should not be intentionally tormented or made to suffer. But some people ignore the suffering that they themselves cause if they don’t witness it with their own eyes. Whereas people might condemn someone for harshly yanking on a dog’s leash at the park, they don’t see the cruelty behind their plate of chicken wings.
We have to help people move beyond the disconnect that allows them to think of animals as little more than “raw materials” for hamburgers and handbags, living test tubes, performers, or security systems. They’re not objects—they’re individuals.
What are some of the most creative (and successful) campaigns that PETA launched in the past?
PETA and its international affiliates have won groundbreaking victories for animals all over the world. PETA has been responsible for the first-ever cruelty conviction against someone who experimented on animals, the first-ever convictions in the meat industry for abusing pigs, persuading the Taiwanese government to pass its first-ever law against cruelty to animals, persuading hundreds of cosmetics companies to abandon cruel animal tests, persuading major designers and retailers to stop using and selling fur, angora, and exotic skins—and much more, including these recent highlights:
- Following an extensive PETA campaign—which included phone calls from Bill Maher to the local community, civil disobedience by Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell, and a citywide ad campaign on buses—the University of Wisconsin–Madison ended its cruel and archaic brain experiments on cats, the laboratory closed its doors for good, and the four remaining cats were adopted into loving homes.
- For over 35 years, PETA has used video and photographic exposés, creative ads, celebrity campaigns, pressure on sponsors, online activism, support for local legislation, and thousands of demonstrations to show the public that Ringling Bros. circus beats elephants and forces them to perform tricks out of fear of punishment. Last year, Ringling caved to overwhelming public opposition and pledged to phase out its elephant acts, which is happening this May.
- PETA obtained highly disturbing video evidence of cruelty to animals on farms that are part of the Ovis 21 network in Argentina—a wool supplier to California-based clothing company Patagonia and designer Stella McCartney. The video shows that workers kneel on conscious lambs and saw through their necks with knives, causing them to bleed and vomit as they struggle, legs kicking and tails flailing. Lifelong vegetarian and longtime PETA ally Stella McCartney was alerted by PETA to the video exposé and has since cut ties with the supplier and announced that she’s looking into vegan wool for her line. Less than a week later, Patagonia announced that it, too, had stopped buying wool.
The organization has a reputation for unleashing controversial campaigns to inspire consumer awareness. What does PETA have planned for the near future campaign-wise?
PETA engages with the public in myriad creative ways—we file shareholder resolutions with companies that abuse animals, such as SeaWorld; make use of social media websites; work with celebrity spokespeople to draw attention to violence that occurs out of public view, for instance through this PSA with Joanna Krupa about the wool industry; run public service announcements in print outlets, online, and on TV and radio stations; travel with Warped Tour; circulate petitions to get veggie burgers on high school campuses; organize e-mail campaigns; hold colorful demonstrations across the country; and more. We always have many activities planned, and if you’d like, we can add you to the media list for your local area to make sure you receive a heads-up ahead of time. In addition, all our news releases are posted daily at PETA.org.
In the last week, we’ve convinced a bar not to release live doves during a memorial for Prince; released a video of Casey Affleck voicing PETA’s life-size robot “bear,” who’s going on tour this summer to encourage everyone to stay away from tourist traps that display bears in barren pits and tiny pens; crowned PETA’s 2016 Cutest Vegan Kids; and won retirement to a sanctuary for a chimpanzee named Joe, who had spent more than a decade in solitary confinement in a tiny enclosure at a roadside zoo.
What five steps can PETA activists recommend to the average consumer who seeks to adopt a healthier, more compassionate lifestyle?
You don’t have to have special skills to be an animal advocate. In fact, you may already be doing it without thinking about it if you adopt your animals instead of buying them, refuse to wear animal skins, or choose cruelty-free personal care products. The best way to advocate for animals is to stop paying for their abuse. Eating healthy vegan meals, opting for faux fur or leather in place of animal skins, and shunning businesses such as SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which profit from keeping wild animals in captivity and forcing them to perform—all make a difference for animals.
- Eat vegan. The easiest and most effective way to help the largest number of animals—and your health—is to stick to vegan meals. PETA’s vegan starter kit and the “Living” section of PETA.org include recipes, tips, and other information about meat- and dairy-free dishes, and HappyCow’s guide to vegan-friendly restaurants is helpful when dining out.
- Wear vegan. Every year, millions of animals are killed for the clothing industry—all in the name of fashion. There are so many ethical vegan options to choose from today, including bamboo, Tencel, hemp, acrylic, viscose, and cotton blends, which can all be used in place of wool; handsome and durable materials like cork, microfiber made from recycled plastic bottles, and vegan Ultrasuede derived from post-industrial polyester, which can be used as a substitute for leather; and the cruelty-free and eco-conscious synthetic down offerings on the market, such as PrimaLoft, PolarGuard, Thinsulate, and Plumtech. There’s simply no reason to spend our fashion dollars on cruelty to animals.
- Choose cruelty-free personal-care products. As you read this, hundreds of mice, rats, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, monkeys and other animals are dying in cruel and unnecessary medical experiments and product tests. In fact, 219 animals are killed every minute in U.S. labs. By choosing products such as shampoo, cosmetics, and laundry soap that aren’t tested on animals, we can make sure that our dollars don’t support cruelty to animals.
- Adopt animals from your local shelter when you are ready to make a lifelong commitment to take care of them, and never buy animals from breeders or pet stores. Studies show that sharing your home and life with an animal companion can improve your health, and there are millions of animals in shelters who need homes. In fact, more than 6 million dogs and cats end up in animal shelters every year, and half of them must be euthanized because there simply aren’t enough homes for them. Every time someone buys an animal from a breeder or pet store, a perfectly healthy and loving animal languishing in a shelter loses his or her chance at finding a “forever” home.
- Choose entertainment without animals. Instead of attending a circus that forces animals to perform tricks under the threat of punishment, attend one that highlights only human participants who choose to perform. Instead of going to a zoo or marine park, where exotic animals are bred only to be kept in captivity for their entire lives so that the facility can make a profit, visit a true sanctuary for exotic or formerly farmed animals. By shunning businesses such as SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which profit from keeping wild animals in captivity and forcing them to perform, you make a difference every day.
Many in our society are quick to dismiss messages of equality among humans and animals. Is there any advice the organization can impart to those who are still confused (or in the dark) about the issues?
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos, but we realize now that all animals have the ability to feel pain, fear, love, frustration, and loneliness—and to suffer just as humans do. They deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Every time we make a choice—right down to what meal to eat or what shoes to buy—we can choose to be cruel or to be kind, and something as seemingly small as choosing a veggie burger over a beef burger can make a world of difference for animals.
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this enlightening interview!
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