Problematic Organization: PETA

What does PETA have to do with autism? It shouldn't it stands for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But like many organizations, they could not stay in their lane. PETA is so controversial, the rescue and veterinary community does not like them. 

PETA was founded on August 21, 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco. Newkirk started in animal activism 11 years before PETA was founded. She found some abandoned kittens and was disgusted by the condition in a New York animal shelter. She pushed her plans of being a stockbroker aside and focused on animals instead. Newkirk started dating Pacheco in 1980, who was a graduate student and activist. Pacheco had sailed on a whale protection ship and they founded PETA shortly after this. 

PETA's first campaign was in 1981. This was when Pacheco was employed at a research facility in Silver Spring, MD. Pacheco had sought employment there in order to expose the experiments being conducted on monkeys. PETA distributed monkeys being kept in horrendous conditions. This was before the internet so this was not easy. This lead to a police raid and was the first case that had an animal cruelty conviction on research facilities. 

They have achieved many animal rights reform. No one is taking that from them. Their other practices are called into question. They convinced some of the world's largest fashion brands no two use fur. They have help instate animal testing by 4,600 personal care companies. They ended the use of animals in automobile crash tests. They helped close the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baileys Circus. They exposed thousands of instances of animal cruelty. 

After they made a national name for themselves, it goes downhill. PETA is often called extremists, distasteful. 

For example: 

In 2009, a German high court banned PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" display that had animals in slaughterhouses with images of humans in concentration camps. Why wouldn't anti semitism be thrown in there? It usually is. 

PETA is Far from Ethical

If they kept their work to the above accomplishments they would be a good animal rights organization but we cannot have nice things. 

Kidnapping and Killing pets

One of the founders, Ingrid Newkirk has publically stated that pet ownership is an "abysmal situation." She has also stated that one of her goals was to destroy the human/pet bond. "If people want toys, they should buy inanimate objects. If they want companionship, they should seek their own kind."

They have also said that outdoor cats would be better off dead because they could contract future illness or be hit by a car. They obviously have not hear of the FeLeuk (feline leukemia) vaccine among others that have been developed for outdoor cats. According to PETA, the animals are better of euthanized instead of being well cared for. 

In 2014, a PETA volunteers, Victoria Carey and Jennifer wood,  had stolen a little girl's pet chihuahua that was unattended in the Virginia . They took the dog just to euthanize it. Zarate family had stated that PETA operated under a policy of euthanizing animals, including healthy ones, because they "consider pet ownership a form of involuntary bondage."

The two women removed an unattended, unleashed chihuahua named Maya from the home. This beloved pet was a Christmas present to the 9 year old girl. Maya was euthanized later that day. This was a violation of Virginia state law that requires a 5 day stray hold. 

PETA later said they would pay the family $49,000 and donate $2,000 to a local branch to of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The family sought $7 million. 

The family's attorney stated,"The Zarates felt that the settlement reflects the grievous loss of their beloved Maya. Mr. Zarate acknowledges that this was an unfortunate mistake by PETA and the individuals involved, with no ill will towards the Zarate family." So they steal the family dog from the family and THEY have no ill will towards the family? 

PETA denies the allegation of theft, since animals are legally considered property, and maintains that this incident was a "terrible mistake."

PETA Shelter is Compared to a Euthanasia Clinic

PETA has a shelter in Virginia and is oversaw by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). VDACS requires all animal shelters to report the number of dogs and cats they take in each year. The records show how many dogs and cats were reunited with their owners, adopted out, transferred to other shelters, transferred out of state, died of natural causes, euthanized and how many the shelter had alive at the end of the calendar year. In 2009, Virginia modified its policy and eliminated animals held for sterilization (spay and neuter) from the requirement for shelter records. 

The rate of dogs and cats killed by PETA is shocking. The kill rate for their shelter between the years 1998 and 2020 is 83.5% The document from Virginia can be found here.

The state inspectors liken the shelter to a euthanasia clinic. The commonwealth of Virginia was so shocked by the kill rate, they attempted to revoke their shelter license. In 2010, a Virginia Resident called PETA to inquire whether or not they operate a shelter. PETA answered that they did not. She was confused so she sent the response to the VDACS. Dr. Daniel Kovich inspected with the VDACS the PETA shelter. They determined that "the facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody."

This is an issue because this means that the animals are not there for the time required by law. After two months of records were reviewed, Kovich found that 234 out of 290 animals (thats 84%) that PETA took into custody were killed within 24 hours. They only adopted out 17 pets. He also noted that the shelter did not meet PETA's own published guidelines for operating a humane shelter. During his visit, Kovich only found 3 animals in the shelter. Their shelter consists of 3 rooms. None of the animals were available for adoption. A representative from PETA stated that their shelter was not available to the public. 

Their transfer rate of animals dropped from 14 percent in 2004 to .7 percent in 2009. From 2004 to 2009, 99.3% of pets in this shelter were killed. 


Anti Dairy Campaign

One of PETA's campaigns is against consumption of dairy. It has a lot to do with how the cows are treated and what kind of life they lead. PETA did expose cruelty at several diary farms. At Reitz Dairy Farm, cows were denied care when they had grapefruit sized masses. As a vet tech, that is scary. They were also hit over and over on their udders and found laying in manure. At a former Land O Lakes supplier, PETA caught the farmer electric shocking a cows who were in too much pain to stand. The farmer's son jabbed a cow with a knife and kicked her. Cows sleep standing up so when a cow is down, that is serious! Not only the cows but their calfs too. 

THIS NEEDED TO BE EXPOSED! I care for animals for a living and I could barely stomach this. 


If you choose to eliminate diary for that reason, that is your personal choice. I can see people being against this but what they do takes it further. Its PETA, why wouldn't they take it too far?

PETA and Autism

This is where PETA takes it too far and went into a lane that does not belong to them. Part of their anti dairy campaign was to make a claim that diary causes autism. This type of wide spread campaign gives TACA, Autism Speaks and Autism Hope Alliance more fuel to promote their quackery. 



PETA argues that children "suffering" from autism, a "disease marked by anti social behavior like screaming and obsessive repetition of actions, which takes an enormous emotional toll on sufferers and their families" had improved dramatically when switched to a casein free diet. They go further to imply dairy causes autism. "Some suspect that casein harms the brain, while others suggest that the gastrointestinal problems so often caused by dairy products cause distress and thus worsen behavior in autistic children."

This could have been a good campaign IF they left autism out of it. Show the facts about the diary industry and sway people that way. DON'T spread misinformation.

PETA cites two scientific studies but they are significantly out dated. According to TIME,“One, published in 2002, observed some possible improvement in autism symptoms when children were put on a diet free of gluten, gliadin and casein, proteins found either in grains or milk. Not only is the study old, it’s vague—with the researchers broadly blaming the problem on ‘processes with opioid effect,’ whatever that means,”

The second study was conducted in 1995 with only 36 participants. This study was only single blind. This means that the researchers knew who had diary and who did not. This was a biased study and not valid. 

A pediatrician told ABC News that the billboards in this campaign were nothing more than a scare tactic. "I'm concerned more about the people who don't have autism. They will be scared that they'll get autism by drinking milk," Dr. Susan McGrew stated. 


The research they use has been discredited by at least two independent overviews. A 2010 overview by the University of Austin of 14 studies on the link of diary and gluten free diets found that the "overall study quality was poor." They also say that the least scientific studies implied that diet improved behavior. 

There were also two additional overviews in 2008 and April of 2014. They found similar results and called for a good, large scale randomized survey.  PETA cites a study with only 20 participants. Hardly a sample size that means anything. 

There are children who cannot process gluten or casein. It has nothing to do with whether or not they are autistic. One parent stated,"There are a lot of things you cannot control in autism, but you can control your kids child's diet. I think anything that sheds light on the autism crisis is awesome." This is why this campaign was so dangerous. 

Tracy Reiman, PETA's executive Vice President responded:

"PETA's website provides parents with the potentially valuable information that researchers have backed up many families' findings that a dairy-free diet can help kids with autism. Dumping dairy—the consumption of which has also been found to contribute to asthma, constipation, recurrent ear infections, iron deficiency, anemia, and even cancer—is a healthy choice that the late Dr. Benjamin Spock recommended for all families, and it also spares mother cows from being repeatedly impregnated and forced to produce milk for humans after their calves have been taken away from them so that they will endure the same fate. Cow's milk might be the perfect food for baby cows, but it might also be making kids sick.)"

This campaign was successfully removed by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. A prominent autistic and vegan writer from the UK had stated,"The thing that makes me maddest about PETA 'autism' campaign is the frowny face. The deliberate negative stereotyping of autistic folk."

“Autism cannot be caused by dairy products,” wrote Twitter user OverkillRabbit. “PETA tries to fear-monger people out of using dairy with lies, which is disgusting behavior.”

Said Twitter user Kerry Cakes Lovatt, “Autism is different but certainly not wrong, and has nothing to do with diet! #ActuallyAutistic and have less wrong with me than [PETA] does!”

Twitter user Jonathan Victory said, “As an autistic person, if @peta are going to insult me this much, I’m gonna send them a picture of every BBQ I make from now on.”

As I wrote this, I ate a piece of cheese. 




Sources:
https://www.peta.org/about-peta/learn-about-peta/history/
https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/peta-is-founded
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/17/peta-sorry-for-taking-girls-dog-putting-it-down
https://petakillsanimals.com/proof-peta-kills/
https://www.peta.org/features/peta-ad-cows-dairy-products-disease/
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/the-bad-science-behind-petas-claim-that-milk-might-cause-autism/371751
https://blog.theautismsite.greatergood.com/peta-campaign/
https://globalnews.ca/news/1365084/peta-links-milk-to-autism-in-controversial-new-ad/

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