This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is devoted to comments on PETA’s apology for its “Holocaust On Your Plate Campaign” and related issues. I also plan to send out another special JVNA newsletter next week with responses to material in this issue. So, please send in your comments, suggestions, and ideas related to the material in this issue. Also, please be on the lookout for media coverage of the issues and write letters to editors, perhaps using some of the material in this special newsletter.
This newsletter has the following items:
2. The PETA Apology
3. Messages Critical of the PETA Apology
4. Messages Supportive of the PETA Apology
5. My Article re How Jews Should Respond to PETA’s Activities
6. Article by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudas Israel re the PETA Apology
7. My Three Sample Letters In Response to Rabbi Shafran’s Article
8. Forward’s Article on the PETA Apology
9. What Are Some Lessons We Should Learn From the Holocaust?
10. Some Background Material About PETA
[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]
Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue.
As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.
As indicated in the pro and con messages in items #3 and #4 below re PETA’s apology, there is a split within the JVNA re how to respond to the apology.
I have tried to be a bridge between PETA and JVNA and the Jewish community in general. I have long believed that, in the face of the many crises now facing humanity, we need the best efforts of both the Jewish community and other religious communities and groups like PETA, preferably working cooperatively when common ground can be found, in order to effectively respond to these crises.
However, my efforts to find common ground seem to have produced criticism of my actions from both sides. Some PETA leaders who I have been working closely with are unhappy that I am not enthusiastically, unequivocally endorsing their apology since, as they indicate, they would not have made an apology if it were not for my frequent prodding (and that of perhaps a few others). On the other hand, some JVNA long-time friends and advisors have threatened to resign if I do not strongly condemn PETA’s apology. I feel great frustration and sometimes despair when I recognize how difficult it is to get groups working toward our common aims. It is only recalling how important the issues are, how great the threats are, and the urgent need for positive responses that keeps me from just giving up.
In the face of all this, I have decided to state what I believe to be the best approach, with material that each side will be happy with, but also with material that may further alienate both sides. I apologize in advance for not meeting expectations. I hope that, with the great wisdom and creativity that our readers have, this newsletter and the comments and suggestions it receives that will be in the next (and I hope final) special newsletter devoted to this issue will further thought and dialogue that will lead to positive results
I have decided to try to indicate what I regard as the positives and the negatives re PETA’s positions and actions and also those of the Jewish community. I hope that this will lead to significant positive changes. My views expressed in this newsletter are my own, not an official position of the JVNA. I am certainly open to suggestions, especially those that seek solutions of the present impasse and those that will help get vegetarianism and related issues on the Jewish agenda.
Re PETA: I have been working with some of PETA’s leaders for some time now, and I believe they are a very sincere, dedicated, very hard working group that is deeply committed to ending the many current abuses of animals. As indicated by the final item in this newsletter, PETA has many positive accomplishments (some of which most people are not aware of) and it has focussed attention on many issues that the public would otherwise ignore. While disagreeing with some of their philosophy and actions, we should acknowledge that they are working consistent with Jewish teachings to relieve the pain of animals.
As indicated in my article below, PETA has made statements and taken actions that have been very positive re the Jewish community. They have indicated that shechita, when properly carried out, is a superior method of slaughter, and they have praised Jewish teachings on the proper treatment of animals. They have produced a “Judaism and Vegetarianism” DVD and a booklet, “A Jewish Case for Vegetarianism,” both of which are filled with positive Jewish teachings. They are giving out free copies of the booklet in quantity to people who request them. (Call 1-888-VEGFOOD or visit GoVeg,com for copies.)
They also acted responsibly and sensitively in the Postville kosher slaughterhouse controversy by focusing on improving conditions at that facility, rather than attacking shechita or Judaism for the abuses of animals at the slaughterhouse. These are actions that the Jewish community should appreciate and seek ways to build on.
On the other hand, PETA acted very insensitively re their “Holocaust on Your Plate Campaign.” While Jewish people organized and carried out the campaign, PETA did not consult with the JVNA or with leaders of the Jewish community. I believe that they did not adequately explain the reasons they felt it necessary to carry out the campaign and they did not initially indicate that they were sorry that some people would be offended. I am very glad that PETA made its apology, but it was late and did not adequately consider the reasons that people were so upset by the Holocaust campaign. If PETA would widen its apology to take into account criticisms indicated by statements in this newsletter, it would, I believe, improve people’s perception of PETA and make it much easier for the JVNA and other Jewish groups to work with them in the future, so I respectfully urge them to do so. I believe it would also be extremely helpful if PETA clarified its position re equating people and animals, since it has often been misrepresented.
On a broader scale, as indicated above, I think that PETA deserves much credit for its many achievements in reducing animal suffering and making people aware of widespread abuses of animals. However, I believe they could be far more effective in serving their noble cause by
* making people aware that a shift toward vegetarianism is beneficial for people as well as animals.
* arguing that a shift toward vegetarianism is a societal imperative today because of the many negative health and environmental effects of animal-based diets.
* arguing that a shift toward vegetarianism is a religious imperative today because animal-centered diets violate many religious mandates.
* making a Shift to vegetarianism a priority for the animal rights movement.
* challenging the medical establishment to inform people that many diseases can be prevented and sometimes reversed through a shift to vegan diets and other positive lifestyle changes.
* forming alliances with environmental, health, animal rights, social justice, and other groups.
* urging the media, politicians, educators, and others to help make people aware of the many benefits of vegetarian diets.
I make these suggestions respectfully, because I believe that these actions have great potential, at a time when a shift toward vegetarianism is urgent. (By the way, I would welcome suggestions re how the JVNA can be more effective in striving to reach our objectives.)
Re Jewish critics of PETA: I have also worked very closely with many members of the Jewish community who are very upset by PETA’s Holocaust-related project and PETA’s apology, and they are also a very dedicated, sincere group, very much committed to the Jewish people and the application of Jewish values toward a better world. Jewish vegetarians should be careful not to attack the Jewish community or the Orthodox Jewish community, while we urge get them to apply Jewish teachings toward the reduction of animal abuses. I have lived in an Orthodox community and worshipped in an Orthodox synagogue for many years, and, while I differ strongly on some issues such as vegetarianism with most members, I have found them to be good people who are very charitable and involved actively in many programs to help others. Also, as I have tried to bring out in my books and articles, Judaism has many powerful teachings that can help address the many crises facing the world today.
Menbers of the Jewish community are correct in trying to defend the dignity of Holocaust victims, the feelings of survivors, and Jewish teachings, such as the uniqueness and sanctity of every life. They have been correct in challenging the “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign and PETA’s apology. I recently visited the revised and expanded Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, and was reminded of the indescribably horrible events that involved the attempted genocide of the Jewish people. As I have indicated many times, I have long felt that animal rights activists should not use Holocaust comparisons to promote our cause. While appreciating PETA’s positive actions, JVNA will continue to make clear our differences and disagreements.
Since we are a Jewish vegetarian society, I think that it is also important that we continue to respectfully point out that the Jewish community has not adequately applied Judaism’s powerful teachings on treating animals compassionately to challenging the abuses of modern intensive livestock agriculture. They have been generally ducking the fact that the production and consumption of animal products seriously violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue peace. In some cases, some have used PETA’s statements, actions, and philosophy as an excuse to duck the issues of animal abuse and other negative effects of animal-centered diets. None of this justifies PETA’s failure to properly consider and address the feelings of many in the Jewish community with regard to their Holocaust-related campaign.
I hope that my article below on how the Jewish community should respond to PETA and my three responses to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s thoughtful article will provide additional thoughts on these issues.
No matter what PETA does, and I certainly hope they will act in ways that will facilitate our working with them, JVNA must continue our efforts to get greater Jewish involvement in vegetarian-related issues.
Once again, these thoughts are the result of some difficult wrestling with some complicated issues, in the hope of impelling our movement forward. I hope that readers will take them in the positive spirit of reconciliation in which they are intended. I apologize in advance for not reaching people’s expectations, and urge people who disagree not to desert us but to help us keep wrestling and thereby to reach better approaches.
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2. The PETA Apology
For those who have not yet read the PETA apology, here it is, as a reference for some of the later material in this newsletter:
Apology for the hurt caused by PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” Campaign
by Ingrid Newkirk, President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
When the investigative footage of the violations at the AgriProcessors glatt kosher slaughterhouse was released last December, an observant Jewish staff member here at PETA suggested that we consider referencing the classic Yiddish song “Dona, Dona” to convey the horror of the calves who are transported to slaughter, and perhaps use its haunting music to accompany the video images. When I consulted with other Jewish staff and PETA advisors, some thought that this was an offensive and inappropriate use of the song, which alludes to the journey to concentration camps.
This renewed the heated debates that were provoked during the “Holocaust on Your Plate” Campaign, taking me back to the mental wrangling that we have experienced here over the profound conflicts that comparisons to the Holocaust generate, and the diversity of complex positions on these issues within the Jewish community, even among Jews who are aligned with animal rights—including those at PETA. What was originally thought of as a simple, melancholic song incited a spectrum of passionate and visceral reactions. We decided not to use the song in connection with the AgriProcessors case, and I have decided to apologize for the pain caused by the “Holocaust on Your Plate” Campaign.
When “Holocaust on Your Plate” was originally launched, we knew that it would be emotionally charged and intellectually provocative. Even if we had used more conventional tactics, people don’t like to have it pointed out to them that they’re causing unnecessary pain and suffering by eating meat. We did aim to be provocative. We did not, however, aim simply to provoke.
Hard as it may be to understand for those who were deeply upset by this campaign, I was bowled over by the negative reception by many in the Jewish community. It was both unintended and unexpected. The PETA staff who proposed that we do it were Jewish, and the patronage for the entire endeavor was Jewish. We were careful to use Jewish authors and scholars and quotes from Holocaust victims and survivors. And since Judaism has some of the strongest teachings regarding compassion for animals among the monotheistic faiths, I truly believed, as did the Jewish staff members who proposed the exhibit, that a large segment of the Jewish community would support it.
We had also seen the positive response to Holocaust scholar Charles Patterson’s book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, and felt that our exhibit was very much in keeping both with the spirit and goals of his book, as well as the history that he documents, which finds more and more Jews opting for vegetarian diets as a part of their response to the Holocaust—a response through which “Never Again” is applied to humans and other animals.
The Orthodox Jewish Press wrote, “Charles Patterson’s book gives us pause for thought, and if killing and consuming our animal protein is a societal cause of homicide and genocide then we must stop to give some consideration. After all, foods of animal origin are especially prone for causing most of our major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.” And a member of the editorial staff at the daily Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, wrote, “this is a thorough and thought-provoking book. If the linkage of animal rights and the Holocaust seems startling at first, it begins to make perfect sense as one reads on. Some might see this as trivialization of the Holocaust; it isn't. Instead, the chilling parallels Patterson exposes seem to offer even more reason to despair of the human race.”
Another daily paper from Israel, Maariv, opined, “the moral challenge posed by Eternal Treblinka turns it into a must for anyone who seeks to delve into the universal lesson of the Holocaust... .” And the influential Jerusalem Post stated, “Even if you are not persuaded to give up meat meals for moral reasons, at least you will never be able to say of the suffering behind them: ‘I didn't know... .’” Similar responses have been published in Jewish papers all over the world.
The “Holocaust on Your Plate” Campaign was designed to sensitize people to different forms of systematic degradation and exploitation, and the logic and methods employed in factory farms and slaughterhouses are analogous to those used in concentration camps. We realize that many people—Jews and non-Jews alike—cannot see through the pain and horror of what was done to human beings to agree, but to our minds, both systems are hideous and devastating. We understand both systems to be based in a moral equation indicating that “might makes right” and premised on a conception of other cultures or other species as deficient and thus disposable. Each has its own unique mechanisms and purposes, but both result in immeasurable, unnecessary suffering for those who are innocent and unable to defend themselves.
As with the song “Dona, Dona,” we had hoped to draw attention to the common, terrifying experience of the condemned en route to their horrible and unnecessary slaughter. We recognize that the analogy made in “Dona Dona” resonates as more than a rhetorical or literary comparison, especially to those for whom the experience is still too personal to universalize. The differences cannot be translated or reduced to a metaphor, particularly for the victims and survivors who still bear physical and emotional scars of persecution and for the Jewish community still so horribly vulnerable to continued acts of anti-Semitism.
We sincerely wished to bridge these different forms of systematic abuse. By showing how humans were treated “like animals,” it was never our goal to humiliate the victims further—instead we hoped to shed light on the process through which any living being can be reduced to an interchangeable, disposable “thing.” The tragic irony is that on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, even animals are not treated “like animals”—everything about their lives is a grotesque mockery of all that is natural to them.
We believe that we humans can and should use our distinctive capacities to reduce suffering in the world. Even the vegan diet that we endorse out of concern for animal suffering promotes human health, protects the environment, and liberates us from violent practices, as Dr. Richard Schwartz makes so clear in his book Judaism and Vegetarianism. These are all goals directed at alleviating human suffering as well as that of other beings.
Our mission is a profoundly human one at its heart, yet we know that we have caused pain. This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry. We hope that you can understand that although we embarked on the “Holocaust on Your Plate” project with misconceptions about what its impact would be, we always try to act with integrity, with the goal of improving the lives of those who suffer. We hope those we upset will find it in their hearts to work toward the goal of a kinder world for all, regardless of species.
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3. Messages Critical of the PETA Apology
These messages critical of PETA’s apology are followed by messages supportive of the apology in the next section. I hope that these respectful statements will people on both sides of the issue see other perspectives.
1) The following message is from scholar, author, and JVNA advisor Yosef Hakohen:
The Inadequate Apology:
There is an old Jewish saying that "words which come from the heart, enter the heart." I would therefore like to share with you words from my heart which express my feelings as to why the Peta apology is inadequate.
Several months ago, a dear friend wrote to me that he and a colleague were going to encourage the leaders of Peta to issue an apology for their offensive exhibit. I therefore replied to my friend with the following memo:
We need to remember that an apology should be an apology and not a disguised justification of the original action which caused pain. It should not be, "Well I am sorry that you were hurt, but the action which hurt you was justified." That is not a real apology.
We need to remember that if an apology is to be accepted by the heart of the wounded person, the apology must come from the heart. The apology should be a sincere expression of regret for the hurt caused, and it should also be an acknowledgement that the hurtful action was wrong. And an apology should include a promise to be more sensitive and understanding in the future.
The Peta press release which contained their "apology" did not meet all of the above minimum standards of a sincere apology. In fact, most of the Peta press release was an attempt to justify the exhibit and the ideas which produced it. The brief apology at the end of the release only expresses regret for the pain that was caused, but not for the offensive comparisons which caused the pain.
In order to understand why it is premature to endorse the Peta apology, we need to briefly review the major reasons why the Peta exhibit is unethical, and why it is also an affront to human dignity. I would therefore like to cite brief excerpts from the editorial of a progressive newspaper, the Boston Globe, which can help us to understand why Peta still has more work to do with regard to issuing a proper apology:
Boston Globe Editorial -- May 23, 2003
The "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign, which compares images of captive and slaughtered victims of the Holocaust with the modern treatment of animals on factory farms, is a moral failure.
...PETA mounted the eight-panel photo exhibit on City Hall Plaza on Tuesday as part of a hit-and-run national campaign that started in February. In one panel, under the banner "The Final Indignity," human corpses are juxtaposed with those of pigs. In another panel, under the title "Baby Butchers," mothers and children in striped prison garb stare from behind the barbed wire of a concentration camp. Next to them, PETA mounts a photograph of caged piglets.
Matt Prescott, one of the exhibit's creators, stood at the edge of City Hall Plaza Tuesday and insisted that "the methods and mind-sets of the Holocaust are the same as factory farming." Perhaps it's all a publicity ploy. Or perhaps, in the twisted world of PETA, the Nazi insistence on slaughtering Jews for death's sake alone is identical to the farmer's role in raising animals for human consumption. Either way, PETA's exhibit is a disgrace.
One photograph hijacked by the animal rights activists shows rows of emaciated prisoners - among them Elie Wiesel - staring from their crowded slats upon the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945. The presence of Wiesel, an author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, evokes the many cultural and educational institutions destroyed by the Nazis as they murdered one-third of the world's Jewish population from 1939 to 1945. But for PETA, the photo evokes chickens in coops.
Peta says it seeks to be a source of conscience regarding the abuse of animals. Yet its arguments and its preposterous exhibit collapse when their members think nothing of inflicting suffering on human beings.
My progressive father, of blessed memory, was active in the labor movement, civil rights movement, and other progressive causes. And as soon as I was old enough to travel, he would take me to various meetings and rallies. One of the principles he taught me is the following: If you encounter within our progressive circles any prejudice or insensitivity towards the Jewish people, have the courage and self-respect to protest! My father did not agree with the more assimilated Jewish activists who refused to protest when they encountered prejudice or insensitivity towards the Jewish people and their heritage within progressive circles. My father's emphasis on self-respect was reinforced by the Torah education I later received. In this spirit, I feel that our self-respect as human beings and as Jews should motivate us to let Peta know why its "apology" is incomplete.
In the meanwhile, let us continue to work for a better world for all of God's creatures in accordance with our own Torah principles. In this way, we can demonstrate the following universal truth which the Peta exhibit failed to recognize:
Human beings are special, as they were created in the Divine image with the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion and concern for all creation.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
2) The following statement is from scholar, author, and JVNA advisor Rabbi Dovid Sears:
PETA recently expressed a public apology for the pain caused by their "Holocaust In Your Plate" exhibit, which alienated almost the entire spectrum of the Jewish community, with the exception of PETA's "court Jews" who were already onboard. In fact, they receive the dubious credit for having conceived such a dubious media ploy. (To them, I recommend a summer course in Remedial Jewish Identity 101, beginning with Praeger and Telushkin's "Why the Jews?" Especially the chapter on leftist antisemitism.)
However, most of the PETA press release was devoted to self-justification. As if PETA is telling the Jewish people, "Well, I'm sorry that you were hurt, but the action that hurt you was justified." This is not a true apology. A true apology must acknowledge that the orginal exhibit was a mistake -- despite whatever good intentions its creators may have had -- and that PETA will refrain from using this exhibit and similar methods in the future.
Which begs the question: why didn't PETA make such an apology?
I suspect that the answer is because the folks at PETA really don't know the difference between a factory farm and Aushwitz. Never had swastikas painted on their front doors or places of worship. Never were harassed by Neo-Nazi cops. Never got the contents of their lower intestines kicked out of them by kids on the schoolbus whose pious clergymen taught them that the Jews killed God and therefore deserve to be burned alive. This is fortunate for them -- but most unfortunate for those who do know the meaning of ideological antisemitism.
What they fail to understand is that the Holocaust was not just about treating people abominably and cruelly. It was about trying to completely exterminate one specific group of people for a particular set of hateful reasons -- which has no connection to the meat industry, the goal of which is to provide food by raising and slaughtering animals. This goal is a practical one, and even if one disagrees, an ethically acceptable one to most people and religious traditions. Any cruelty involved is largely unintentional -- although not morally excusable. These distinctions are genuine and important ones.
The failure to recognize the difference between Jewish blood and animal blood -- as much as one may agree with the goal of preventing cruelty to animals -- is deserving of much more than an apology. It demands sincere soul-searching about the very idea of the moral equivalence of the species that underlies this ill-starred campaign. As the Talmudic sages state: "Without making distinctions, how can there be insight?"
Rabbi David Sears
Author of "The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism" (Orot 2004).
3) Message from Steve Kelter: (I have had the pleasure of attending several Tu B’Shvat seders conducted by Steve at the Jewish Vegetarian Society headquarters in Jerusalem. He is a new member of the JVNA Advisory Committee and the Orthodox subcommittee.)
I was converted to vegetarianism by a Rabbi in my Jewish studies program while a student at Yeshiva University. He demonstrated that the Biblical ideal recorded in the Creation story and in the Prophetic end of days was vegetarian. He taught that the purpose of kashrut-the Jewish dietary laws- was to inculcate sensitivity to life and to minimize pain and suffering to animals. Moreover, God's ideal is that we should not kill at all.
Treating animals brutally is a terrible violation of the Bible's prohibition of causing pain to animals. Some of the same methods may be used in industrial meat production as were used by the Nazis in transporting and killing Jews. This is a terrible injustice to our fellow creatures.
However, equating humans and animals offends my sense of human dignity. In the Biblical creation story both animals and human beings are Divinely created. However, only humans were created in God's image. Humans were given dominion over animals but they were also commanded to treat them kindly and not to hurt or abuse them.
Killing of animals for food is not the same as murdering human beings. Killing many animals for food to make a profit is not the same as the Nazi's "Final Solution," destroying every last member of the Jewish people everywhere as well as destroying all influences of their culture and religious teachings.
Ingrid Newkirk's apology is respectful, considerate, caring and nuanced. What is missing is noting a distinction between humans and animals as well as the difference between insensitively making a profit at the expense of hurting God's creatures and exterminating all Jews everywhere just for being Jews. The meat industry's medium is not the same as the Nazi's message. In my opinion she needs to make this distinction before receiving JVNA's endorsement of her apology.
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4. Messages Supportive of the PETA Apology
Message from JVNA advisor John Diamond
"WHY PETA NEEDS THE FULL SUPPORT AND COOPERATION FROM THE JVNA"
As a fellow member of the JVNA Advisory Committee, I am asking all of the other members to support Dr. Richard Schwartz's efforts to establish a common ground with PETA to further the very important work of eliminating abuses of animals on factory farms and promoting vegetarianism among people in general.
As committed Jews, we all should believe that the Messianic Kingdom will be a non-violent one, as Rabbi David Sears describes in his book "The Vision of Eden" where; "exploitation and cruelty on all levels of creation will cease forever."
PETA has taken on the task of eliminating cruelty to animals worldwide. I know this to be true, as I had the pleasure of visiting PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia this past January and speaking with Bruce Friedrich, director of PETA’s vegan campaigns.
Because their work is helping to lay one of the foundations for the Messianic Kingdom, PETA deserves support from the JVNA. We should not fall into the easy trap of requiring perfection in others as a precondition for our support. PETA is made up of very imperfect people and many of its tactics are imperfect, as well. But their heart is in the right place and the work they do is vital. All of us, for that matter, are very imperfect, but do others in our own lives refuse to deal with us because of this?
When J.S. Bach was working in Arnstadt, he got into a fracas with one of his students in the public square and drew his sword. Bach, in spite of his enormous contribution to music, had many imperfections. Does this mean that we should ban his music for our consideration and enjoyment? Of course not! During his reprimand by the Arnstadt City Council, he was told, "We must all learn to live among the imperfect." This is very wise and sage advise that all of us can benefit from.
Let's all put our support behind Dr. Richard Schwartz!!!!!
John K. Diamond
Member, JVNA Advisory Committee
Message from Aaron Gross, scholar, author, JVNA advisor, and PETA advisor:
A response to the PETA apology while standing on one foot: I can only welcome the apology as a genuine gesture of good will, however much I may wish it went farther. The question is not whether the apology is ideal (it is not), but to what extent we in the Jewish animal rights community will accept it enough to work robustly with PETA. This is the most urgent question and the answer to it only can be that PETA is a friend and ally to the Jewish community with whom we are fortunate to work. The OU's final word on AgriProcessors has been the remarkable deception that "[K]osher slaughter practices at Agriprocessors' plant conformed to the highest standards, of Jewish law and tradition," and, yet, if the OU was serious about animal welfare, I would gladly work with them (even without an apology!). All the more will I work proudly with PETA whose investigation has done more in the last 6 months to raise mass consciousness about factory farming in the Jewish community than anything that has occurred in the last
decade or even longer. -Aaron Gross
Statement by editor and JVNA advisor Syd Baumel
Ingrid Newkirk has courageously - “menschfully” even (given the predictable response from some quarters, as demonstrated by Wesley J. Smith’s acid commentary ["PETA’s Non-Apology Apology") - apologized for collaterally rubbing salt in some peoples’ wounds when PETA’s purpose was to sensitize us all to how the human race needlessly traumatizes and kills billions of helpless animals every year. For people who are offended by the moral parallel (not equation) that PETA and even some Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors such as myself conscientiously draw between genocidal state racism and factory farming, her apology is indeed a “non apology.” But then why should anyone have to apologize for challenging the powerful and complacent to recognize how they are
oppressing the weak?
Statement by editor, author, former literary agent, and JVNA advisor Patti Breitman:
Ingrid's explanation is going to be as helpful as her apology for two
First, it explains the thinking behind the campaign, and that might help
some people who reacted in disgust to it to calm down. Second, it shows Peta to be a reasonable, thinking, organization, willing to reassess its campaigns after the fact and apologize for missteps. If only the President and his supporters followed her lead!
I do hope you can use this to help animals, and your press release is
All best, Patti Breitman
Statement from Michael Croland
I think PETA absolutely did the right thing in apologizing for the campaign and it's wrong to expect more. Having read Eternal Treblinka, I think the analogy is accurate. I just think it's touchy and perhaps "tasteless" (to use Ingrid Newkirk's word), which is why it didn't go over well. That was the big drawback of the campaign, and that is specifically what PETA has apologized for.
Now that it's all said and done, I hope that JVNA can try to work with PETA to best promote our common goals. I see no need for criticism or separation at this time. I myself have tried to write an article about the Jewish take on vegetarianism recently. Let the apology open the floodgates of such opportunity, rather than being a hindrance or occasion for infighting.
Michael Croland is graduating this month from Carnegie Mellon, where he taught an Animal Rights course and was president of the school's chapter of Voices for Animals. He won his school's Siegel Award for Professional Writing for a Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh article about the AgriProcessors scandal, and the Humane Society of the United States's Student Genesis Award for that article and four others.
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5. My Article re How Jews Should Respond to PETA’s Activities
How Should Jews Respond to PETA’s Activities?
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Jews should be actively involved in ending the widespread abuses of animals on factory farms and in other settings, not because of anything PETA says or does, but because Judaism mandates it.
There is much to criticize PETA for in terms of its philosophy and actions. While PETA is properly committed to the elimination or at least major reduction of the mistreatment of animals, many of its actions are insensitive and turn people off to its cause. Its “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign, in comparing the brutal slaughter of 6 million Jews and millions of others to the horrible treatment of farmed animals, failed to consider the feelings of Holocaust survivors and others, the dignity of Holocaust victims, and human uniqueness and dignity, and its apology, while a welcome step forward, failed to consider some of the reasons for the widespread criticism.
The Jewish community should continue to try to make PETA more aware of why many Jews and others are extremely upset by its actions, and one way to do this is to make PETA aware of how changing their methods and working together with the Jewish community and other groups in addressing animal abuses is in their interest and that of the animals they are trying to help.
There are reasons to believe that PETA and Jewish groups can find common ground. Perhaps most important is a common desire to improve conditions for animals. Also, although it is not commonly known, PETA has made statements and taken actions that have been very positive re the Jewish community. They have indicated that shechita, when properly carried out, is a superior method of slaughter, and they have praised Jewish teachings on the proper treatment of animals. They have produced a “Judaism and Vegetarianism” DVD and a booklet, “A Jewish Case for Vegetarianism,” both of which are filled with positive Jewish teachings. They are giving out free copies of the booklet in quantity to all who request them. They also acted responsibly and sensitively in the Postville kosher slaughterhouse controversy by focusing on improving conditions at that facility, rather than attacking shechita or Judaism for the abuses of animals. These are actions that the Jewish community should appreciate and seek ways to build on.
It would be wonderful if somehow PETA would make the changes that would enable the Jewish community to work with PETA in improving conditions for farmed animals and other animals. But, no matter what, PETA’s statements and actions should not be used as a justification for not doing what the Torah mandates.
Even if shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) is carried out perfectly and pain and distress during slaughter are minimized, can we ignore the many violations of Jewish teachings on compassion to animals as billions of animals on “factory farms” in the United States and worldwide experience pain, suffering, and agony for their entire lives?
In view of the Jewish teaching of tsa’ar ba’alei chaim (the Torah mandate to avoid causing unnecessary pain to animals), can we justify the force-feeding of ducks and geese to create foie gras? The taking of day-old calves from their mothers so that they can be raised for veal in very cramped conditions? the killing of 250 million male chicks immediately after birth at egg-laying hatcheries because they cannot produce eggs and have not been genetically programmed to be able to have much flesh? the keeping of hens in spaces so small that they can’t raise their wings and then debeaking them to prevent injuries due to pecking? artificially impregnating cows every year so that they will continue to produce milk? and the many other horrors of factory farming?
If we ignore the mistreatment of animals, are we carrying out our mandate to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors)? Are we failing to properly imitate God, Whose “tender mercies are over all His creatures” (Psalms 145:9)?
If, as is recited at synagogue services every Sabbath and Yom tov morning, “the soul of every living creature shall bless God’s Name,” can we expect these cruelly treated animals to join in the praise?
If “the righteous person considers the life of his or her animal” (Proverbs 12:10), how will we be judged, based on our acceptance of the treatment of the animals raised, trucked and slaughtered for our tables?
And, can we ignore the many other ways that animal-based diets and modern livestock agriculture severely violate Jewish values:
* While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have implicated the products of modern intensive livestock agriculture as significant risk factors for coronary heart disease, stroke, several forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.
* While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture is widely recognized by independent scientists, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, as an environmentally unsustainable enterprise that grossly accelerates soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, global climate change, and other forms of environmental damage.
* While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, or use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, a diet based upon animal agriculture instead of plant agriculture (which provides protein from grains, beans, tubers, nuts and seeds) wastes many times more land, fresh water, fossil fuels, grain and other resources. It takes up to sixteen pounds of grain to produce just one pound of feedlot-finished beef.
While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, an estimated twenty million human beings worldwide die each year because of hunger and its effects, and nearly a billion are chronically malnourished. While the solution of widespread hunger is complex, it doesn't help that over 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. and almost 40 percent worldwide is produced to fatten food animals, not to feed the world's most impoverished human citizens, many of whom are displaced from their land by animal feed growers.
* While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, the global expansion of Western-style animal-centered diets is increasing the gap between food security "haves" and "have nots," a chronic injustice that
can lead to political unrest and violent conflict.
Clearly, Jewish values and meat consumption are in serious conflict. If Judaism is to remain relevant to many of the great problems of today, it is my heartfelt belief that all Jews should seriously consider adopting a sustainable plant-based diet. In my view, it is a moral, social and ecological imperative.
While Jews are a small percent of the world’s people and thereby responsible for only a small part of the problems related to modern intensive livestock agriculture and other current practices, it is essential, in view of the many threats to humanity today, that we strive to fulfil our challenge to be a “light unto the nations,” and to work for “tikkun olam,” the healing, repair, and proper transformation of the world. Besides having great benefits for animals, such actions would greatly benefit the health of the Jewish people and others, move our precious, but imperiled planet to a more sustainable path, and show the relevance of Judaism’s eternal teachings to the problems confronting the world today.
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6. Article by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudas Israel re the PETA Apology
SHE JUST DOESN'T GET IT
Rabbi Avi Shafran
Apologies are admirable. Only somewhat, though, when they miss the point entirely. The thought is born of the recent mea culpa offered by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk for her organization's offensive "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign.
You may recall that effort of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals two years back to compare the meat processing industry to Adolf Hitler's Final Solution for the "Jewish problem." The traveling exhibit outraged innumerable observers with its placement of World War II death camp photographs next to scenes in animal slaughter facilities.
Naked, emaciated men were juxtaposed with a gaggle of chickens; pigs behind bars, with starving children behind barbed wire; mounds of human corpses with mounds of cow carcasses. In one panel, above the legend "Baby Butchers," mothers and children in striped prison garb were shown staring through the barbed wire of a concentration camp; alongside them, a similar shot of caged piglets.
As might be expected, Holocaust survivors were particularly flabbergasted by the astounding tastelessness of the animal rights group's exhibit. But it didn't take any personal concentration camp experience to be stunned by PETA's vulgarity.
One of countless expressions of disgust came from The Boston Globe, which editorialized that "PETA. has placed itself beyond the pale of worthy charitable organizations with this spiteful exhibit."
Although the headline of Ms. Newkirk's 1151-word press release describes it as an "apology," the actual expression of regret consists of only parts of two sentences, each regretting the "pain" caused by the campaign. The remaining thousand-plus words consist of a justification of Ms. Newkirk's decision to launch the campaign, and a recounting of how startled she was by the reaction. She had "truly believed," she writes "that a large segment of the Jewish community would support" the exhibit, and was "bowled over by the negative reception" it received. Disturbingly, she lays responsibility for the ill-advised campaign on "PETA staff [who] were Jewish." Shoulda guessed: It was the Jews.
More unsettling, though, is that nowhere in the lengthy release does Ms. Newkirk so much as touch upon what really made the exhibit obscene. If she thinks it was only the campaign's insensitivity to survivors, she just doesn't get it.
To be sure, the use of Holocaust images was incredibly callous to survivors; her apology to them and their descendents is, even if terse and belated, commendable.
But the essential outrage of "Holocaust on Your Plate" was not that it
injured feelings, but rather that it equated human beings with cows, pigs and chickens. What is loathsome is that it reasserted PETA's credo, reflected in its motto: "Meat is Murder." The stance is well captured by Ms. Newkirk's earlier declaration that that "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses," and in her infamous aphorism "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." That philosophy, denying humanity's uniqueness, is beyond hurtful. It is evil.
And while Ms. Newkirk has tried to "contextualize" at least her "dog is a
boy" remark as referring only to the sensation of pain, the comment's
context (in Vogue Magazine, 1989) is all too clear. The memorable line was a coda to her contention that "There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. They are all mammals."
Her moral equation of the animal and the human was unambiguously evident, too, in her response to a reporter's question about whether it was ethical to experiment on rats to cure human disease: She asked whether the reporter would endorse experimentation for the same purpose on the reporter's child.
Few religious traditions are as concerned with animals as the Jewish. Not only were two of the three Biblical patriarchs, not to mention Moses, caring shepherds, but numerous biblical laws, conceptually illustrative as well as binding today, seek to spare animals unnecessary pain. There is, moreover, a global prohibition in Jewish religious law against inflicting such pain. And in actual practice, observant Jews are in fact exquisitely sensitive to animal wellbeing. I recall as a young boy how my father scooped two injured birds from a street and brought them home to care for them. In my own home, even insects are captured and released rather than killed.
But Judaism - and civilized society, which has adopted many of Jewish
tradition's ideals - maintains a clear and crucial distinction between the
animal and the human. Animals, although they must not be caused gratuitous pain, may be forced to work and killed for food. And humans may not. Humans make moral choices. And animals do not. Conflating the two worlds, considering a rat to be a pig to be a dog to be a boy, inherently shows disdain for the specialness of the human being.
Even Ms. Newkirk's apology seems to reiterate her conflating of animals and humans. Referring to factory farms and concentration camps, she asserts that "both systems [are] based in a moral equation indicating that 'might makes right' and premised on a conception of other cultures or other species as deficient and thus disposable."
Still, though, there may be hope. At the very end of her manifesto, Ms. Newkirk claims that PETA's "mission is a profoundly human one at its heart." That phrase would seem to offer the possibility that PETA's president, at least on some level, in fact recognizes that there is something profound about humanity, that dogs are not in fact boys. Should that seed of an understanding manage to grow, perhaps one day PETA will have the courage to truly apologize, for its core philosophy, disavow it, and re-enter the civilized world.
Until then, though, those of us who care about animals but know that they are not humans will do well to direct our support to the ASPCA.
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7. My Three Sample Letters In Response to Rabbi Shafran’s Article
Rabbi Shafran makes some very valuable points, but he overlooks some important considerations. Since these considerations are also being avoided by many Jewish leaders, I have written the following three sample letters in the hope that the issues discussed will be put on the Jewish agenda. Please be on the lookout for Rabbi Shafran’s articles and other material about PETA’s apology in local Jewish weeklies, and please consider using material from these letters to draft a response.
a. Dear Editor:
Rabbi Avi Shafran is correct in stating that Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, does not get it in terms of why many in the the Jewish community are upset by PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” exhibit and feel that her recent apology is inadequate.
But, I believe that Rabbi Shafran and some others in the Jewish community do not get it in other ways. While correctly defending Jewish values and the dignity and honor of Holocaust victims, they do not get how far from Judaism’s powerful teachings on compassion to animals is the current very cruel treatment of animals on factory farms. They do not get that the production and consumption of animal products is causing an epidemic of disease in the Jewish community and others and is contributing significantly to global warming, rapid species extinction, widening severe water shortages, destruction of tropical, rain forests and other habitats, and many additional threats to humanity. They do not get that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue a more peaceful, less violent world.
It is time to put these issues on the Jewish agenda, not because of PETA, but in order to improve the health of the Jewish people and others and in order to shift our imperiled planet to a more sustainable path.
Very truly yours,
b. Dear Editor:
Avi Shafran is correct in pointing out that Judaism stresses the uniqueness and sanctity of every human life. I believe that PETA would greatly help their cause if they clearly stated that they do recognize the difference between the slaughter of 6 millions of Jews and millions of others during the Holocaust and the raising of animals on factory farms, as horrible as conditions there are. But, even if they do not, the sharp contradictions between Judaism’s teachings and the very negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture on human beings as well as animals should impel Jews to be in the forefront of dietary shifts.
Judaism stresses the dignity of every human being, but what about the dignity of the over one million Americans who are stricken with heart disease, stroke, various types of cancer, and other chronic degenerative disease that are strongly linked to the consumption of animal products? What about the dignity of the estimated 20 million people who die annually from hunger and its effects and the hundreds of millions of people who are chronically hungry, while 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and almost 40 percent of the grain produced worldwide is used to fatten farmed animals? What about the dignity of every person on earth who is or will be threatened by global warming, severe water shortages, the pollution or degradation of land, air, water, forests, and coral reefs, and many additional environmental threats?
Yes, Judaism has powerful teachings on the importance of every human life. Hence, it is essential that the Jewish community stop ignoring the devastating effects that the production and consumption of animal products is having on human beings.
c. Dear Editor:
Avi Shafran is correct in pointing out that Judaism has very powerful teachings on compassion to animals. However, like many other Jewish leaders, he fails to relate these teachings to the many ways that animals are currently mistreated on factory farms and in other settings.
In view of the Jewish teaching of tsa’ar ba’alei chaim (the Torah mandate to avoid causing unnecessary pain to animals), can we justify the force-feeding of ducks and geese to create foie gras? the taking of day-old calves from their mothers so that they can be raised for veal in very cramped conditions? the killing of 250 million male chicks immediately after birth at egg-laying hatcheries because they cannot produce eggs and have not been genetically programmed to be able to have much flesh? the keeping of hens in spaces so small that they can’t raise even one wing and then debeaking them to prevent injuries due to pecking? artificially impregnating cows every year so that they will continue to produce milk? and the many other horrors of factory farming?
Since we are to be "rachamanim b'nei rachamanim" (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors), and to worship a God who is "Harachamon" (the compassionate One), Whose mercies are over all of His creatures, and since "the soul of all living beings shall praise God's name", can we continue to have diets that involve so much cruelty to animals?
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8. Forward’s Article on the PETA Apology
Animal Group Apologizes
By GABRIEL SANDERS
May 13, 2005
Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, apologized last week for the group's 2003 "Holocaust on Your Plate" ad campaign, which juxtaposed images of World War II concentration camps with contemporary images of animal mistreatment.
Without the fanfare that usually accompanies announcements from the famously media-savvy group, the apology was quietly distributed to Jewish groups last week on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Though nearly all corners of the Jewish world had called for some sort of apology, reactions to Newkirk's letter have been mixed. While some saw it as a welcome corrective to a misbegotten effort, critics have found it to be at best insufficient and at worst cynical and insincere.
The scope of the apology was limited. Though Newkirk apologized for "pain caused," the bulk of her letter was devoted to a defense of the effort.
"The 'Holocaust on Your Plate' campaign was designed to sensitize people to different forms of systematic degradation and exploitation, and the logic and methods employed in factory farms and slaughterhouses are analogous to those used in concentration camps," the letter said.
Newkirk wrote that she was "bowled over" by the negative reaction to the campaign in Jewish circles, noting that it was "unintended and unexpected."
"We did aim to be provocative," she said. "We did not, however, aim simply to provoke."
The letter was, in large measure, the result of lobbying on the part of Jewish groups that have ties to Peta.
Richard H. Schwartz, president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, offered qualified praise.
"While I wish that [it] had been stronger," Schwartz wrote in an e-mail to the Forward [in response to their request], "I am very pleased that Peta has issued an apology.... I believe that it is now essential to emphasize common ground in working to end the current mistreatment of animals on factory farms."
Noted Orthodox lawyer Nathan Lewin said that the statement is "not really an apology."
"It's an acknowledgement of a miscalculation," said Lewin, the lawyer for the glatt kosher AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, which late last year was charged by Peta with engaging in inhumane slaughtering practices. "In an apology one withdraws what one has previously said."
To Lewin, the letter can be seen as an attempt to return public focus to the Iowa slaughterhouse, which, after garnering much attention for a time, has of late slipped from public view. "It seems to me it is clearly an effort to get back in the media, which is what Peta does all the time," Lewin said.
According to Aaron Gross, a graduate student in religious studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, who has served as an unpaid adviser to Peta on the Iowa slaughterhouse case, the letter had been in the works for some time. Gross said that in order to avoid linking the two issues, the group deliberately held the letter until the Iowa campaign was no longer "active."
Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman of the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, told the Forward that the issue of hurt feelings was only "one of the sins of this incredibly offensive campaign." Newkirk's "essential sin," Shafran said, "is that she equates humans with animals." Instead of apologizing for this, he said, "she reiterates it."
Copyright 2005 © The Forward
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9. What Are Some Lessons We Should Learn From the Holocaust?
While comparing the killing of human beings and the killing of animals is not appropriate, I think that it is important to consider lessons that we can learn from the Holocaust that can help in our efforts to produce a better world, lessons with the potential to unite people, rather than divide people. (This is an initial draft, so I very much welcome your comments on it. Thanks.) Here are some thoughts:
* We must never again remain silent in the face of evil. In the words of Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." (From a statement by author, editor, and JVNA advisor Charles Patterson.)
* We should strive to see that such horrendous events never happen again, to the Jews or anyone else on the planet.
* We should acknowledge the huge and unique nature of that horrible set of events, and yet use the memory to work to end other forms of injustice and oppression.
* Some of the mentality and methods behind the Holocaust, such as “might makes right,” the demonizing of various groups of people, and the use of certain types of technology, are similar to those behind the abuse of both animals and people today, and hence we should challenge them.
* The blindness of most of the world to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust should inspire us to move beyond our society’s indifference toward active involvement in ending violence against both people and animals. As a quote at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum states: "The Holocaust provides a context for exploring the dangers of remaining silent, apathetic, and indifferent in the face of others’ oppression."
* Perhaps the best way to honor the memories of Holocaust victims and make their deaths more meaningful is to work against the mentality and methods that fueled it and that are still inflicting tremendous damage on people, animals, and the entire planet. This can actually result in a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name) that will have much positive benefit to the world, providing an additional reason that Holocaust victims will not have died in vain.
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10. Some Background Material About PETA
There has been much material critical of PETA in the Jewish media recently. Below is some background information on PETA that should also be considered, along with the criticism of PETA’s Holocaust-related campaign and insufficient apology.
PETA's Mission Statement
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 800,000 members, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.
PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests," and the abuse of backyard dogs.
PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.
On Second Thought
By Kathy Guillermo
There is a popular view that employees and activists with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals do little but dress up in skimpy costumes and rant about cruelty to animals. The reason many people believe this is the same reason that PETA engages in this street theater campaigning: It's what the media likes to cover. If we have learned anything in 20 years of fighting to earn animals respect, it's that silence means continuation of suffering and misery.
Because we are determined to keep the abuse of animals in the news, we have had to think of clever ways to draw attention to the issues, even if it means wearing Las Vegas-style "feathers," as we did recently in the Fort Worth area to protest the dismal living and dying conditions of chickens used by Kentucky Fried Chicken. To be honest, marching through the streets wearing next to nothing isn't our idea of fun. But we have found that our efforts to reach the public through news coverage of more conventional events have not worked. Instead, we came up with costumes and props and celebrity campaigns that would attract the media so that the public could understand that, to the animals, these issues are a matter of life and death.
What you probably don't know about, because these activities are less "sexy" to the press, is the tremendous amount of work PETA does on behalf of animals every day. Last year alone, PETA received more than 10,000 reports of animal abuse. Our caseworkers worked with local authorities in communities across the country to rescue animals from deplorable conditions. We've ended pigeon poisonings, worked with district attorneys and sheriff's departments to ask that they charge offenders with cruelty, halted cruel medical training exercises on kittens, and more.
In our own community of Norfolk, Virginia, where PETA is headquartered, our mobile spay/neuter clinic has sterilized more than 5,000 dogs and cats at low or no cost. This has prevented the birth of approximately 72,000 unwanted puppies and kittens. We have distributed more than 650 doghouses with straw bedding, free of cost, to residents who will not allow their companion dogs inside.
Thanks to courageous whistleblowers, PETA has placed undercover investigators in facilities across the country, leading to exposure of abuse and criminal charges against the people who harm animals. For example, PETA's undercover investigation of the University of North Carolina (UNC) animal laboratories uncovered multiple violations of regulations -- cutting off the heads of live baby rats with scissors without anesthetics, leaving live animals in cages with dead ones, failure to euthanize wounded and sick animals, and leaving hemophiliac mice with their tails cut off to bleed to death overnight. Following our exposé, a supervisor resigned, scientists were disciplined, and employee training was strengthened. The U.S. National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has issued a new directive on euthanasia to all research institutions nationwide.
Even when issues fall out of the news, PETA has learned that we must never give up. It took many, many months of pressure from PETA before U.S. and Puerto Rican officials seized six thin, sick, depressed, and filthy polar bears from the traveling tropical Suarez Bros. Circus. PETA had rallied support from polar bear experts, the U.S. Congress, government officials in Germany and Canada, and celebrities including Ewan McGregor. Video footage showed the bears panting constantly while being hit, whipped, and forced to perform frightening tricks in sweltering temperatures. A seventh bear had been seized earlier, after PETA alerted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fraudulent documentation of her origin.
As for our street-theater-style campaigns, they work too. Following more than 100 PETA protests at Safeway stores, the grocery chain became the first in U.S. history to improve conditions for factory-farmed animals. The $34 billion-a-year company pledged to increase space for laying chickens, to stop starving hens in order to force increased egg-laying, and to conduct unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses and suppliers. We also persuaded Albertson's and Kroger to pledge to follow Safeway's lead. McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's responded to our campaign to make similar improvements.
Not everyone agrees with our belief that animals do not belong to us to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. But whatever your view on animal rights, PETA urges you to learn about what happens to animals in these industries so that your choices are fully informed. PETA will keep protesting, educating, and investigating to make sure that the animals have a voice.
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