One of the year's more depressing rituals is the annual release of PETA's kill statistics. The numbers -- just how many pets Ingrid Newkirk's organization has "euthanized" in the past year -- are never anything less than revolting. They are also never a surprise. Despite desperate efforts to rein in this ghoul, dogs and cats simply do not have much chance of emerging alive from the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The law requires PETA to submit documents annually to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), and this year's have just been released online: you can examine them here. A quick summary? In 2012 only 10.8 percent of the pets taken in by PETA at their headquarters in Norfolk Virginia escaped the hypodermic; 94.1 percent of the cats and 82.1 percent of the dogs ended up in Ingrid's walk-in freezer.
A total of 1,675 cats, dogs, and "other companion animals" are listed in the column headed "Euthanized." Plus 72 unlucky wild animals.
Taking wildlife into account, Newkirk's outfit killed 89.2 percent of animals taken in.
I have been expecting the statistics to be released for some time. On February 1st I received an ominous tweet from an anonymous account: @WhyPeTAEuths.
"Euth" is cute code for "euthanasia," which is itself -- in this case -- a euphemism for killing. PETA's interns and fellow travelers commonly talk about "performing a euth." This tweet referred me to a website: Why PeTA Euthanizes.
I responded: "Hm. Suspicious. Why this Twitter account NOW? PETA's kill stats are about to be released: Are they particularly ugly this year?"
And lo: Here they are. In Newkirk's favor, these numbers are not especially ugly, relative to the last few years. PETA's kill rate has hovered in the range of 95 to 97 percent. So this year's 89.2 percent is, yes, an improvement. The Grim Reaper is now merely -- what? -- the Angel of Death?
PETA is not required to identify how many of the pets killed were perfectly healthy and adoptable. We can assume only one thing: we're not going to find out. Newkirk has never been forthcoming in the past, apart from vague tearful remarks about the dreadful shape of the animals left on her doorstep. We know from various reports, however -- including legal testimony from local veterinarians and shelter workers -- that many of the pets killed at PETA headquarters were impeccably healthy, some of them puppies and kittens.
I'll be weighing in further as more information arrives, but for now you can decide for yourself how to interpret these documents. I urge you to visit Why PeTA Euthanizes -- you may find the arguments there persuasive. Many of PETA's critics are identified, correctly, as a front group for the meat industry. Other sources will tell you outright that all of PETA's critics are compromised in this way, including me. Perhaps you'll find that convincing.
I also urge you to visit Nathan Winograd's site: he is the most prominent spokesman for the No Kill movement, and he has written about Newkirk at great length. Start here, with "The Butcher of Norfolk." If you want more detailed information -- and have a strong stomach -- you can turn to Friendly Fire, a book by Nathan and his wife, Jennifer Winograd. This was just published, and deals with a number of sorry outfits, including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
My own series of articles about this vile business begins here: "PETA's Celebs: Naked in the Name of Mass Pet Slaughter."
So, examine the documents, and read the divergent commentary. And then -- unless you simply don't give a damn about the innocent creatures that require our protection -- I suggest that it is your ethical duty to make a decision. That old union anthem does not permit neutrality, and neither does this. You're going to have to take a stand here: Which Side Are You On.
CLARIFICATION: We have plenty of testimony regarding healthy animals killed on the premises in Norfolk -- see David Shishkoff's testimony here, for instance. Some of the testimony at the link I provided above is of this nature: "One former intern (reported) that he quit in disgust after witnessing perfectly healthy puppies and kittens in the kill room."
PETA also operate a mobile death service, however. One of the veterinarians I refer to delivered testimony -- much of it under oath -- about healthy kittens and a six-month-old puppy killed not on the premises, but by PETA employees in the back of a PETA van. The corpses were then surreptitiously deposited in a trash bin at a supermarket.
The former director of Norfolk's SPCA, Dana Cheek, has said: "I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will 'find them a good home.'... Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner's home."