The animal shelter in Shelby County, Kentucky, has one of the best records for saving lives rather than killing homeless pets. Even though they’re an open-admission shelter, they haven’t killed an animal to make room for new arrivals in four years.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed recently, and worrying they might not find enough new homes, this open-admission shelter announced that they might have to start killing some of the animals to make space for newcomers.
You might expect that when they heard this, some of the big animal protection groups would send help. Guess what kind of help PETA sent: a basket of gourmet cookies from Allison’s Gourmet, with a note saying: “Thank you for doing the right thing for animals.”
Four years of hard work finding homes for dogs, cats and other animals never won a word of applause from PETA. But just the prospect of this no-kill shelter getting out the death potion once again had PETA calling for a celebration. (And the irony only escalates when you note that the cookies were all vegan. Let’s not harm animals, after all.)
PETA has long been notorious for killing, rather than saving, shelter pets. Last year, when the Shelby County shelter saved more than 98 percent of the cats they took in and more than 94 percent of the dogs, PETA, by comparison, killed 97 percent of the pets they took in. (See their official 2011 report to the State of Virginia.)
The fact that, over the last 20 years, the no-kill movement has reduced the number of animals being killed in shelters from 17 million a year to below three million a year has put PETA seriously on the defensive. They continue to claim that no-kill is impossible and that homeless animals are better off dead than being in a shelter where they can be adopted. Apparently, they’re even better off dead than being in the hands of PETA.
So, what’s in Ingrid Newkirk’s head? Why does she keep up this bizarre behavior that makes no logical sense, skewers any pretense of ethics, and leads her organization to be the endless butt of jokes from industries that are in the business of exploiting animals?
Once you’ve started killing animals, it’s hard to stop.A big part of the answer is that once you’ve become involved in killing animals, it’s hard to stop. When you start killing homeless pets, you have to rationalize it. (Just like you have to rationalize any kind of killing.) So you tell yourself and your community that there’s no choice, there are too many strays, too many feral cats, not enough homes, too many bad people out there. And then, when you see other people in other communities who are not killing the animals, you have two choices: either admit to yourself that the animals you killed never had to die, which takes a certain strength of character, or go into denial and keep shoring up your rationale for all the killing.
That’s the box that many shelters have found themselves in. Often it means that the board or whatever other authority has to step in to find new management (sometimes a new board) that’s not compromised by the past.
And this is the box in which PETA now finds itself. Having killed thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats right there in its very own headquarters, how can Ingrid Newkirk ever come to terms with all this blood on her hands? How can she ever admit to herself, to the staff, to the members and to the general public that it was all unnecessary, all so terribly wrong, and that PETA is now going to do all it can to be part of saving those last three million homeless pets and reach the goal of being a no-kill nation?
The people at PETA aren’t there because they want to see animals suffering and dying. But we humans are an arrogant and obstinate species. It’s hard for us to admit being wrong. On the other hand, it’s a mark of true character, as well as of compassion and empathy, to be able to admit that you’ve been wrong, that you’ve learned from others, that you feel for the animals you’ve wronged, and that you’re going to make things right.
For any “animal rights” advocate, the basic right of any living being is surely the right to life.
* An earlier post – PETA Euphemizes as it ‘Euthanizes’ – is here.
* The journalist Douglas Anthony Cooper has written an excellent series on PETA that begins here, along with this commentary on PETA’s bizarre gift box.
* And Shelby County No Kill Mission, which supports the work of the county shelter, posted a video about PETA’s gift box on its home page.
P.S. In case you’re wondering what the Shelby County Shelter did with the cookies from PETA … they gave them to the people who adopted the animals. :-)