An Open Letter to PETA

Ingrid E. Newkirk, President
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510

Dear Ms. Newkirk,

I grew up listening to Bob Barker reminding me to “always spay or neuter your pets” at the end of each episode of The Price is Right. It’s a responsible action to take as a pet-owner, something I’ve done for each of the four cats my husband and I have rescued from shelters over the years. I can support campaigns to promote spay/neuter programs, as it’s something all pet-owners really should be doing anyway. Organizations like the ASPCA have even established mobile and transport spay/neuter programs to reach pet-owners in urban communities, an example of a great community-based program to give pet-owners the access they need to spay/neuter care for their animals.

What I can’t support, however, is your latest media-sensationalizing-ready “Win a Vasectomy” campaign offering a free vasectomy to a man who has his pet spayed or neutered during the month of April:

PETA Win a Vasectomy Campaign Screenshot

Screenshot taken April 5, 2011

It’s not that I take issue with offering a vasectomy as a contest prize, rather, that this entire publicity stunt is in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.

As you so tactfully state:

Human overpopulation is crowding out animal life on the planet, and dog and cat overpopulation is creating a euthanasia crisis that is a crying shame. Disappearing wilderness, vanishing water resources, and pollution is the price that future generations will pay for more human births…

I recognize that PETA has never been a bastion for balanced, non-violent promotion for the ethical treatment of animals. Your “Win a Vasectomy” campaign in honor of a federally recognized health observance, however, takes your subtle PR approaches to an astoundingly new low.

Why has PETA chosen to exclusively recognize National Infertility Awareness Week? By your logic, if we’re to curb human overpopulation, we should be more aware of high mortality rates and causes. Why not American Heart Month in February? Why not Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October? After all, heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in the United States. Why not honor those Awareness Months (and thus those leading causes of mortality) by offering assisted suicides for patients who spay and neuter their pets?

Perhaps I’ve spoken too plainly. Perhaps poking fun at cancer and heart disease patients to promote your cause isn’t the best PR strategy. In fact, it would appear that PETA even supports and awards the work of those in the breast cancer research community. You even said so yourself: “Anyone who wants to see a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime should support this forward-thinking program.” So I guess finding cures for cancer is something PETA supports, even though you’ve said publicly: “We are named People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. There are plenty of other groups that worry about the humans.”

Now that I’ve had a chance to really process this, I think I’ve figured it out now: it’s not that PETA wants people to die; rather, they shouldn’t be born in the first place. And what better way to do this than to celebrate and honor National Infertility Awareness Week by enabling “one lucky man” to be “reproduction-free, free of charge, just like his pooch or feline friend.”

I think your meaning is finally crystal-clear to me. PETA has decided that it’s acceptable to ridicule, devalue, and trivialize the infertility patient community experience in the name of promoting responsible pet-ownership. By your logic, infertility patients deserve the diagnoses handed to them because we simply shouldn’t be having children in the first place. The planet is crowded enough. Our infertility is justified.

It’s okay to have a laugh at the expense of the infertility community because they shouldn’t be having babies anyway: what a fantastic PETA promotional message. Your “Win a Vasectomy” campaign is tactless, arrogant, hurtful, damaging, insensitive and disgusting.

I guess I’m just a little confused since your organization is focused on the ethical treatment of animals, yet you seem to have a pretty strong opinion worrying about human concerns like overpopulation, or even taking the time to award progressive breast cancer research groups. I mean, you said so yourself- there are plenty of other groups to worry about the humans.

Ms. Newkirk, as someone living “reproduction-free” for the last two years, I can tell you that our patient community experience is not justified nor deserved. While you’re offering “one lucky man” the choice to live “reproduction-free,” I didn’t have that choice. My one remaining ovary stopped functioning and my hopes to ever have my own genetic children were taken away from me without my consent. Overpopulation or not, I still have the right to parent and to seek medical treatment for my infertility. To say that my diagnosis is somehow deserved or justified in the name of population reduction is not only an affront to me personally, but to the 7.3 million other men and women who live with this disease daily in the United States.

RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association and the responsible organization for National Infertility Awareness Week, has dedicated this year’s focus to busting infertility myths. Ironically enough, by choosing to honor NIAW with your “Win a Vasectomy” campaign, you’ve helped to perpetuate many infertility myths in the process. It would behoove you and the members of your organization to perhaps do your homework before initiating such media-ready PR campaigns, but then again, I suppose that was the point.

Unfortunately, even bad press is still press, so I’m hoping my readers will post about their outrage on Facebook linking instead to this post, posts of their own, or the screenshot of the page rather than linking directly to the “Win a Vasectomy” page at PETA. When the success of a publicity campaign is measured in pageviews, it’s important that the infertility community keeps your organization from receiving those pageviews in the first place.

It’s unfortunate that you launched this campaign at the expense of any kind of financial support from our 7.3 million-strong patient community. I will encourage all of my friends, family, readers, and followers who have previously supported PETA in the past to instead make a donation to RESOLVE in support of National Infertility Awareness Week and ask them to do the same to their family, friends, and readers. I will also encourage them to email you directly at [email protected] with their outrage over your latest campaign and to share your email address with those who share their concerns.

Perhaps if your organization bothered to treat their fellow humans with respect, dignity, and ethics, more people would do the same for animals.

Signed,
Keiko Zoll
Emailed on April 5, 2011


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Comments

  1. Serendipite says

    I love animals. I don't eat much meat and no dairy, have already been taking steps to go completely vegan, I rescued both of my dogs from shelters, and I am concerned about animal welfare around the world. However, I think PETA is a bunch of self-important assholes that aren't even honest about their own flaws. How many animals do you kill each year, PETA? I bet you don't want to share that, do you? Besides, the people who are overpopulating this earth are the ones that don't give a shit about animals.

  2. Katie says

    Holy freaking shit. I've never seen anything like this IN MY LIFE. I am laughing hysterically, only because I'm angry.

    Will post this everywhere I can.

  3. Jen says

    Holy. Shit. What on earth were they thinking? This is disgusting. As always, great great response – thanks, Keiko.

  4. Sushigirl says

    Maybe, if this is what PETA believe, then they should write to all their members, particularly the celebrity ones as role models, suggesting a vasectomy/getting their tubes tied. I'm sure that would go down really well!

    Or is it only kids concieved through fertility treatment that contribute to the destruction of the planet?

  5. Rebecca says

    I blogged about this today. I linked it to your blog. I'm about to email them now too.

  6. Anonymous says

    Actually, PETA is always nonviolent. As an IF survivor I was surprised by the link to human fertility. I don't particularly care for that emphasis, but PETA typically uses provocative ideas in order to get media exposure for its missions, which all come from a good place: preventing animal suffering. Btw the preferred term is guardian not owner.

  7. Jamie Cordisco says

    I can't even begin to describe the outrage I feel at this disgusting display of behavior. PETA has done some seriously unbelieveable things but this is over the top! I will be blogging about this myself tonight, and sharing with friends any way I can. They went way to far this time.

  8. Kiley Rios says

    I am all over it…emailing her, facebooking, blogging, sending personal emails to friends. I am in absolute shock!! What in the hell! DISGUSTING! I'm having steak tonight!

  9. Hopeful Hannah says

    Emailed Ms. Newkirk and told her ignorant this contest is. Also posted the nonsense on FB to make folks aware of what a crap orginization PETA really is! I've got 5 rescured cats and have been involved with Ally Cat Allies for 10 years. I love animals and for an organiztion to tell me its best that i don't have children because it leads to the animal overpopulation is beyond ignorant! This contest makes me mad as hell!

  10. Karen in Hammond says

    I work at a university and posted the info on my page there… nothing like getting a bunch of academics all riled up about something!

  11. Kiley Rios says

    Have you gotten the BS response back yet???? I have-the correlation between how insulting this is is non-existent!

  12. Colorado Dreamer says

    WOW. Thank you for posting this – both the reference to what they've done and your thoughtful, eloquent, straightforward letter. I've posted it on my blog and will do the same on FB.

    The total ignorance is astounding. I'm fairly speechless.

  13. Monica says

    I am so proud of you and what you said. I am reposting this and pulling my words together to send to PETA

  14. AnotherDreamer says

    I posted about this, and emailed her. So inappropriate of them!

    I got an automatic email response saying, "not available now, regrets"

  15. Sam says

    Good for you!!!! I cannot believe the lack of taste shown by PETA, and cannot believe a group of people would be so insensitive, not to mention show complete lack of compassion. Maybe their parents were lucky enough not to struggle to have them, but so many people do- I'm sure my child will one day thank me for everything my husband and I did to get them here, rather than think the world was over populated and why did we bother. I love my dog so so much, and to see any animal suffer breaks my heart, but this is not the way to gain supporters, it's a good way to lose them.

    I already posted your link on my facebook :)

  16. justine says

    Holy crap. I don't understand why they would do something so stupid. Thank you for posting this, Keiko! I will act …

  17. Celia says

    This is an outrage. I Facebooked and I will blog about it tomorrow if I am calm enough to be coherent.

  18. jjiraffe says

    Wrote my post and am obsessively tweeting. Email is next.

    Part of me thinks this is exactly what they wanted to do: rlle up one particular group and get a bunch of attention. Which is what they're getting.

    But it's so outrageously awful that I can't take "the highroad" and ignore them.

  19. kate says

    I used to blog at Infertile, not inferior. I don't follow the IF community as much as I once did, but I couldn't silence my outrage. Thank you for bringing this to light.

  20. Cyn says

    I cannot believe what I just read! That is insane, I will not support their organization any longer. I have blogged (linking to your post) and am about to go Facebook about this… I am so outraged!

  21. Kira says

    Not sure if anyone else pointed this out, but… there is some debate that overpopulation is due to the fact the people are living longer because of medical knowledge, and that the number of births per year is actually decreasing so if we continue on this trend the population will eventually decline.

    PeTA has a loooong history of making statements or decisions not based on any actual knowledge or fact that come back to bite them in the ass.

    I could vent on this for a long time, but I'll just leave it at that.

  22. Tillie says

    thank you for posting this. I have posted on FB/Twitter/and later my blog. Your post was so amazingly written. I will be writing their stupid asses.

  23. Chon says

    I can't understand why people keep broadcasting the myth that those that struggle to have children are selfish and do this for the hell of it. They never once consider our emotional pain. Not once. Fabulous letter and I hope that the response get's back to them.

  24. Ninefirefly says

    I understand that you may be hurt by what the organization did but in my opinion it is really just cruel to encourage people not to donate to PETA. They do alot of good work to help animals and at the end of the day that is their goal. There may be a few bad seeds (like there is in every organization) but most of the people involved want to end animal suffering. Shame on you for aiming to take away support for helpless animals.

  25. Keiko says

    Ninefirefly – Shame on me? I'm guessing that reading comprehension isn't your strong suit because it appears you've managed to miss 100% the point of my post. I cannot encourage the readership of my blog – the infertility community at large – to financially support an organization that seeks to promote their aims at the expense of this patient community.

    What's cruel is when a non-profit organization has the balls to undermine the work of another non-profit in a shameless attempt at self-promotion. Does the potential donations frustrate you? Then donate to PETA yourself, on behalf of the rest of us if you feel so inclined. Here on my blog, on my turf – I'll be directing folks to put their charitable donations towards an organization like RESOLVE that's actually doing work to benefit the infertility community, not denigrate it.

  26. Ninefirefly says

    What I'm trying to say is that it is not the animals' fault. They are already suffering at the hands of humans, encouraging people to dicontinue helping them is not helping anyone in the long run. I understand your point but I don't think anything good can come from taking potential donations away from suffering animals.

  27. Secret Sloper says

    Ninefirefly: shunning PETA doesn't equal killing animals. I will give my money to organizations of whose mission AND methods I wholeheartedly approve. Groups like the North Shore Animal League and ASPCA.

  28. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  29. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  30. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  31. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  32. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  33. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  34. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  35. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    I am not sure how many of your readers actually know this, but 2 PETA employee's were arrested for Ethanizing healthy animals, and throwing them into dumpsters. They got these cats and dogs from shelters and vet clinics here in NC, and then killed them in the back of the rescue van, put the bodies in trash bags, and tossed them in dumpsters. It was kept very low key after the inital arrest, but I can tell you that it was big news to me what with their headquarters being in Norfolk, so just up the road. I stopped supporting them then, and I have no love for any of the programs that they offer anymore. If people only knew the stuff that they pull under the guise of "treating Animals Ethically" they would be appaled!!

  36. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  37. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  38. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  39. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  40. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  41. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  42. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  43. (Erica) Rebel With.A.Cause says

    OH Duh, had I read all of the comments I would have seen that you had already posted about this… It is the Blonde in me!! :o) Way to go with the post!! More people need to stand up to this woman more often!!

  44. Ninefirefly says

    When did I ever state that I wasn't a supporter of PETA? The good that they have done for animals far out weighs the actions of 2 employees within the organization. And your assumption that I do not practice what I preach is misguided. I work with animals every day and I can tell you that the things that humans do to them are terrible. Why don't you encourage people to donate to a different animals rights organizations instead of one that doesn't help them at all? Calling my response 'uneducated' because I am speaking up for animals that can't speak up for themselves shows that you are woefully uneducated to the plight of millions animals in this country. Or maybe you just don't care. Either way, the point of this campaign was to get people talking which is exactly what it did.

  45. Ninefirefly says

    I do see your point. And agree, it is tasteless. I think that they do things for the shock value, and this is one of them, I don't disagree with you there. Thank you for linking to the ASPCA, their work is much more consistent. My only point was that the animals shouldn't have to suffer further because people don't know how to run an effective ad campaign without pissing people off.

  46. Lindsay says

    Thank you so much for your post. It has been weighing on me and I'm glad you took the time to provide suggestions on all the options we have to have our voices heard. I think now is officially an ok time to stand up and pronouce that we are dealing with IF and why this is so wrong.

  47. Kira says

    Just sent of an email to them. I see this as being a very ignorant campaign to make it IN HONOR OF National Infertility Awareness week. Completely crazy.

  48. Roccie says

    Thanks – would have missed this without you. I especially appreciate you translating all of this into action for us.

  49. amiracle4us says

    thanks for publishing the contacts…
    My letter that was sent:
    Dear Mr. Newkirk,

    I am writing to you on behalf of myself and likely a community of millions that have been diagnosed with infertility. While I understand your message with offering the free vasectomy to help animals, I find the week you chose to be of poor character. National Infertility week is supposed to bring light to the world of the struggles millions are facing to have children. We are not those trying to have 8 children, but just one in order to mend our hearts.

    You offering the free vasectomy in light of National Infertility week is sending a message that infertility is a way to control the population and more should take part. I believe the world could use less people, but lets focus on those that reproduce beyond their means, not the ones that are just fighting to have their dream come true with one child.

    If an individual wants to have a vasectomy, whether to support PETA or for personal reasons, by all means no infertile is going to stand in their way or argue with that, but again, it is the offering of this contest, the way you did that is disheartening. You have lost a supporter in me and millions within the community of infertiles.

    Maura Jones

  50. Anonymous says

    Infertility is a good thing. Means less humans breeding. Stop whinging and adopt, jesus. Selfish, the lot of you. Oh boo hoo I can't have a child to add to the over population of humans on this planet. Jeez, some of you need a reality check that having a child is not something you should be encouraging when children are sitting in orphanages and the planet is undergoing destruction from are over populated species.

  51. Anonymous says

    ^ Were you adopted? If not, is that how you feel about your parents? That they were just selfish a-holes for not aborting you and adopting instead?

    Also, you are a human too. Why is it okay for you to be "contributing to the overpopulation of the Earth" by your existence, but not other people? You are "destroying the Earth" right now just as much as anyone's future biological child will.

    Also, people having their own biological children are not responsible for the children in orphanages. By your logic, everytime you buy a luxury item – a movie ticket, CD, DVD, candy bar, a pet, petfood, makeup, perfume, deodorant, camera, blu-ray player, TV, Xbox, etc. – instead of donating it to Feed the Children, you are responsible for a child dying in Africa and are a monster.

    Also, as it has been said before, PETA is a very dishonest organization. They make around 30 million a year, yet kill around 80-90% of the animals directly in their care.

    They also paid to defend the two employees in court who were caught euthanizing healthy adoptable animals, that they acquired by lying and saying they would find them homes, within 24 hours.

    Apparently those who run PETA found nothing wrong with this.

    When a celeb wears fur they get plastered all over their web page and encourage people to harass them, but when their own employees go to a vet's office, promise to give a mama cat and her kittens a good home, then proceed to take them in the back of their van and kill them with drugs probably paid for by donation money (from donators who donate to SAVE such animals), that is perfectly fine.

  52. Keiko says

    Sorry Neshie – can't have violent rhetoric, even in jest, promoted in the comments. Comment had to go.

  53. Neshie says

    They've change the in honor of. Now it says During NIFAW blah blah blah.. I still think that they should completely get rid of the reference to NIFAW and issue a real f'n apology.

  54. Pissed Off Patient says

    Wow. Peta Fail.

    There's so much wrong with the Peta thing, I can't even wrap my head around it to form a cohere comment.

    Morons.

    M