- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Animal-rights activism

Contrary to the portrayal in Doug Bandow’s recent opinion column (“Animal terrorism,” Op-Ed, Monday), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals does not support violence of any sort, even while countering the phenomenal violence committed against animals in the food, leather and fur, entertainment and experimentation industries. Nor has PETA provided money for any violent action.

Mr. Bandow would serve readers better if he bothered to make even one phone call to our office or visited just one of the cruel places PETA has exposed — say, a slaughterhouse where cattle have their hoofs cut off while still alive, a wretched fur farm where a fox sits with his leg bone exposed and infected, or a laboratory like one at the University of North Carolina where an experimenter cut conscious animals’ heads off with scissors.

Perhaps then he would understand that everything PETA does, from our humane education campaigns, protests and street-theater type demonstrations to our work with district attorneys and law enforcement officials to stop cruelty and bring criminals to justice, is to protest and eliminate the suffering of animals.

Mr. Bandow also failed to mention the amount of good work PETA does every day. We work with local authorities in communities across the country to rescue animals from deplorable conditions. We sterilize dogs and cats at low or no cost.

We distribute donated fur coats to the homeless, the only people who have any excuse to wear fur. We have persuaded McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and others to improve the treatment of animals killed for their restaurants. We supply computer programs in schools to replace frogs and cats.

We help people adopt humane solutions to problems with geese, beavers and other wildlife that have nowhere to go, and much more. Thanks to 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.

Most misleading was Mr. Bandow’s dismissal of the reasons behind PETA’s peaceful campaigns against practices at KFC and the Covance Inc. pharmaceutical testing company. Investigations of KFC fast-food restaurant suppliers exposed employees torturing chickens.

Video footage taken by an undercover PETA investigator at a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in West Virginia shows workers stomping on live chickens, kicking them and flinging them full force at walls and floors. The investigator also witnessed employees twisting the heads off live chickens and, in Charles Manson-style, writing on the wall with their blood.

He saw them spit tobacco into the birds’ eyes and mouths, spray-paint their faces and tie their legs together, apparently just because they thought it was funny. (See KFCCruelty.com.)

Covance, a billion-dollar international drug-testing company headquartered in New Jersey, is paid by pharmaceutical giants to test their drug formulations on macaque monkeys.

Former PETA investigator Lisa Leitten worked for nearly a year at Covance’s Virginia laboratory and documented abuse that violates federal animal protection laws. Workers regularly hit, screamed at, taunted and slammed monkeys into their cages. (See Covance-Cruelty.com.)

Ms. Leitten was stunned to find that her co-workers were unfamiliar with basic primate behavior and had little understanding of what these social animals need. Rather than befriending the monkeys, workers grabbed them roughly, yelled at them and physically forced them into plastic restraint tubes so they could pump chemicals into the monkeys’ stomachs through tubes shoved into their noses.

The horrible tragedy of September 11 and the public’s fear of terrorism are being used by Mr. Bandow and others to try to silence PETA because we have upset the meat and experimentation industries by repeatedly exposing horrendous abuse in their facilities. It’s far easier to cast doubt on PETA’s motives than to defend the scandalous abuse I have described here.

Not everyone agrees with us that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, experiments or entertainment. Whatever your view, though, PETA urges you to find out what happens to animals in these industries so that your choices will be fully informed. We will keep protesting, educating and investigating to make sure animals have a voice.

JEFFREY S. KERR

General counsel

Director of corporate affairs

PETA Foundation

Norfolk

Mr. Bandow paints a particularly pessimistic view of the future of activism for animals in the United States. The people pursuing violent and illegal means are scarce in number and widely rebuked by the majority of those involved with the cause of animals.

The animal-protection movement is based on kindness and compassion for others, and the very few people who engage in violent, harassing behavior are not being true to that mission.

Moreover, there are myriad social and political avenues for challenging the suffering of animals in factory farms, animal fighting pits, canned hunt operations, and other venues, and these are the approaches that enjoy the broadest support.

As the animal-protection movement’s long-term track record demonstrates, meaningful gains can be realized through public education and the promotion of corporate and public policies that seek to eliminate animal suffering wherever possible.

Mr. Bandow is right to criticize the handful of animal activists who have no compunction about breaking the law, but at least some of the industry-backed groups trying to amplify Mr. Bandow’s criticisms are fully engaged in obstructing progress through lawful mainstream channels as well.

This lack of sincerity is a danger in itself, and that’s why it’s all the more important for citizens to participate in the public decision-making process to make meaningful reforms designed to improve the lot of animals.

WAYNE PACELLE

President and CEO

Humane Society of the United States

Washington

Fuel efficiency trade-offs

Monday’s Page One article “Drumbeat grows louder for fuel efficiency” cites John Lichtblau’s claim that Congress missed an opportunity in the recently enacted energy bill to reduce oil prices by tightening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. However, CAFE’s curbing of demand for oil in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the standards were put into effect, was small. America’s demand for oil increased in that period and through to present day.

Also, any increase in fuel efficiency as a result of higher CAFE standards would be slow to take effect because the turnover in the auto fleet takes many years. It’s also not clear that higher gas mileage would reduce the demand for gasoline. Peter Huber and Mark Mills argue in their recent book, “The Bottomless Well,” that in the past, “improvements in efficiency culminated in more demand, not less.” This is not surprising; people will drive more if they can afford it.

This is a positive outcome, although not in the way Mr. Lichtblau suggests. The article cites a poll in which 93 percent responded that they would like more efficient cars. Who wouldn’t? However, it is unlikely the respondents understand the consequences of mandating fuel efficiency.

Better mileage per gallon almost always means smaller and lighter cars. Unfortunately, this also means less safe cars. According to the National Research Council’s 2003 CAFE study, the current regulations are responsible annually for the deaths of 1,300 to 2,600 Americans.

Is this what we want? After all, highly fuel efficient compact cars are available for purchase and are cheaper than the larger alternatives, but many people still choose to buy sport utility vehicles. The fact is, without CAFE, automotive companies will improve gas mileage at the rate that technology and people’s demand for safety will allow.

ALEX KORMENDI

Research associate

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

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