PETA: Hurting Some to Save Others = Success?

Civil disobedience tactics are renown for one common feature- they reject the use of violence in order to make a change in a pre-existing societal or lawful structure.  While many applaud the ability to abstain from violent practices, others are deterred by it- they claim that the use of violence could make much more of a lasting impact and decrease the amount of time it takes to watch seemingly positive change occur.  PETA is an organization that utilizes civil disobedience methods in all ways except for abstinence from violence.  While some may say that it’s controversial methods prove to be beneficial for its cause, it could be argued that these publically violent displays do nothing except harm the long-term cause and detract supporters, leading to the conclusion that true civil disobedience leads to more beneficial change in the long-run. 

Crusading for animal rights is an up-and-coming phenomenon, with an increasing number of people fighting to end cruelty inflicted on all animals, both domestic and wild.  A large number of organizations and non-profits have been started with the common goal of reducing animal abuse not only within the United States, but throughout the globe as well.  PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is the largest of such groups, with more than three million members and supporters, and has turned to seemingly racy tactics in order to spread its mission and its views.  To many, PETA seems to be a group that utilizes civil disobedience tactics in order to spread its core beliefs and have its message heard.  Most applications of what PETA considers to be “animal abuse” are permitted by law, so PETA utilizes strikes in order to allow others to see its viewpoint that these permissions are in fact wrongdoings to the animal population by the United States government itself.  PETA strives to get its message seen and heard by the biggest audience as possible, resorting to controversial nude pictorials and advertisements of celebrities who support PETA’s long-term goal of ending all animal abuse.  These advertisements, and strikes, are definitely public endeavors, as PETA feels that publicity is the optimal method of getting its voice, and the voice of all abused animals, heard.  However, the past actions of previous PETA activists have proven that not all members pursue a path of non-violence, believing that public outbursts of violence may make their messages more publicized, discussed, and prominent.  These acts of violence towards other human beings in the face of eliminating animal abuse beg the question: Is it just (and/or smart) to harm one group in an effort to save another? 

Members and supporters of PETA have resolute beliefs that animals are not ours (human’s) to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, abuse or exploit. PETA’s website notes that “PETA has always been known for uncompromising, unwavering views on animal rights.  [It isn’t] afraid to make the difficult comparisons, say the unpopular thing, or point out the uncomfortable truth, if that means animals will benefit.”  Regarding its controversial tactics that are often utilized, PETA notes that “[its] positions may be controversial, but [it is] always true to [its] driving mission: to stop animal abuse worldwide.”  Indeed, the nude advertisements featuring celebrity supporters of PETA raise concern among many parental associations, claiming that these measures are too extreme.  It is true, then, that such public controversial measures may, in fact, deter potential supporters, because the extremism becomes too much to face or handle. 

None of PETA’s measures seem as extreme, however, as its violent ones.  PETA activists have taken to attacking celebrities in public venues, such as red carpet events, for non-compliance with one of PETA’s main campaigns, such as its campaign to end the production and use of fur and leather items.  Not long ago, an activist threw a flour-bomb on celebrity personality Kim Kardashian, to protest the fur vest that Kardashian was wearing that evening.  Lucky for the activist, Kardashian chose not to press charges, and continued on with her evening as was, but in the future, others may not be so kind.  In fact, Kardashian’s sister, Khloe Kardashian, who even posed nude for the organization recently, has since denounced the organization, claiming that while she supports its goals, she cannot support its measures. 

The flour-bombing incident has not been the only case of violence at the hands of PETA in a public setting, and it could be said that there could only be more violent outbursts to come.  While PETA still supports its methods, it could very well be argued that Khloe Kardashian will not be the only one who fails to continue supporting PETA in the long-run.  Although its intentions are valiant, its methods may be too harmful to those in its way.  While PETA has had its fair share of victories, with HSBC recently announcing that it will discontinue the use of glue traps worldwide, among other instances, to protect the rights of animals world-wide, I believe that PETA could make more of a difference and influence the lives of much more if it discontinued the use of such controversial outbreaks.  Although it is going to great lengths to save the lives and protect the rights of animals, it is neglecting the rights of humans, and is even causing them harm.  The issue gets taken to how far one would go to get one’s voice heard, and I believe that humans have a right to wear what they want as per the other rights echoed in the United States Constitution, without the fear of an activist organization attacking them.  It seems almost hypocritical to me that in order to protect animals, PETA would go as far as harming humans, regardless of how the humans perceive animal treatment.  Lady Gaga was once attacked when it couldn’t even be confirmed if she was wearing actual leather or faux-leather, and it’s measures like these that make it seem like PETA is going one step too far. 

Civil disobedience has proven to be successful in many instances, including the movements lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi- however, not only successful, but long-lasting as well.  I believe that if PETA were to discontinue its violent tactics, they could garner much more supporters and help lead much bigger and longer-lasting changes than ever before, changing the face of animal rights for better and for good. 



Helpful links:

–       Video of Kim Kardashian getting Flour-Bombed by PETA activists:

–       Official PETA website:

–       A protest against PETA

–       Article about Khloe Kardashian leaving PETA:


1 thought on “PETA: Hurting Some to Save Others = Success?

  1. PETA presents an interesting case in the study of civil disobedience. Large, public groups always face the danger of being characterized by its extremists rather than by the majority of its advocates. This post brings to mind the problems facing the Occupy movement and such organizations such as ELF and ALF. Too often, the loudest voices are the most extreme, as well as the most useless. Movements around the world for a civil rights cause should work hard to keep their, for lack of a better term, “crazy” members from being the most public. Recently, in attending the Sustainable Tennessee Summit in Gallatin, TN, I was really disgusted at the number of audience members attacking the presenters for silly reasons such as using a quote by Bill Gates. These divisive actions ultimately harm the overall movement itself.

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