Wednesday, April 6, 2011

updates on PETA

PETA responded to my letter today with a (tragic) form letter:

Dear Ms. __________,

Thank you for contacting PETA about our contest offering a free vasectomy. We apologize if our contest has offended you as it was not our intent. We meant no offense, especially to those who are struggling to conceive. Please know that there are many people who wish to be sterilized—it’s those people that we’re aiming to reach. To learn more about this contest, please go to http://www.PETA.org/features/win-a-vasectomy-from-peta.aspx.

Since the best way to prevent animal companions from having unwanted litters is to spay and neuter them, a kind PETA member offered to cover the cost of a vasectomy for one compassionate man who wants to get himself “snipped” just like his furry friend. While humans can manage their reproductive urges and make informed choices, dogs and cats can’t—we must take responsibility for them. In addition, men are often particularly reluctant to neuter male dogs—a ridiculous hesitation given that Fido won’t notice the change and will be healthier for it.

PETA’s purpose is to stop animal suffering, and we use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages. We have found that people do pay more attention to our more provocative actions, and we consider the public’s attention to be extremely important. Sometimes this requires tactics—like naked marches and eye catching contests—that some people find outrageous or even rude, but part of our job is to grab people’s attention and even shock them in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action. The current situation is critical for billions of animals, and our goal is to make the public think about the issues.

We know that this offer might raise a few eyebrows, but in doing so it will also raise awareness by generating the kind of media coverage of the cat and dog overpopulation crisis that money could never buy. Please know that in addition to our more outrageous actions, PETA also educates the public about the need to spay and neuter through pamphlets, billboards, letters to the editor, ads, articles, public demonstrations, and humane education in schools. We also put our words into action: PETA’s three mobile spay-and-neuter clinics have performed tens of thousands of low-cost and free sterilizations in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Since starting our first mobile clinic in 2001, we have sterilized more than 67,000 animals, including 10,500 in 2010 alone.

Unfortunately, getting the animal rights message to the public is not always easy and straightforward. Unlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations, PETA must rely on getting free “advertising” through media coverage. We often do outrageous things to get the word out about animal abuse, because sadly, the media usually do not consider the facts alone interesting enough to cover. Colorful and controversial gimmicks, on the other hand—like activists’ stripping to “bare skin rather than wear skin”—consistently grab headlines, thereby bringing the animal rights message to audiences around the country and, often, the world. After PETA publicized our “State of the Union Undress,” for example, we were rated the number one “mover” on Yahoo’s search engine, meaning that PETA received the greatest percentage increase of terms searched that day.

PETA is a leader in creating buzz to support our cause, but we aren’t alone in recognizing its value. According to Brett Gosper, former CEO of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, an advertising firm which created a controversial anti-racism campaign, “If your communication is selling a cause, then shock tactics may not just be an option, they may be essential. Budgets on cause-related work are so low that it is imperative for the media to relay your communication and multiply its visibility. Media won’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. The more controversial the advertising, the more space it will get.”

We wish that that weren’t the case. We would much prefer to do things without the gimmicks—if only it worked. We’d like nothing better than to be able to show the media videos of factory farms, fur farms, and animals in laboratories and have them find it newsworthy enough to cover. But they don’t. However, when we attach a gimmick, that very same animal abuse ends up in newspapers and on televisions nationwide. Experience has taught us that provocative and controversial campaigns make the difference between keeping important yet depressing subjects invisible and having them widely seen. The alternative is to be ignored in the torrent of tabloid-style stories that dominate the popular press.

As you know, PETA works very hard to prevent the births of puppies and kittens that will end up abandoned in animal shelters or struggling to survive on the streets. Breeding, both purposeful and accidental, is responsible for the euthanasia of millions of these loving companions each year. Sterilization is both the easiest and the most effective means available of ensuring animals’ happiness and safety. Male animals who have been neutered are far less likely to roam far from home or fight. Neutering greatly diminishes and possibly eliminates reproductive urges (which are not the same in dogs as they are in humans). In addition, these animals will never get testicular cancer and run less risk of contracting prostate disease. Female animals who have been spayed avoid the trauma of giving birth and will no longer go into heat.

Consider the fate of the millions of unwanted animals whose parents were never spayed and neutered. Born into a hostile world, they are caged among strangers at animal shelters or, worse, abandoned on the sides of roads. They are run over by cars and attacked by other animals. They are infected with painful, contagious, and deadly diseases. Those unlucky enough to run into cruel humans are often drowned, beaten with baseball bats, suffocated in plastic bags, stabbed, shot, starved, set on fire, used as bait, and tortured in countless other ways. And the saddest tragedy of all is that before they meet some gruesome death, they reproduce, and the cycle of animal suffering continues.

To learn more about issues that affect animal companions, please visit http://www.PETA.org/issues/companion-animals/default.aspx. To make a donation in support of PETA’s campaigns to stop the animal overpopulation crisis, please go to http://www.PETA.org/donate.

Thank you again for contacting us and for the opportunity to share our thoughts. We apologize for having offended you as it was not our intent.

Sincerest,
HollyAnne Dame
Membership Correspondent
PETA Foundation
757.962.8246
HollyAnneD@petaf.org

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My response:

Ms. Dame,

I appreciate the five seconds it took you to copy and paste this form letter into an email and hit reply. What a pathetic excuse for an apology. It is one thing to use shock value to entice people to go to your website and donate to your cause. It is a completely different story when you offend a group of people with a disease in doing so. Let me ask: would you have dared to offend cancer patients? Would you have dared to make light of those facing diseases like AIDS or cerebral palsy or autism? No. You chose infertility because you assumed that our community would lie down and take this abuse. Guess what, Ms. Dame: I am not lying down. I am not taking this abuse. You have just managed to piss off a group of men and women who value a sense of community more than anything else in the fight against their disease - and who have the hormonal rage to continue the fight against your organization for a very, very long time.

Let me explain something about infertility. Infertility is completely unrelated to having a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a procedure done voluntarily to ensure that someone does not procreate. Infertility is a DISEASE of the reproductive system. No one with infertility has vasectomies to "celebrate" infertility awareness, because there is absolutely nothing about infertility that is voluntary. No one chooses this disease; it chooses us. I am appalled that you would relate the two in any way, and in doing so you have displayed the same ignorance that organizations like RESOLVE are trying to prevent during National Infertility Awareness Week.

On behalf of the infertile community, I do not accept this apology. Perhaps the most laughable part of your entire letter is that you have the audacity to suggest I donate to PETA. The only organization I will make a donation to at this time is RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. I suggest your group do the same, and I urge you to remove any language that mentions infertility or National Infertility Awareness Week from your website. Until then, I will continue to share with my family, friends, blog readers, colleagues, and others about the insensitive practices of your organization.

Sincerely,
Katie

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Their response to my response:

Dear Ms. __________,

Please let me once again apologize for having offended you with this contest. It was not meant as a personal attack on anyone, and offense was not something that we had intended. We consider this a chance to discuss animal overpopulation, the need to spay and neuter dogs and cats, and the impact of human overpopulation on the environment.

PETA’s purpose is to stop animal suffering, and we use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages. We have found that people do pay more attention to our more provocative actions, and we consider the public’s attention to be extremely important. Sometimes this requires tactics—like naked marches, colorful ad campaigns, and graphic images—that some people find outrageous or even rude. Part of our job is to grab people’s attention and even shock them in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action. The current situation is critical for billions of animals, and our goal is to make the public think about the issues, something that cannot be accomplished if the public is unaware of the crisis at hand.

Unfortunately, getting the animal rights message to the public is not always easy and straightforward. PETA must rely on getting free “advertising” through media coverage. We often do outrageous things to get the word out about animal abuse, because sadly, the media usually do not consider the facts alone interesting enough to cover. Colorful and controversial gimmicks, on the other hand—like activists’ stripping to “bare skin rather than wear skin” or hosting a contest offering a free vasectomy—consistently grab headlines, thereby bringing the animal rights message to audiences around the country and, often, the world. After PETA publicized our “State of the Union Undress,” for example, we were rated the number one “mover” on Yahoo’s search engine, meaning that PETA received the greatest percentage increase of terms searched that day.

A lot of men have entered the contest, and there is great interest in it. The cost of a vasectomy is not cheap, and not everyone wants to reproduce. Having one’s own child may be a compelling urge, but it isn’t helpful to act on all our urges, no matter how strong. The issue is not whether one is infertile but whether it is responsible to keep adding people to a planet whose resources are already being stretched. In America, most people eat well, have a roof over their heads, and buy gasoline, but in much of the rest of the world, people are starving, forests are disappearing, and water is running out, and it seems a moral conundrum for some of us to be spending thousands of dollars trying to reproduce ourselves when there are homeless children, including some with disabilities, who want for homes.

As I have previously mentioned, in the past, PETA has engaged in a number of controversial campaigns in order to gain attention to various animal rights issues. Such controversial campaigns have included Got (Breast) Cancer?, which highlighted that “nutritional factors” were contributors to one-third of cancer related deaths in the United States; a KKK ad, which displays the American Kennel Club’s promotion of “breedism” and the idea that dogs with “pure” bloodlines are superior to other loveable dogs; Ink Not Mink ads, which feature a number of celebrities posing nude; and more.

PETA is a leader in creating buzz to support our cause, but we aren’t alone in recognizing its value. According to Brett Gosper, former CEO of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, an advertising firm which created a controversial anti-racism campaign, “If your communication is selling a cause, then shock tactics may not just be an option, they may be essential. Budgets on cause-related work are so low that it is imperative for the media to relay your communication and multiply its visibility. Media won’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. The more controversial the advertising, the more space it will get.”

Thank you again for giving us the chance to explain the thoughts behind our tactics. And truly, Ms. __________, I am sorry if we have offended you with this campaign but know it is not a personal attack on you or those individuals who suffer from infertility.

Sincerest regards,
HollyAnne Dame
Membership Correspondent
PETA Foundation
757.962.8246
HollyAnneD@petaf.org

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Ms. Dame,

Instead of taking the five seconds to copy and paste the same email to me that you sent to every other person you offended by this contest, perhaps you could take that five seconds and show you are legitimately sorry by removing the reference. Or, maybe, you could take five seconds and read RESOLVE's response (see attached).

Take it down. We will not stop until you do.

Sincerely,
Katie

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Ms. __________,

PETA appreciates any and all feedback—including comments, criticisms, and ideas. Please know that yours have been passed along, along with the press release, to the appropriate staff members.

Please know that we do respect your opinion on this matter and let me take the time to express, once again, how truly sorry we are for having offended you with our most recent campaign. I hope that my prior correspondence has at least addressed some of your concerns with the thoughts behind our actions, but I also understand that you do not necessarily agree.

Even among those of us who care about animals and share similar goals, there will always come a time when opinions differ—including the way in which we call attention to animal suffering and the overpopulation crisis.

Thank you again for taking the time to share with us your concerns.

Sincerely,
HollyAnne Dame
Membership Correspondent
PETA Foundation
757.962.8246
HollyAnneD@petaf.org

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Ms. Dame,

These are not my concerns. These are facts. You are exploiting a group of people who have a disease for the benefit of what? Of getting one man and one dog neutered? Congratulations. In the wake of this stunt, you have managed to alienate and offend an entire group of men and women - many of whom previously supported your cause. The truth is, you are not sorry. You knew this would cause an uproar. Did you envision hurting feelings in the process? Did you imagine offending the individuals and partners who work tirelessly day in and day out fighting this disease?

I realize that you simply do not understand. Your views are probably similar to that of Ms. Newkirk, who is quoted as saying:

"I’m not only uninterested in having children. I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it is nothing but vanity, human vanity." (New Yorker Magazine, April 2003)

However, your personal vendettas against children gives your group no right to trample on the hearts of those who deal with real medical issues like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometrial or ovarian cancer, varicocele, testicular cancer, unexplained infertility, etc. Or to offend the lesbian and gay couples who so desperately want to be parents, but society constrains the means by which they can achieve that goal. Or to cause pain to the single man or woman who dreams of raising a child but cannot do so with a partner - or choose not to do so with a partner. I will state again what I stated in my second email: it is not likely that you would treat those going through cancer, AIDS, or other, more "prominent" diseases in a similar fashion.

Nor would you pretend to be an expert in those illnesses, just as I do not pretend to be an expert in animal rights. The quote, "including the way in which we call attention to animal suffering and the overpopulation crisis," disturbs me. You are crossing the line from human to animal and back again. Choose which group you are going to represent, Ms. Dame. And if you decide to take up advocating ways to prevent the HUMAN overpopulation crisis, I suggest you start by educating yourself on infertility and the HUMAN suffering that comes with it.

Take it down. We refuse to stop until you do.

Sincerely,
Katie

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If you have not already done so, please write to PETA and ask them to take down the infertility/National Infertility Awareness Week references from their website, and sign the petition. Show PETA we won't back down until we get the treatment (and apology) that we deserve.

25 comments:

Josey said...

Well said Katie!! This is so unconscionable of PETA.

Serendipite said...

I haven't even gotten a response. PETA sucks.

Rebecca said...

I think the worst part is "we apologize for offending you as it was not our intent" said twice. YES, it sure was your damn intent. I LOVE your response Katie.

Becca M said...

I got that same cookie cutter response. I sent a not so nice email back to them. Haven't heard back from that one yet.

womb for improvement said...

Personally, I think that you are being a bit unfair to PETA.

In their reply to you they didn't equate having a vasectomy with infertility, but you did by your reaction. Admittedly you say in their launch they did it to honour Infertility Awareness week but this isn't reiterated in their letter.

And they are right, shock tactics do work. I, in the UK, would never have heard about this campaign if you hadn't written about it. They have created a storm, which you are feeding.

I hope that I haven't offended you by this comment, but that you'll take a bit of disagreement in the spirit of lively discussion rather than personal criticism.

Liz

Jen said...

"MAKE A DONATION" - You have GOT to be kidding me.

Ashley said...

I have wrote to the organization and have posted it on my blog just now as well! I hope this helps!!

Katie said...

Womb: They didn't in their reply, but they certainly did by linking the two together in their contest advertisement. This is the same with their "honor" of National Infertility Awareness Week. Here you go, directly from their website:

"Now, one lucky man can be reproduction-free, free of charge, just like his pooch or feline friend. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24 to 30), PETA will give one free vasectomy to a man who has recently had his companion cat or dog neutered."

I refuse to sit back and watch them offend me, and others in this community, regardless of whether or not I believe this feeds into their shock tactics. I know it does. But when a kid punches you on the playground and walks away, and the rest of the kids stand around and watch you (laughing), would you never, ever respond? I'm sorry, but in this case, I'd rather stick up for myself than sit back and let people pass along more ignorance.

Tammy (Palm Trees & Manatees) said...

You know, PETA's insensitivity really pisses me off. Thank you for being so proactive and for your wonderfully written e-mails. Here is the comment I left on PETA's blog: I completely agree with the others who made comments regarding this being a terrible tie-in to National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is a heartbreaking reproductive disease, and I happen to struggle from this disease. It is in NO way even remotely related to a vasectomy, which is a CHOICE to no longer reproduce. To connect the two is completely insensitive to those of us who are struggling to have children. Either your company is completely insensitive or you do not understand the definition of infertility. Either way, you should show some compassion and understanding by removing all the references to infertility and National Infertility Awareness Week from your web site. I have been a vegetarian for 16 years and respect PETA's mission . . . but this is just awful.

A. said...

Really well-written! This whole PETA thing so incredibly nutty - I fail to even follow the logic of the concept.

Krystal said...

That is major bullshit - it is the same stupid letter they posted on their facebook page no less! How pathetic of them! No less to give you the exact e-mail copy and paste they already did once more.

They've offended quite a bit of the community, if they took down the "in honor of infertility awareness" they'd still be in the dog house but the complaints would die down. However they chose to intentionally mock infertility by offering a drawing to get a male fixed. t

Tammy said...

In the latest response they wrote to you, this comment makes no sense: The issue is not whether one is infertile but whether it is responsible to keep adding people to a planet whose resources are already being stretched.

What the heck??? I seriously don't think they know what the definition of "infertile" is. If the issue isn't "whether one is infertile" then why are they doing this contest during National Infertility Awareness week? It makes absolutely no sense, not to mention it's extremely rude!

Dawn said...

I'm officially enraged. I cannot believe this organization is touting the "just adopt" shit. Obviously they haven't looked up anything about IF or IF sensitivity. If they want to do their stupid contest whatever, but leave IF out of it.

AnotherDreamer said...

Geesh, they're idiots. They never even replied to my letters. I think I'll be resending them. Hmph. What a crappy response you've gotten?!

I also blogger/tweeted about it. Not going to do much good, I bet, but it sure made me feel better ;)

Secret Sloper said...

I agree with Tammy. If PETA's issue is a belief that all human reproduction is wrong (which, um, no sensible people agree with that) then fine: Tie the freaking campaign in with Mother's Day or Father's Day. I'm sure plenty of people would still be pissed off, but at least they'd have ACTUALLY PROCREATED!

It's not only their insensitivity. Their complete lack of logic and bullheaded refusal to see other points of view offends me just as much.

Oh my God: They're the GW Bush of non-profit organizations.

tanyaslifejourney said...

Amen! Very well said and thank you for standing up to PETA and not backing down. The whole thing is absolutely absurd!

Willow said...

Seriously, what is wrong with the PETA people?! I think there's plenty of shock value in their weird win a vasectomy contest without tying it, nonsensically and offensively, to NIAW. Also, I wonder if all PETA employees have chosen not to reproduce, since their rep makes it clear that's the only responsible choice in their view. Thank you, Katie, for calling them on their crap and not backing down!

Suzanne said...

Oh wow Katie what she wrote in her letters to you about how any publicity is good publicity is exactly what the lady at PETA said to me over the phone this morning. I just hung up on her.

They just don't get it, do they? I contributed to their cause in the past, but rest assured I won't in the future.

I wonder how many members of PETA are struggling with infertility and I also wonder how many members they will lose over this publicity stunt. They certainly lost me!

Chon said...

"not everyone wants to reproduce" then why would you reference national infertility awareness week? Perhaps they need to do some market research. Good on you. Your letter was brilliant. I think i need to copy and send to other idiots that spout this crap. In fact I am so proud of you responding that I coming out of the closet on FB for infertility awareness week.

Kelly said...

This just keeps getting worse and worse. Did you see this response??

"is is part of an email I recieved from PETA: Having one’s own child may be a compelling urge, but it isn’t helpful to act on all our urges, no matter how strong. The issue is not whether one is infertile but whether it is responsible to keep adding people to a planet whose resources are already being stretched. In America, most peo...ple eat well, have a roof over their heads, and buy gasoline, but in much of the rest of the world, people are starving, forests are disappearing, and water is running out, and it seems a moral conundrum for some of us to be spending thousands of dollars trying to reproduce ourselves when there are homeless children, including some with disabilities, who want for homes. Since most of the e-mails we are receiving from people who’ve read about our contest on infertility blogs are quite uncivil, perhaps some soul searching needs to be done on the part of those who would rather throw stones than engage in discourse."

amiracle4us said...

well done my darling, well done!

Ana said...

Well said Katie!! I wonder what the hell PETA is thinking. I hate PETA and I hate them even more for their copied and pasted email to you. I wrote them and have not gotten a response yet.

~C~ said...

Great response, Katie. Too bad these a-holes will never actually read it. They did a campaign comparing the AKC to the KKK? Wow. There's another one they should be ashamed to admit. Gah. I hate these people.

mherzog said...

Check out this funny video PETA made: http://meat.org

*Jelena* said...

Fantastic response Katie. I haven't seen RESOLVE's response yet. I wish, however, that I haven't read Kelly's comment, because what PETA wrote to her in their email is absolutely disgraceful.
I think this needs to be covered by media, and I hope someone is taking care of that.