“We do not advocate right to life for animals.” Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President.

When I wrote Ingrid Newkirk to ask her how, as an animal rights organization, PETA could oppose non-lethal programs for feral cats in shelters, and why her organization advocates that they be rounded up and killed, Newkirk wrote back that PETA is not an animal rights organization, stating in no uncertain terms: “We do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals.”

“Most people have no idea that at many animal shelters across the country, any pit bull that comes through the front door doesn’t go out the back door alive. From San Jose to Schenectady, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of ‘pits’ they encounter. This news shocks and outrages the compassionate dog-lover… Here’s another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters’ pit-bull policy… People who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pits.” Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President.

There are no dogs in America more abused, maligned and misrepresented than those who are classified by shelters as “Pit Bulls.” There are no shelter dogs more in need of the humane movement’s compassion, in need of a call to arms on their behalf and in need of what should be the full force of a shelter’s sanctuary and protection. Many shelters and animal protection organizations, however, have determined that these dogs are not worthy of their help. And no one has been more emphatic and unapologetic than Ingrid Newkirk in promoting this unfair and deadly double standard—along with the idea that those who care about animals needn’t concern themselves with the fate of these particular dogs.

“I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself… I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.” Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President.

We are told no one wants to kill. But Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA, not only began her career in “animal welfare” killing animals at the Washington Humane Society, a shelter with regressive policies at the time, she went into work early to perform the job: “a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.” It is an understatement to say that killing animals should be regarded as a deeply disturbing experience. Not only is the person doing the killing cruelly robbing an animal of his or her life, but it is not uncommon for an animal who is being killed to experience fear, disorientation, nausea and, at times, even struggle against it.

A dog who is skittish, for example, is made even more fearful by the smells and surroundings of an animal shelter. He doesn’t understand why he is there and perhaps away from the only family he has ever loved. For this dog to be killed, animal shelters may use a catch pole. These dogs often struggle to free themselves from the grip, which results in more fear and pain when they realize they cannot. They sometimes urinate and defecate on themselves, unsure of what is occurring. Often the head is held hard to the ground or against the wall so that another staff member can enter the kennel and inject him with a sedative. While the catch pole is left tied around the neck, the dog struggles to maintain his balance, dragging the pole, until he slumps to the ground. Slowly—fearful, often soiled in his own waste, confused—he tries to stand, but his legs give way. He goes limp and then unconscious. That is when staff administers the fatal dose.

And yet in spite of this, Newkirk admitted to not only killing sometimes dozens of animals a day, but to actually going into work early in order to do so. What are we to conclude about a person who opts to go into work early to do their job when that job is killing animals?

“The animals… got the gift of euthanasia, and to them it was the best gift they’ve ever had. How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!” Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President.

To PETA, killing is not a moral issue: “It’s just like spaying an animal, the only difference is they never wake up.” It doesn’t matter to them that the animal could be adopted into a loving home. It doesn’t matter that the animals have an immediate place to go with rescue groups. It’s not the fact that animals are being killed that matters. To PETA, the only thing that matters is how they are killed: so long as they are killed by poisoning with an overdose of barbiturates, killing is “a gift.” And yet PETA’s position that animals can and should be killed subverts the entire foundation upon which all social justice movements are inherently based: the right to life.

The right to life is a fundamental right because it is a necessary condition for the enjoyment of all other rights. In what many consider to be the cornerstone of the human rights movement—our own Declaration of Independence—there is a reason the Founding Fathers began the list of “unalienable” rights to which everyone is entitled with “life.” Without life, the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness become meaningless—for one can be neither free nor happy when they are dead. How can one guarantee that animals be treated kindly, be given fresh food and water and even love, when all those things can be taken away at someone else’s discretion by killing?

PETA’s position—so at odds with the philosophy of animal rights—not only condones the slaughter of millions of companion animals every year, but it undermines protections for other animals as well. It is the relationship between Americans and their animal companions that can open the door to larger animal rights issues. In their daily interactions with their dogs and cats, people experience an animal’s personality, emotions and capacity both for great joy and great suffering. They learn empathy for animals. Someone who is compassionate—and passionate—about their companion animals can over time and with the right information become supportive of efforts to help animals on farms, in circuses, in research facilities and elsewhere. Right now, however, PETA is actively working to ensure that doesn’t happen—by not only arguing that dogs and cats do not have the right to life, but that killing them is an act of kindness, and therefore a moral imperative.

And though the need to refute the views expressed by Newkirk is a tragic necessity due to the credibility her association with PETA affords her, in truth, to substantively address them is to grant unwarranted credibility to a position that is so irrational and inhumane that it is simply beyond the reach of reasoned discourse. For although the result of the opposition to No Kill by shelter directors and others is anything but mundane, the motivation behind their resistance is ultimately attributable to pedestrian flaws of human nature: primarily uncaring, greed and narrow self-interest. But Ingrid Newkirk is different. She opposes No Kill because the No Kill movement represents the antithesis of her definition of animal activism. To her, killing is the goal because she believes that life itself is suffering and therefore animals want to die. It is a view that is not only perverse and in obvious opposition to every creature’s instinctual will to live, it is also terrifying when considered in light of her success at manipulating others to share and act upon her views, her legal access to lethal drugs and the ongoing and mortal threat to thousands of animals every year which she and PETA pose.

“The dangerous, unrealistic policies and procedures pushed on the council by this small but fanatical constituency is part of a national movement to target, harass, and vilify open admission shelters and their staff in an effort to mislead the public into believing that ‘no kill’ is as easy as simply not euthanizing animals… [Quoting HSUS:] ‘There are no municipal shelters in the country that operate as ‘no-kill.’ A few have tried, but have quickly turned back due to overcrowding, inability to manage services, and staff outcry. It is the municipality’s job to accept all animals and conduct responsible adoptions. The reality is there are not enough homes for all animals…’ The goals of reducing overpopulation and euthanasia do not get accomplished by limiting yourself to the category of ‘no-kill.’ It is an unattainable goal that will set you up for failure.” Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA Vice-President, Cruelty Investigations Department, Letter to the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia.

PETA is an organization that publicly claims to represent the best interest of animals—indeed their “ethical treatment”—while at the same time engages in a campaign to exterminate them and to prolong the ability of others to do the same. They call companion animals slaves and argue that sharing one’s life and home with an animal subjects that animal to bondage and oppression: “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles—from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.” And they are an organization whose infamous antics ranging from the absurd to the obscene alienate rather than educate the American public.

Yet this organization—with views about killing dogs and cats that are so extreme as to defy credulity—refers to those laboring to bring an end to their unnecessary killing through simple, common sense alternatives such as foster care, adoption, working with rescue groups and TNR, as dangerous “slow-kill hoarders” who want to put animals in “hellholes.” This is the very definition of ironic.

In defense of shelters, PETA has told legislators not to listen to “fanatical” and “radical” reformers who have asked for less killing and more lifesaving in communities where those very shelters have abused animals: allowed them to go days without food, allowed them to slowly die due to lack of care, drowned puppies in trench drains, physically abused them and cruelly killed them.

So not only are statements like these (made to city and county officials across the country) a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, but they are made in a manner than defends animal abusers and killers and denigrates those working to stop such practices. Moreover, their claims are also dishonest. There are, in fact, dozens of communities across the country that have ended the systematic killing of healthy and treatable animals, some of which have been No Kill for over a decade. Calling something “unattainable” when it already exists is a lie.