I had an interesting opportunity this week. I had a conversation with an animal researcher about the information on my website. Because I'm moving future discussions to a more appropriate forum, I decided to post the conversation here, in an easy-to-read format. This is how it went:
"I appreciate the extra information here, but aside from helping to dispel the part of petakillsanimals.com's assertions that is obviously wrong, it does little to paint PETA in a rosy light, and depends way too much on semantic wrangling to justify their actions.
"1. People signing release forms absolves PETA of LEGAL obligations to keep adoptable pets alive, but does not mean that the people who turned them over thought that at least an EFFORT would be made to find their animals homes.
"2. In the case of the kittens from NC. The form was signed giving PETA the option to legally euthanize them, but why would anyone at the veterinary clinic expect them to be euthanized the same day with absolutely no effort made to find a home?
"3. Furthermore, why would someone who is being paid by PETA (according to this site) to perform euthanasia give animals that he is more qualified to euthanize to the CAP workers if he actually thought they'd be euthanized post-haste? This man was a pro, and perfectly capable of doing it himself. If he turned them over, obviously he believed they were going to at least go somewhere where they would have a chance of being adopted than his office.
"4. There's a bunch of "PETA doesn't euthanize adoptable animals unless there are no other options" notions floating around here. Explain the kittens then. Clearly they were adoptable and no effort was ever shown to even attempt to find them homes. You can finagle all you want, but in this case, they weren't about to go to the gas chamber since the vet was allegedly sanctioned BY PETA. They weren't unadoptable, nor were they abused/being abused. So what's the deal their.
"5. In PETA's discussion of why they euthanize animals, they give the include "unwanted" as one of their criterion for justifying the use of euthanasia on an animal. Isn't this little more than an umbrella term meant to include ALL animals outside of homes that don't fall under the much more excusable condition of "suffering" or the more dubious "unadoptable"? When people defend PETA's euth policies, why is THAT category never addressed. All I ever see is, "PETA doesn't euthanize animals unless they are sick or unadoptable," but both the NC kittens and their open admission of supporting euthanisia of "unwanted" animals runs completely counter to that assessment.
"I, for one, happen to concur with the above poster who mocks PETA for using the same system that protects animal researchers to excuse their behavior. When animal researchers say, "Hey, we didn't break the law." that typically doesn't go over too well with AR activists. It's one thing to use the legal system to defend your interests, but a whole 'nother thing to use it to "excuse" your behavior when you are so adamant about promoting the idea that it doesn't "excuse" the behavior of people other than yourselves.
"Oh, and of course, "You can't prove it" is never a good defense. That's the quality of defense I expect from the neighborhood kid that magically has you skateboard the day it goes missing."
"First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to review the information on my website and offer your valuable feedback. While the Center for Consumer Freedom's disinformation campaign against PETA was the impetus for this website, comments from people, corporations, and industries who disseminate the disinformation because it serves their interests offer valuable insight that I believe will make this site better. You are not the garden-variety skeptic. Your background in animal research places you in a far more challenging group. Again. Thank you for taking the time to look over the material and present your concerns. I'll do my very best to address them.
"Possibly for no other reason that it was last, your final comment struck the loudest chord with me: 'You can't prove it' is not a good defense.'
"I would venture to say that 'you can't prove it' is neither a good defense nor a good offense:)
"I am not a spokesperson for PETA. I can only answer questions as they pertain to my own personal research into both PETA's euthanasia practices and into the infamous North Carolina trial.
"1) PETA's Owner-Relinquish Form
"A signed owner-relinquish form protects PETA and all Virginia animal releasing agencies from possible litigation stemming from claims of "I didn't know you were going to euthanize my pet," but not from litigation stemming from claims that PETA misrepresented their services in some way, or obtained an animal or signature under false pretenses.
"The signed owner-relinquish form protects PETA from claims of "I didn't know you were going to euthanize my pet" because it informs the owner that their pet may be immediately euthanized. People who believe that PETA obtained either their animal or their signature under false pretenses still have every legal protection under the law. Interestingly, no one has ever filed such a claim with state. I'll elaborate a little later.
"There is no indication that PETA misrepresents their services to the public in any way. In fact, PETA publishes information about their euthanasia practices on their website. No one who has ever visited PETA's website could possibly be under the impression that PETA is anything other than a "shelter of last resort."
"Now factor in every interview where PETA discusses their euthanasia practices, every blog warning readers that "PETA kills animals," and the Center for Consumer Freedom's nine-year body of work, and the public being unaware that PETA euthanizes a lot of animals is a pretty hard case to make.
"One of the more interesting pieces of evidence supporting claims that PETA doesn't misrepresent their services to the inquiring public comes from the Center for Consumer Freedom itself. The CCF obtained and published "veterinarian inspection report" generated after a citizen contacted Virginia's State Veterinarian, Dr. Dan Kovich, DVM, MPH, having been told by PETA that they didn't operate a traditional animal "shelter."
"Dr. Kovich conducted a site visit of PETA's facility to assess whether the state would continue to inspect the facility as an "animal shelter," having had PETA explain that taking in and re-homing adoptable animals wasn't the primary purpose of their facility. After review, Dr. Kovich concluded that PETA's facility did meet the statutory definition of "animal shelter" and the state would continue to inspect it as such.
"During the interview I conducted with Dr. Kovich, he went on the record as saying that to the best of his recollection, his office has never received a complaint that PETA has misrepresented their services to the public in any way.
"So here's what we have:
"*PETA's explanation of their "shelter of last resort" on their website and in interviews, and a food and beverage industry front group's campaign spanning nearly a decade, informing everyone and their brother that PETA euthanizes a lot of animals
"*A veterinarian inspection report generated by a concerned citizen informing the State Veterinarian that PETA was telling the inquiring public that they do not operate a traditional animal "shelter"
"*Virginia's State Veterinarian going on the record as stating that to the best of his recollection, no one who has ever used PETA's services has complained to his office that those services were misrepresented in some way
"2) The Kittens, the Form, and the Veterinarian
"First of all, according to courtroom testimony, Dr. Proctor neither signed an owner-relinquish form nor prepared the necessary veterinarian inspection forms the cat and kittens would've needed to legally enter Virginia alive, so no "forms" were involved in the transaction, apparently.
"Secondly, we're not just talking about any old veterinarian here. We're talking about a veterinarian who was contracted by PETA to euthanize Hertford County pound animals who wouldn't be offered for adoption. Dr. Proctor euthanized animals who were were slated to be suffocated to death in a gas chamber, or tied to a post and shot because PETA wasn't able to find homes for them. I can't imagine a person being more acutely aware of PETA's euthanasia policy regarding the North Carolina animals than the veterinarian PETA paid to implement that policy for them--can you?
"I would also ask you why Dr. Proctor would keep the cat and two kittens caged in his dog kennel for literally weeks before asking the PETA CAP volunteers to remove them, if he was confident in PETA's ability to make homes for animals magically appear?
"The jury in the resulting trial found the defendant not guilty of obtaining animals under false pretenses. Apparently they weren't impressed by Dr. Proctor's claims that he was "shocked," and "surprised" either, after they learned that he earned $5000 assisting PETA with their work in North Carolina.
"3) Sick, Injured, Unadoptable, Unwanted
"Again: I can only comfortably comment on my own research. Records show that PETA finds homes for some adoptable animals and transfers others to the Virginia Beach SPCA where they'll be offered for adoption, so their veterinarian is obviously making determinations regarding the adoptability or treatability of animals who are not specifically brought to their facility for the purpose of humane euthanasia. Because PETA isn't a traditional animal "shelter," there is not reason for them to euthanize animals for space. Not when the Virginia Beach SPCA will take any adoptable animals PETA receives. Correction: Dr. Patrick Proctor, DVM was paid $10,000 by PETA. He euthanized over 1,200 animals at the Hertford County pound on PETA's behalf."
"So that's pretty much the sticking point. Why would the man who is being paid thousands of dollars to euthanize animals at PETA's behest turn them over to PETA if he expected them to be euthanized immediately when he could do it himself rather than subject them to a "humane" death in a van that was "over 100 degrees" and full of stinking dead animals?
"...and for that matter, why was a van intended to transport live (and possibly adoptable) animals long distances not properly cooled? (Raising the question, "Was this van ever even remotely intended to transport live animals?").
"PETA is quite vocal about how poor animal transport is in the food industry (and on airlines), so I find it odd that they would overlook something as basic as climate control unless they really only intended for the vehicle to serve as a mobile euthanasia service. Even airlines have policies against animal transport when climate conditions aren't suitable.
"Furthermore, the entire argument about how Dr. Proctor "knew" PETA euthanized animals is pretty irrelevant considering the actual circumstances. Dr. Proctor performed humane euthanasia on animals scheduled to be gassed at one pound. This in no way implies that he should not be surprised if PETA euthanizes an animal without even trying to find a home for it (given that it's adoptable). The only thing it shows is that he is aware that PETA advocates pentobarbitol injections when someone (other than PETA) is about to gas an animal.
"Again, your defenses are relying on saying things like "Well, the paperwork said we "might" euthanize the animals, so people shouldn't be surprised if we instantly kill perfectly normal kittens, because we don't want to send them to a scuzzy animal shelter." Could you point out in PETA's blog post on why they euthanize, which category would include these kittens--because according to most of the folk who do the anti-CCF policing on Facebook, PETA only kills sick and injured animals turned over by owners FOR euthanasia--I never hear anything about kittens who weren't even given a chance to get to a shelter for adoption.
"For that matter, if that shelter was so scuzzy, why wouldn't they just take the animals to a shelter that PETA approves of? The entire situation just reeks of, "I don't feel like calling around to see if any decent shelters have room--so sayonara, Kittens." Add in a touch of "Hot dead kittens stink, so let's swing by a dumpster," and it looks like these CAP folks were more interested in their own comfort than that of their charges. I think you may have implied that this may have been done for the comfort of other live animals being transported, but in that case, again, why was the van 100 degrees, and why would you transport bags full of dead animals where living ones can smell them?
"This makes absolutely no sense to me. If Hinkle was intending to euthanize the kittens immediately and actually cared for their welfare, couldn't she have said, "Hey, we can't think of anywhere to take these guys for adoption, so if there's something in your power that can be done to buy these kittens a bit more time, now's the time."
"I wholeheartedly agree that PETA didn't break any actual law, but I don't see how the circumstances in that case were excusable in regards to animal welfare. I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any testimony demonstrating that Hinkle even attempted to make a reasonable effort to give those kittens a chance. I'd expect something like, "We knew all the decent shelters between Ahoskie and Norfolk were full of kittens that were more likely to be adopted." if a reasonable effort were made. In fact, I bet there was a fat 10-year old cat that would never get adopted at one of these shelters who could have been sacrificed to make room for a couple of kittens that actually had a chance at being adopted.
"Set the legal arguments regarding false pretenses aside, and tell me why killing those kittens was justified if no attempt was even made to re-home them, and why PETA wouldn't openly admit that they have no qualms euthanizing adoptable animals. I hear plenty of "PETA sends adoptable animals to this one shelter", but apparently that's only applicable in VA?"
"Thank you for the follow-up, Kalama. I try not to trade in currency of "what were they thinking," because it's simply impossible to know. But if I were to make an educated guess as to why Dr. Proctor didn't euthanize the cat and kittens himself, based on the testimony he gave during the trial, I'd say that he was simply trying to avoid upsetting his staff:
"'Nobody likes having to put an animal to sleep,' Proctor told the jury. 'It's a sad situation. I've had staff members cry.'
"In my personal opinion, Dr. Proctor was simply wanting to spare his staff, and himself, the emotional trauma of his euthanizing animals they had cared for and bonded with over the course of many weeks.
"When Dr. Proctor euthanized animals at the Hertford County pound, he was sparing them from a torturous death in a gas chamber. That's altogether different than euthanizing animals because he didn't want to house a lot of stray animals at his practice, and in his opinion, it was time for these particular animals to go.
"So what were Dr. Proctor's choices?
"1) He could euthanize the cats himself at his practice, which would devastate his staff and likely himself (not to mention the hit his practice might take if he established himself as a veterinarian who euthanized animals whenever they wore out their welcome at his office)
"2) He could haul them off to the Hertford County pound and euthanize them there, which has the exact same pitfalls as the first option
"3) He could pawn the whole problem off on unsuspecting PETA CAP volunteers, and let them deal with it
"History tells us which choice Dr. Proctor made.
"So we know what Dr. Proctor's motivations might have been, but what motivations could the CAP workers possibly have had, other than euthanizing unwanted animals was part of their job?
"I don't use the defendant's names on my website, because they were exonerated of the charges against them, and have since had their Hertford County court records expunged. I would appreciate it if you could refrain from criminalizing those folks on my blog in the future.
"If the fact that Dr. Proctor had earned $10,000 euthanizing 1,227 unwanted animals at the Hertford County pound on behalf of PETA was "irrelevant," we'd be talking about the defendant's convictions, instead of their exoneration, if we're being honest.
"I share your concerns regarding live animal transport, Kalama. Animals who are exploited for food and research often endure extreme temperatures during transport, and often without food, water, or rest. Their traveling with their deceased counterparts is a frequent and unacceptable occurrence. I hope you're as outspoken on the matter with regards to the animals you receive in your facility for research.
"Again, making an educated guess here, I would assume that temperatures compatible with preventing the decomposition of deceased animals might not be appropriate for living animals and humans, with regards to their safety and comfort. There is no indication that the CAP volunteers were transporting live animals on hot days, or transporting a mixture of dead and living animals. I've amended my website to reflect that.
"The court records show that no live or suffering animals were among the van's contents at the time of its seizure. However, food, water, and clean bedding were among the van's contents at the time of its seizure, indicating that those things were made available to animals during live transport. Again, issuing an educated guess, I would say that it was not PETA's policy to transport animals on days, or in conditions, when their safety and well-being might be compromised, for the very reasons you stated.
"PETA blogs discussing the North Carolina Animals:
"Transcript of a press release Ingrid Newkirk gave after the incident explaining PETA's policies in North Carolina:
"And again. There was no "paperwork" exchanged between Dr. Proctor and the CAP volunteer. He neither signed a legal release, nor prepared the required veterinarian inspection report necessary for their live transport.
" I believe your comment of 'I bet there was a fat 10-year old cat that would never get adopted at one of these shelters who could have been sacrificed to make room for a couple of kittens that actually had a chance at being adopted' sums it up best. That's what it absolutely comes down to in many shelters, even in so-called 'No-Kill' shelters. 'Adoptability' all of a sudden becomes a sliding scale issue, and despite making extremely hard determinations about which animals are more or less adoptable, 'perfect' and 'adorable' animals are lost in the bargain.
"I am an animal rights blogger and you are a biomedical researcher. I think it's safe to say that neither of us can speak with authority about the issues that shelters are dealing with, or make accurate assumptions about what does and doesn't constitute 'adoptability.'
"Now, we can go back and forth forever, hashing out the 'what ifs' and other unknowns, but it will never change the fact that Dr. Proctor was aware of PETA's euthanasia policy and asked the CAP volunteer to take the animals anyway, or the fact that the jury decided that the defendant was not guilty of obtaining those animals under false pretenses.
This is the extent of the dialogue, as of this writing. I post as a blog because I feel it raises valid points on both sides of the argument. "Why didn't Dr. Proctor euthanize the animals" was the crux of a failed offense in the case, and under even the most casual inspection, they "why nots" are readily apparent.