Activism, Animal Rights, Politics

What PETA Has Cost the Animal Rights Movement

Animal advocates constantly complain about the reputation of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They frequently see their cause dismissed because of the strong associations with this rambunctious organization. Earlier this month was no exception, as PETA made major headlines by asking the internet to stop using idioms like “bring home the bacon”:

In fact, the word “PETAhas become a pejorative for stunts, gimmicks, and putting feelings over facts when it comes to animal issues. I argue in my new book, The End of Animal Farming, that animal rights will succeed in building a food system where we eat meat, dairy, and eggs without the use of animals, but it’s a tragic irony that one of the biggest obstacles for activists might be the bad reputation of its best-known advocates.

I should clarify. This isn’t to say PETA hasn’t done a lot of good. The first modern undercover investigation of farmed animal abuse was conducted by the pioneering organization in 1983 at a Texas horse exporter, shortly after PETA’s famous lab animal investigation in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1981. More food-industry investigations followed in 1991, when PETA investigated a cow slaughterhouse, a pig slaughterhouse, and a chicken hatchery.

These investigations started receiving major media attention in the late 1990s. A 1998 PETA investigation of a pig-breeding farm led to the first-ever felony indictments for cruelty to farmed animals. It “revealed shocking, systematic cruelty from daily beatings of pregnant sows with a wrench and an iron pole to skinning pigs alive and sawing off a conscious animal’s legs.”

PETA’s McCruelty campaign against McDonald’s in 1999 and 2000 led to one of the first major corporate commitments to reducing farmed animal suffering, and it helped catapult farmed animal welfare into public discourse. These achievements have been instrumental to the inception and rapid growth of companies that produce animal-free food like Impossible Burgers and cultured meat (meat grown from animal cells without animal slaughter, also known as clean meat or lab-grown meat).

But much of the early momentum to help farmed animals seems to have resulted from the growing number of passionate, talented animal advocates who don’t work for PETA. If this one organization never existed, other advocates were on track to pick up the animal rights flag and build a movement without such reputational burdens. PETA’s counterfactual impact wasn’t an ignition of the animal rights movement, but instead the heavy focus on gimmicks like “sex sells” advocacy—sexualized images of women on billboards, leaflets, commercials, etc. used to promote veganism or animal rights.

PETA has attempted to defend these tactics by noting the large amount of attention they garner and pointing out that the women themselves—nonprofit staff, volunteers, and celebrities—willingly choose to participate. Unfortunately, neither of these arguments mitigates the devastating effect these tactics have had on the reputation of the animal rights movement. Animal issues are frequently dismissed as antagonistic, immature, or trivial compared to human issues. The extra eyeballs gimmicks pull onto animal rights messages couldn’t be worth such a high cost.

Of course, not all of this is attributable to PETA. People are inevitably defensive in the face of a new social problem, especially one that almost everyone actively participates in like factory farming—over 99 percent of U.S. farmed animals live on factory farms. But in my opinion, enough of the dismissiveness seems to be attributable to PETA that the attention their tactics have brought to the issue has not been worth the reputational cost. And this to say nothing of the direct harm caused to other social struggles, such as PETA’s “Save the Whales” and other body-shaming campaigns, and oversimplified comparisons between animal cruelty and historical atrocities such as slavery and the Holocaust.

Antagonizing other movements and dismissing other people’s struggles for the sake of controversy just to to get attention is not the kind of tactic that has taken other social movements mainstream. Not all publicity is good publicity.

Virtually all American adults have now seen undercover investigations exposing cruelty to animals used for food, research, and entertainment, but the animal rights movement is struggling to create change. Advocates needs to change government and corporate policies, and to shift the attitudes and behavior of society as a whole.

This is why reputational costs to the movement are so undercutting: When campaigners ask Fortune 500 companies to reform their policies, negative public perceptions of the animal rights issue are a major bottleneck. Food advocates often focus on sustainability and health arguments for meat reduction and reform, since animal rights has a weaker reputation, despite how much Americans love animals. It’s just not seen as a serious social issue.

In fact, I would argue that the voracity of PETA and similar groups—their pursuit of attention above all else—has been one of the two biggest mistakes of the animal rights movement to date.

The other mistake is a heavy focus on individual consumer change: Advocates have conflated helping animals with going vegan (or vegetarian), when there are very promising institutional solutions like policy change that don’t rely on one-by-one vegan conversion. A stunning 47 percent of U.S. adults say they “support a ban on slaughterhouses,” even though only a tiny fraction of them are willing to go vegan themselves. A whopping 32 percent of Americans believe “animals deserve the exact same rights as people to be free from harm and exploitation,” and only 3 percent believe “animals don’t need much protection.” It’s no surprise that, at heart, America is a nation of animal lovers.

Individual-focused strategies, like converting people to plant-based lifestyles, fail to capitalize on this strong support. Instead, they provoke defensiveness and backlash by portraying the everyday consumer as the enemy. Moreover, both the gimmicks and individual focus in the animal rights movement lack historical precedent; virtually no successful social movement has succeeded with these tactics, so why do activists rely on them so heavily?

Fortunately, the animal rights movement is moving in a new direction. Take for example the new prioritization of food technology. Investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists who care about animals are driving the development of cultured meat. This tech innovation is painting the movement with a more modern, sophisticated reputation. Advocates are also focusing more and more on applying data and evidence with the mindset of “effective altruism” to ensure their work does as much good as possible.

The future of the animal rights movement is bright, but it needs PETA to move on from their gimmicks and harmful publicity stunts. If PETA fails to evolve, other advocates need to push ahead, distancing themselves from its gimmicks and forging a new perception of animal rights as an urgent and serious social issue.

Jacy Reese is the author of The End of Animal Farming. He has written for outlets such as The GuardianNational Review, and Vox.

Feature photo by Fotokon / Shutterstock.

Filed under: Activism, Animal Rights, Politics


Jacy Reese is the Research Director of Sentience Institute, a nonprofit think tank researching how social movements succeed in expanding humanity's moral circle. He is currently writing a book, The End of Animal Farming (November 2018), that illuminates humanity's transition to an animal-free food system.


  1. Bob Esmaquil says

    Great article, although it seems the author is naive or being politically correct, by not addressing the real reason why PETA is where it is at with policy, stunts and causes it pursues. PETA needs to continue to exist, because it is no longer an entity that primarily cares about animal welfare, but a self serving enterprise. Adopting effective policies that will eventually eliminate animal abuse, will render PETA unnecessary and it then would have to cease to exist.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      So you think that all those people are actually secretly trying to perpetuate animal suffering by advocating against it, apparently hoping that their actions will…backfire? Lead to the exact opposite outcome they presume to want just by sheer dumb luck? Give them something to do with their spare time?

      Great theory. Really, brilliant stuff. You’ve uncovered the great PETA conspiracy to thwart the ethical treatment of animals.

      • Jon Adkins says

        I don’t think you fully understood his comment, or at least weren’t reading it charitably. He wasn’t at all asserting that PETA was secretly perpetuating animal suffering, he was simply stating that they’re no longer a group of animal activists but have become an organization that’s made a business out of activism.

        If I understand correctly, Bob is saying that if we could snap our fingers and eliminate all animal cruelty PETA would still exist as they are actually serving the goals of being a business rather than those of strictly eliminating animal cruelty.

    • Brian Villanueva says

      Bob and Jon are right about this, and it’s a valid point. A small group of activists is bound together by nothing but a shared moral vision. That was the PETA that did all the animal welfare investigations. The closest analog to 1990’s PETA is probably today’s Project Veritas (different issue but they use the same techniques).

      Once that initial group grows though, it needs policy statements, committees, telephone lines, office infrastructure, domain names, and (most importantly) staff. At that point, you are no longer a group of activists; you have created an organization devoted to activism.

      A group of individuals will freely disband when they achieve their goals. An organization will not — instead they will shift the goals to maintain their relevance.

      That’s what PETA has done and continues to do.

  2. Animal abuse is a rallying cry many richer people can, and likely do, support. But being anti-husbandry has shown it’s huge global failure after nearly 40 years, with barely a dent in “factory farming.”

    • dellingdog says

      True — that’s the main point of Reese’s book. Individual consumer choices will never end factory farming, but advances in technology could.

  3. D-Rex says

    “A stunning 47 percent of U.S. adults say they “support a ban on slaughterhouses,””
    Yeah and a stunning 80% of college students signed a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide(H2O), so what?

    • Angela says

      Yeah considering how small the percentage of vegetarians is either those people are too stupid to realise they can’t eat meat without slaughterhouses or they’re just lying to sound good. I mean what other option is there? Everyone’s going to start hunting and butchering wild animals?

    • Stephanie says

      Yea, all that statistic tells me is 47% of Americans are stupid and hypocritical (minus whatever percent of those are vegetarian, of course).

  4. E. Olson says

    Have you ever noticed how animal rights people almost never come from a farming or agricultural science background? Have you ever noticed how almost all animal rights people are Leftists who also believe humans are generally killing the planet and that the only sustainable way to live is to have the government force us to eat low environmental impact organic foods produced by “natural” methods? Such backgrounds and beliefs do, however, allow them to avoid confronting painful realities such as the fact that animal manure is the only relatively efficient way to “naturally” fertilize cropland, or that factory farmed meat production generates far fewer greenhouse gas emissions per pound of meat generated, or that organic food production yields far less food per cultivated acre than “industrialized” farming, which hurts the poor by making food much more expensive and hurts animals by reducing wildlife habitat. Animal rights people are generally the same people who freak out about GMO foods, so do you really think they will accept laboratory grown meat, which also won’t produce any manure, which means that even more “artificial” carbon-fuel sourced fertilizers will need to be used to grow crops. Thank goodness so many vegans seem to be childless (which gives them time for PETA protests), because governments are starting to be concerned that the incomplete nutrition provided by vegan mothers to their children is increasingly resulting in stunted brain development and lower IQ.

      • E. Olson says

        Garbage is another topic entirely, Kim, unless you are referring to the Leftist tendency to focus on regulations and taxes to promote recycling and reusable shopping bags so as to reduce garbage and the “mountains” of plastic “killing” our oceans. Unfortunately, these beliefs are also at odds with reality, as only about 10% of trash is environmentally and economically viable to recycle (in part because it is shipped halfway around the world to be recycled in 3rd world countries using child labor), plastic shopping bags are more environmentally friendly than paper or reusable cotton bags, and 90+% of the plastic in the oceans comes from developing countries in Africa and Asia and is not particularly environmentally damaging.

      • Do you farm? Then what do you suggest as an alternative to manure for crops?
        How should marginal land be used, then, if not for animal husbandry?

        This issue is why animal rights people have no credibility. Their total ignorance.

      • If you aren’t just calling that post ‘garbage’ and are literally suggesting that as a suitable alternative, you really, really need to consider the logistics of ensuring only organic waste from urban areas gets distributed widely to the rural ones. Any suggestion people who know nothing about farming come up with I GUARANTEE are more wasteful and damaging to the environment and inefficient than existing practices.

      • Cary Cotterman says

        E. Olson–you are correct in everything you have stated. Eliminating needless cruelty is important, but eliminating animal farming and large-scale meat production is a ridiculous cause, every bit as silly as veganism.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Not to mention the vast acreage that would be required to feed everyone on such a low-value, calorie and nutrient-poor source as vegetables. Bluntly, you’d have to eat an entire pickup truck load of “healthy, organic veggies” to equal the amount of minerals, long-chain essential fatty acids, protein, and folic acid contained in just ONE hamburger. Plus, those nutrients are far more biologically available for absorption from the burger. Sorry, kids, but biology and evolution can’t just be wished away because it’s Brave New World time in university-land.

      What most people don’t realize is that that land used for grazing livestock is frequently not much good to grow anything else–I give you much of the arid American West, or ditto in Australia and NZ. Much of the damage to the aquifers of CA and NV is caused by insistence on growing water-intensive crops like lettuce and almonds in what is, geologically speaking, a DESERT. Most stock are finished on a CAFO feedlot only a matter of a few weeks or months–cattle spend most of their lives free-ranging on grassland, which to me seems an environmental “win.”

      Nice idea, but for now I remain skeptical of lab-grown cultured “meat.” A huge part of what goes into quality meat is the quality of the forage the animal ate as it grew; and the minerals, vitamins, and protein/sugar and Omega 3/6 ratios that land and forage sustained. I’d be interested to hear how anyone can replicate the outcome of limestone-rich green pasture, sunshine, and natural movement and hormone production in a petri dish. I suspect this will remain a “niche” product.

      Far easier for the mindful carnivore is to find yourself a local agricultural co-op, artisanal butcher or farm-to-table outfit who source humanely and locally raised and processed meat, eggs, and dairy products. I happily pay 4x the supermarket price for knowing the animal was raised outside on pasture, slaughtered and butchered carefully one at a time and is high-quality and fresh.
      Not to mention the conjugated linoleic acid and other essential building blocks of human health.

      • Chad Jessup says

        LR ~ good points. One exception – the arid West. The soil is loaded with nutrients; however, the emptying of the aquifers to exploit that fact is another story.

        I live in the High Desert and have ranched/farmed there.

  5. Brian says

    The animal-rights types are usually the same folks who celebrate in the streets when abortion is legalized (Ireland), and advocate for veganism on ethical grounds, but are OK with over 600K babies being sucked out of the womb by vaccums every year in this country.
    It is a baffling double standard.

    Get your ethics consisten people, if you want to convince me that your position is correct. Until then, I will enjoy my bacon.

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      I’ve noticed that many people decide ethical questions on a case-by-case basis, even if they deny doing so. That is how I decide ethical questions.

      Ethical consistency, on the other hand, can often be found among professional philosophers and some religious persons. Examples include persons who reject abortion, capital punishment, war and all other types of human-on-human violence. Those persons are generally NOT admired by either left-wingers or right-wingers. Peter Singer is an example of a philosopher who has attempted to be logically and ethically consistent, which has caused him to adopt some pretty extreme positions.

      I’m not trying to convince you of anything, but I do want to point out that your post is a good example of conservative virtue signalling. I sometimes wonder how many conservatives would be willing to give shelter to a pregnant woman who was homeless and unmarried. Heck, how many conservatives are willing to pay higher taxes to fund government programs to aid pregnant women who are homeless and unmarried?

      • dellingdog says

        @Jack, good points. Also, it’s not necessarily inconsistent to be pro-choice and vegan. Adult mammals are conscious, sentient beings who are capable of experiencing suffering. Embryos are not. During the first trimester, at least, arguments against abortion rely on the belief that human life is inherently “sacred” and/or claims about potentiality.

        • E. Olson says

          dellingdog – so you are an expert in animal physiology and child development? How do you know chickens or sheep experiences suffering – have you ever been around chickens or sheep? How do you know that a 1st trimester human embryo cannot experience suffering?

          • dellingdog says

            @E.: no, but I’ve read what experts have written and I think I’ve accurately summarized their positions. If you can provide evidence to the contrary I’d be happy to consider it.

          • E. Olson says

            DD – and given the Leftist dominance of academia, how many of the experts might choose to do research that is skeptical of the supportive Leftist viewpoints on abortion and animal rights? Not to mention it is pretty difficult to ask a chicken or human embryo how much pain they are experiencing just prior to getting turned into salable Chicken McNuggets or fetal tissue. I do know from personal experience that chickens (and sheep and domesticated turkeys) are as dumb as rocks, and that no legitimate slaughterhouse or packing plant is trying to torture animals with a slow and painful death – in fact Kosher rules for meat slaughter are largely about the humanitarian treatment of animals.

          • dellingdog says

            @E.: I’m less concerned about the pain and fear animals experience during slaughter (which is significant but brief) than the misery they endure during the rest of their lives. You’re right that we can’t know with certainty what an animal or an embryo is experiencing. According to most philosophers, the same applies to human adults! We routinely assume that other people have minds like ours, but we only have access to our own subjective experience so it’s theoretically possible that they’re “philosophical zombies” who simply appear to be conscious. Since certainty is impossible to achieve, we have to draw reasonable conclusions on the basis of the available evidence.

          • @E.

            So, as a rebuttal to DD, you asked questions for which you know, or believe, there are no answers? That’s disingenuous.

      • Rose Clark says

        That’s because the conservative position on abortion and capital punishment isn’t based on valuing human life, it’s based on personal responsibility & accountability. That’s also the common thread in the desire for lower taxes.

        It also explains why many conservatives are ok with abortion in the case of rape.

        You see the reverse with the left position on the same issue; the left’s morality comes from a desire to cut people a break. It actually is all ethically consistent once you find the true root of the moral position.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Rose Clark

          Your post confuses morality/ethics with virtues. Here’s the difference:

          A soldier, for example, may show the virtues of courage, honesty, self-control, humility and loyalty in a war zone while killing and wounding persons fighting for the other side. Someone who believes that all wars are immoral would regard the soldier’s behavior as both virtuous and unethical/immoral. Other examples might be virtuous scientists or entrepreneurs engaged in making new chemical and biological weapons.

          Legal systems are only tangentially concerned with morality and virtue. For example, although a plurality of Americans think that abortion is immoral, only a small minority believes that abortion should be illegal in all cases. Supporting abortion in cases of rape or mother’s physical health is based on arguments from virtue, not morality. See:

        • Stephanie says

          Rose, personal responsibility is certainly an essential value to conservatives, but I think it has more to do with what the fetus deserves, not the pregnant woman. A murderer getting executed is getting his just desserts, but a baby carries no guilt, and thus does not deserve to be killed.

          I think conservatives will cave on the rape/incest cases because they make up an infinitesimal proportion of abortions, but is used as a club by pro-choice people to justify all abortions. If making exception for those cases means that all the young humans killed because they are an inconvenience to the mother can survive, that’s already a much better world.

      • Stephanie says

        I don’t think it’s necessary to classify all human on human violence as either good or bad to be consistent. You could say it is wrong to purposefully kill innocent people, in which case abortion and other murder is wrong, capital punishment is acceptable for heinous crimes, and war is ethical if the enemy is evil and reasonable attempts are made to avoid collateral damage.

        Pro-choice arguments rely on scientific illiteracy and dehumanization. The more we learn about human growth, the more it is clear that even before the first missed period, a fetus has a functioning nervous system. Of course it feels pain when it gets killed. Call it conservative virtue signalling, but I think killing innocent humans is wrong. The inconvenience of the human’s existence is a feeble (and psychopathic) concern.

        The implication you can’t be against killing young humans unless you’re willing to support pregnant women financially is gross. Putting aside that conservatives donate more to charity and adopt more children, no one makes financial demands on people opposed to the killing of born children, despite the only difference being age. Being opposed to murdering young humans requires no supporting action.

        • E. Olson says

          Stephanie – as usual a very thoughtful comment. Research is continually finding that those “clumps of cells” have human characteristics much earlier than most scientists and all pro-lifers ever want to admit. And in this day of cheap, reliable, and easy to access birth control, there really are no excuses for unwanted pregnancies beyond the very rare case of rape fertilization. Of course if rape becomes a legitimate excuse for abortion, you will find that there is a sudden epidemic of rapes.

        • Jack B. Nimble says


          You are wrong on the question of early-term fetuses feeling pain:

          …..”The science shows that based on gestational age, the fetus is not capable of feeling pain until the third trimester,” said Kate Connors, a spokesperson for ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists]. The third trimester begins at about 27 weeks of pregnancy….. Link:

          You said: “…..I don’t think it’s necessary to classify all human on human violence as either good or bad to be consistent…..”

          I agree!! Consistency is, IMO, not a virtue. Many people make ethical decisions on a situational basis, and that is a good thing. Consistency is also compatible with arbitrariness, as for example when countries decide that convicted criminals below a certain age should not be subject to capital punishment or life imprisonment.

          You said: “… one makes financial demands on people opposed to the killing of born children….”

          I disagree!! I’m opposed to the killing of born children that is ongoing in Yemen, in Afghanistan and in Gaza, but my tax dollars support those war efforts whether I like it or not. Over 85,000 children have died in Yemen alone, from starvation or disease, due to the war and blockade that the US is abetting. Link:

          Bottom line: your arguments don’t make sense.

          • Stoic Realist says

            Be wary of discarding consistency as a virtue so easily. The essential foundation for most equal rights arguments is that people deserve to be treated the same regardless of certain categories of difference. This is in essence an argument for consistent treatment across a diverse population. If there is no need to be consistent in how you treat people across their array of differing traits then there is no need for equal rights.

            The trick is to be consistent in your application of moral principles across essentially equivalent cases. Absolute consistency may be hard but casually discarding it is the foundation of inequality. Even if the idea sounded clever in the moment the implications of it are troubling.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Stoic Realist

            You raise an interesting point. It is possible to derive an argument for equal rights from theories on the evolution of sociality in humans and other group-living mammals, but this approach is controversial, to say the least.

            So it’s better to treat equality as a philosophical primitive concept that cannot be derived from more basic notions, unless one brings in religious notions like “We are all God’s children.”

            Consistency is desirable in manufacturing and scientific research as a way to reduce the error variance. Ditto for professions like engineering, education and agriculture. Otherwise, consistency serves mostly a rhetorical function.

          • John L says

            Was a livestock farmer for over 30 years. I also am opposed to the killing of born children, and the rampant hatred toward fellow human beings in general. I work for justice and compassion in any way I am now capable of. Until we get this solved, I will not waste any time of money on ‘animal welfare’.

    • Baconator says

      I understand what you’re driving at (there is definitely some hypocrisy in animal welfare campaigners who don’t give a rip about late term abortions and the like — after all, people are animals, too 🙂 but I don’t really agree with your conclusion that meantime you enjoy your bacon.

      Don’t misunderstand me: I am a sucker for crunchy, delicious bacon in my eggs, potato salads, etc. But either a person believes that the way these animals are farmed is ethically bankrupt and therefore should not be supported (especially if and when a lab-bacon alternative arrives), or you don’t. If you do, it shouldn’t matter a hill of beans what those hypocrites are doing and what they think about abortion. The two things are not related, only vaguely analogous in some contexts.

  6. Lightning Rose says

    There is a distinct and important difference between ANIMAL WELFARE organizations and aims, which do important and necessary work to improve quality of life for farm animals and also curb over-breeding of pets, puppy mills, etc, and ANIMAL RIGHTS organizations like PETA, Animal Liberation Front, Friends of Animals and others who believe in curtailing and eliminating the human use of ALL animals for ANY purpose–food, pets, work, companionship, anything. By these people’s lights, not only would we all be vegan but service and search and rescue dogs, cats and dogs as company for the elderly and to teach children responsibility, riding horses for fun and keeping all manner of livestock and pets would be OUTLAWED–with the result of their probable rapid extinction. They would also see the end of all hunting and fishing.

    These ANIMAL RIGHTS orgs. are dismissed as nuts because they are extremists who speak for very few–and firmly within the camp of hysterical urbanites with no experience of the wider world, let alone biological and evolutionary imperatives. They are dangerous, however, because the media rewards with clicks and attention the furthest-out things imaginable and tries to make them sound trendy, then to be embraced by “hipsters.” (5 years ago, did you ever imagine social norms would be held hostage to “transgenderism?”)

    Fact: We have a carnivore’s gut and brain. Without animal sources of food, we’re sick FAST.

    Fact: Anyone who’s ever lived on a farm knows that animal abuse is contrary to profitability, therefore rare; that’s why it is “news.” Stressed, cramped, frightened and painful animals do not eat, drink, grow and produce at the rate of healthy and comfortable ones. There is ZERO incentive for anyone to willfully cause food-producing animals to be LESS PROFITABLE. In most cases, management practices are adpoted because they keep the animals safe, often from themselves. Such abuses as DO take place in slaughter facilities, etc. are the result of attempting to process too many too quickly, plain slip-up or the occasional psychopathic employee. Cleaning this up is within the realm of animal WELFARE, not “rights.”

    Fact: Don’t believe everything you see on “expose'” videos. TONS of this footage is out of context, cut and pasted, overlain with creative narratives and dubbed with dramatic music. A trip to an actual FARMER to ask questions will do much to strengthen your belief in the American food chain and the people who devote their lives to raising and caring for animals. Do your own fact checking and be diligent!

    • E. Olson says

      Good comment LR – the vast majority of farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land and animals they make their livings from, and understand more than any city dwelling PETA member that to abuse their sources of income is to very quickly kill their livelihood and way of life. Unfortunately, most animal rights activists get their animal knowledge from Disney films.

    • dellingdog says

      “We have a carnivore’s gut and brain. Without animal sources of food, we’re sick FAST.” This is clearly false. Humans evolved to be omnivores, not obligate carnivores. Properly balanced vegan diets can be extremely healthy. There’s plenty of scientific evidence available to support this claim, but I’ll provide an anecdote: my brother and sister-in-law have been vegans for over five years and regularly compete in (and often win) cycling competitions.

      • E. Olson says

        dellingdog – well 2 vegans who win cycling races is certainly is all the proof I need to stop eating my 100% carnivore diet. Such an anecdote is certainly way better proof than all those studies that show most vegans suffering from serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are easily remedied with regular meat and dairy consumption, unless they are very careful to take “artificial” supplements, or that no human society in history has ever voluntarily adopted a vegan diet.

      • Lightning Rose says

        dellingdog, a 2-individual anecdote is hardly “evidence.” I would urge any seriously interested in this question to read Dr. Weston A. Price’s classic, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” and then tell me it’s a great health strategy to be a vegan.

        Vegans currently are about 1% of the US population, and most can’t hack it after 6 months.
        Without supplemental B12 among other things, it can even be lethal. Has anyone noticed the news stories about American fertility dropping? Hmmm . . . soy lattes, maybe?

        “Cycling races,” really? An unnatural act in itself. We’ll see what they look like at age 50.

        • dellingdog says

          It’s clear that E. Olson and LR are ax-grinding ideologues who cherry-pick evidence, but for anyone who’s interested in a scientific analysis of the vegan diet here’s a link:

          E., if your diet is “100% carnivore” that implies you eat nothing but meat. That would be far more dangerous, nutritionally speaking, than avoiding animal products. I regret that I’m still interacting with you since I don’t think you’re intellectually honest — you’re an ideologue who’s most interested in scoring rhetorical points than having a genuine conversation. Unfortunately, you post so frequently that you’re impossible to avoid.

          LR, presumably you know how to use Google. There’s abundant evidence regarding the benefits and limitations of a vegan diet for anyone who’s interested. FYI, my brother is 49 and my sister-in-law is 47. So far, so good.

          • E. Olson says

            DD – you are the one who wrote “Humans evolved to be omnivores, not obligate carnivores.” This is a sentence that suggests the only choice is to only eat plants or only eat meat, because an omnivore who doesn’t eat meat is functionally a herbivore. Obviously nobody is advocating a 100% animal diet, but the fact that humans have the teeth and digestive system to process meat means we are meant to eat meat. Yes with great continuous effort and careful attention to proper dosages of many “artificial” vitamin and mineral supplements, adult humans can survive on a 100% plant based diet, but approximately 50% of vegans and 95+% of “normal” adults do not monitor their eating well enough to get a fully balanced diet without consuming some animal based foods. So if adults want to take a gamble on their health by trying to go vegan they are free to do so, but when they push their vegan “religion” on children (or pet dogs and cats) they are committing pure child/animal abuse, and when they try to push their religion on the rest of us they are going to get serious push back.

          • Farris says

            Hats off to vegans. They have discovered a diet that makes themselves feel healthier and happier. However for some reason that is not sufficient. (I’ve posted this before)
            Veganism is a gregarious activity. Evidently the food does not taste as well unless others join in. Veganism compares to organized religion complete with witnessing and seeking converts. Why anyone should care what others eat, is mystifying.

          • Stephanie says

            @dellingdog, the article you cite points out many of the same tendencies towards deficiency that E Olson’s article pointed out. The health benefits they do point to are most readily explanable by the tendency of vegetarians to care a lot about their diet. I’d bet controlling for that would find no net benefits.

          • Saw file says

            I’ll cherry pick too, but I won’t bother with links. They are myriad…
            Prior to the introduction of western foodstuffs, CDN inland and coastal Inuit exited basically wholly on a carnivorous diet.
            A very strong and healthy people.
            They could ‘dog trot’ and row, for days in a row.
            The only restrictions on their population growth was: weather events (leading to shortage or loss of the source/accessibility of the primary food sources).

  7. Morgan Foster says

    If the author’s intention is to simply find a more effective way to put an end to the killing and eating of domestic animals then I will continue to resist him.

  8. Caligula says

    Veggie-burgers are mostly not so bad so long as you think of them as vegetables. But if you try to imagine that veggie-burger as a real hamburger it’s sure to be a huge disappointment.

    Apparently at least one company thinks the missing ingredient is … blood. And if they can’t use real blood, perhaps fake blood might be good enough?

    “Impossible Foods had a simple idea for convincing meat eaters to give up their beef burgers in exchange for plant-based ones. Its burger had to trick not just consumers’ taste receptors into thinking they were experiencing meat, but all of the other senses, too.

    Impossible Foods found the answer in heme, the iron-rich molecule in blood that carries oxygen and is responsible for the deep-red color. It’s this “plant blood” that helps the Impossible Burger look, taste, and behave like meat.”

    So, who will win if/when a natural-foods-only movement collides with a food technology that can actually make plant-based foods taste like real meat? Especially if the reason why the fake is convincing is because it contains the taste of blood?

    • E. Olson says

      Olestra has been a market failure due in part to it being “artificial”, even though it is the first and only fat substitute that tastes and feels exactly like real fat, and can survive the cooking/frying process just as well as real fat (and it is actually true – I’ve done blind taste tests and couldn’t detect any differences). GMO foods have also been very controversial because they are “not natural” according to many Great Dane and teacup Yorkie owners, even though the science says they are perfectly safe.

      • dellingdog says

        As I recall, there was also the minor issue that olestra causes “anal leakage” …

  9. TarsTarkas says

    If carniculture (lab-produced meat, cheese, eggs) ever became economically viable and started displacing factory farming, you can be sure that PETA and its imitators would scream and shout to have it shut down too, because it’s not the growing of animals of animals for food that’s the problem, it’s the growing of people that’s the problem. In their opinion cruelty to animals will only end when there are no humans to be cruel to them.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Well, YOU said a mouthful! Most of these “Save the Whatever” types are, underlying it all, anti-HUMAN. Ever since the Club of Rome embraced a toxic mix of Malthusianism and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (every assertion long since disproven), the elephant in the room underlying all of this is to reduce the human population to whatever “they” consider “sustainable.” Only trouble is, most of us kind of refuse to comply with Central Planning. See “voluntary extinction.” Also, “Bloomberg.”

      • dellingdog says

        Please provide evidence that a significant proportion of animal rights activists or environmentalists support “voluntary extinction” or Communism. Your accusation is unfounded and amounts to a lazy ad hominem attack.

  10. I disagree that the PETA has cost the animal rights movement anything, in fact I shudder to think about where the movement would be today without them. You say other activists would have accomplished the same things – would any of them have a $50 million budget to do so? PETA wields immense power to pressure large companies and influence public policy. Furthermore if organizations like the Humane Society of the United States were the ones setting the edge of the Overton Window, which it seems like Reese would prefer, then those moderate positions would be seen as radical and we would be compromising for even less.

    What I find frustrating is that people in favor of animal rights like Reese just accept the arguments of people who have are opposed to them. PETA is used as a “pejorative” by people who don’t agree with their agenda, and people who do agree with it don’t defend them – to use a U.S. political analogy, PETA is the Nancy Pelosi of the animal rights movement. If she weren’t there, opponents would demonize whoever the new leader is, though in this case without PETA animal rights would probably almost never get mainstream attention anyways.

    Reese mentions comparisons to the holocaust as being unhelpful. They may disagree in Isreal, the country that has possibly the highest percentage of vegans which is attributed by many to a speech by Gary Yourofsky comparing slaughterhouses to concentration camps. I don’t think we should assume that other people will react selfishly and without empathy when connecting animal suffering to human suffering.

    I admit I had the same initial reaction to PETA’s recent tweet about speciesist language, especially being opposed to political correctness myself. But after seeing the national and international conversation it sparked and seeing people grapple with an idea they had never been exposed to before, that animals could be put at the same level as humans, I changed my mind. I often don’t agree with things that PETA says and does, but it doesn’t matter as long as there is some segment of the population who might see things in a way that hadn’t before.

    What many call “publicity stunts,” are referred to as “protests” in other movements, so yes almost every successful social movement in history has used protests/publicity stunts as a major facet of their campaign. As for individual action being the wrong approach, PETA pushes for animal rights legislation as well. They have also supported food technology, cultured meat etc. all along so that is not so much a “new direction” as it is that investors who want to make money have caught onto it.

    The problem with animal rights is the fact that even humans were denied rights until quite recently and most cultures rely on animal exploitation in various ways. It’s difficult to overcome but PETA is out there saying the things that others are too scared to and taking the heat and the abuse necessary for people like Reese to come along and appear like the reasonable ones.

    • Lightning Rose says

      I think as usual this is leftists with a “solution” to a nonexistent “problem.” Yes, most “cultures rely on animal exploitation in various ways.” And this is a “problem,” WHY? Every religious authority on earth has long recognized that suffering of one sort or another is inherent to life. Take a good look at how animals’ lives end in the wild–does starving to debility followed by being disemboweled alive by predators sound like a more “empathetic” solution than a hunter’s bullet or a stun-bolt?

      I think certain youthful cohorts don’t have enough REAL problems in their lives, so they have to invent a few to support their post-faith virtue signal based social climbing. Just like the ones who think we need to reverse-engineer the weather by returning to the caves. You first!

  11. There’s something bizarre about those on the left who claim there’s such a thing as animal rights and simultaneous insistence that individual rights of humans are a mere social construct to be ignored whenever politically expedient.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @ Charles N. Steele

      There is a fierce hypocrisy common to many if not most animal rights activists and the most virulent of religious fundamentalists. On a personal level, I find animal rights activists and vegans to be immensely selfish in their dealings with family and friends. Not causation perhaps, but certainly more than coincidence.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      There’s also something bizarre (and extremely thick-headed) about your inability to distinguish between the potential right not to suffer a horrible, painful death and a socially constructed right that doesn’t lead to a horrible, painful death. There are different types of rights with different levels of urgency, obviously.

  12. markbul says

    “Animal issues are frequently dismissed as antagonistic, immature, or trivial compared to human issues. ”

    Because they are. Or else, you belive that ‘animal issues’ are appropriately equivalent to ‘black issues.’ Because, you know, black people are no different than animals.

  13. Chad Jessup says

    “A stunning 47 percent of U.S. adults say…” That statement is blatantly wrong. The study reported 47% of the 1094 people who were surveyed were statistically accorded to that category.

    Very, very small sample size, and thus unreliable.

    • Caleb says

      I don’t do statistics but I remember hearing somewhere that over 1000, increasing the sample size barely improves accuracy. Obviously those 1000 need to be randomly distributed properly somehow. I would call less than 100 “very, very small” and less than 500 “small”. Hopefully someone more experienced can respond…

  14. Mark Beal says

    Speciesism? Oh, goody, another -ism for the language police to use in their absurd crusade. If you want to really wind these people up, the phrase “mutton dressed as lamb” springs to mind – two -isms for the price of one.

    • dellingdog says

      Please read the relevant philosophical literature on speciesism before rejecting it out of hand. You may conclude (as some philosophers do) that it’s the concept isn’t useful, but dismissing it as P.C. nonsense simply demonstrates your ignorance. I recommend starting with Peter Singer’s , which is widely available.

  15. johno says

    PETA might have had a noble beginning somewhere way in the past, but it’s current incantation is power for the sake of power, hate for the sake of hate. Just what we need… another organization to dream up contrived and cherry picked guilt trips for the sake of politics and money.

    It is the animal equivalent of Al Sharpton or the hard left… leeches on the soul of society. They see ‘injustice’ as just a vehicle for personal enrichment.

  16. Lightning Rose says

    If a conservative wants to be a vegetarian, he just stops eating meat. If a progressive wants to go vegan, though, EVERYONE must go vegan *or else.* Such is the level of hubris.

    Anyone who wants to try vegan, paleo, carnivore, ramen noodles or whatever has that CHOICE. Knock yourself out, and good luck to you. But please keep your hands off the choices of the rest of us. Reductio ad absurdum “philosophical” arguments do not authority make.

    • dellingdog says

      And yet most conservatives want to prohibit or severely restrict abortion. Why? Because another sentient (or potentially sentient) being is affected by the decision to terminate a pregnancy. The same is true of our decision to raise, slaughter and consume animals. In both cases, activists believe that a massive moral wrong is being committed and are working to change society. You may disagree with their ethical positions, but it’s disingenuous to pretend that they’re not motivated by genuine moral concerns.

  17. Baconator says

    PETA is a classic example of an organization that started out useful and did some important things, and then fell in love with their own image and radical ways, and stopped doing useful things and replaced them with what amount to publicity stunts that ostensibly carry the same value. Except they don’t, not even close. Uncovering practices at scumbag animal factories and showing these workers willfully abusing and dismembering the cows, pigs, etc… is useful. It shows consumers where some of their food dollars are going, pisses them off in the process and likely gets executives at those companies fired, among other things. Especially if a public company.

    Publicity stunts don’t do shit. Especially in a cutlure dominated by short attention spans and a constrant stream of “the next big headline.” A PETA stunt is seen and forgotten in a day.

    I’m very encouraged by the lab meat movement and if it ever becomes a commercially viable reality, no sane human being will ever have an excuse or good argument again to support these BS animal factories where the animals get crammed in 10 to a cage from birth, are shitting all over each other, are breaking limbs and being abused, etc. If you can get delicious meat products without slaughtering literally billions of animals every year, you fucking do it. Everyone wins except a relatively small number of factory farmers and hey guess what, that’s life. People who made horse buggies and machines designed to jiggle the fat off your midsection with a belt, all went out of business too because something much better was invented.
    Deal with it.

    • Stephanie says

      I would not trust lab-grown meat to be healthy – not until decades-long clinical trials examining any and all possible heath effects have been published and reproduced. This will not happen in our lifetime.

      • dellingdog says

        You clearly don’t understand the science. Lab-grown meat is animal tissue that’s basically indistinguishable from naturally-grown meat. If it’s tasty and affordable consumers will accept it. Many Americans are rightfully concerned about the conditions under which animals are raised on factory farms and would welcome an alternative.

  18. Morgan Foster says


    “If you can get delicious meat products without slaughtering literally billions of animals every year …”

    Delicious meat products? Delicious to whom?

    Once you start defining “delicious” as equivalent the cheapest bit of processed meat at a chain supermarket, then you’ve lost sight of something.

    Ask a Spaniard if an Armour canned ham is as “delicious” as Iberico ham.

    Now ask yourself if a laboratory can make an artificial ham-like meat product that is indistinguishable from Iberico ham. In our lifetimes.

  19. Sean S says

    Those luatics are hurting my brain, should I complain too?

  20. Diane says

    Vegan outreach is just as important as technology in the Farm Animal Protection field. Vegan education and persuasion would be more successful if not for the “happy meat” profiteers. Food corporations making deals with corrupted animal charities to label tens of thousands of “cage-free” chickens packed in a shed as “humane.” Guilt free meat. Everybody makes more money and wins (except the animals). PETA has been corrupted in a different way and needs new leadership. Their marketing campaigns have always degraded women. “The Humane Movement’s #MeToo Problem” still has not been meaningfully addressed.

    • Morgan Foster says

      Is there any reason to believe vegan persuasion would be more successful if it were less condescending and annoying?

      • dellingdog says

        Yes! Fortunately, not all vegans fit the stereotype, just as not all pro-life activists are fire-breathing Bible thumpers. Unfortunately, extremists attract a disproportionate share of attention.

    • Lightning Rose says

      With regard to “cage-free” hens: How many HENS have you interviewed? My chicken house is 145 square feet of floor space, not including 12 nest boxes for egg laying. Light, airy, free-choice access to roughly 1200 square feet of outdoor yard, free-choice feed and water. So you know where I find all the eggs? In ONE nest box! Meaning, they’re voluntarily choosing to sit on TOP of one another like a clown car to lay them all in one spot. This happens days on end in a row. So maybe a farmer or two or a hundred saw this happening, and gave ’em what they appeared to like, eh? 😉

      The problem I have with “animal rights” types is raging anthropomorphism in the absence of any personal, practical experience. Real livestock is not its Disney version, ditto wild animals. The takeaway I get from articles, social media posts and comments sections like this one is that way too few people ever got the real-world “Facts of Life” talk, matter-of-factly, from their parents at an appropriate age, and lacking personal experience like parents/grandparents had, they fill in the blanks with fantasy stuff.

      2% of Americans today live on farms. In 1900, it was more than 50%. And so it goes.

  21. Farris says

    “…farming—over 99 percent of U.S. farmed animals live on factory farms.” (No citation provided)

    The statement above is either untrue or reliant on an overly broad definition of factory farming.

    • In the whole world (rich and poor), there is a tremendous difference in the ways that broilers/chicken/pigs are generally kept, and the ways that the grazing sheep, and cattle and dairy is hold. Cattle (mother animals and offspring) often live in kind of half wild nature parks, dairy very often on grassfields and meadows, but the poor hens, and pigs, especially the sews, oh no………!!!, everybody that has seen this (and recently we saw the narrow gestation crates, on a picture here in Q.) will turn away from it, this, you can’t approve, even if you try with both hands . That all (or almost all) animals are ending up at last in a factory like slaughterhouse is another matter.

  22. No we will never get away from eating animals. At least not based on any alternative that exists right now. And sorry Jacy the average person think even more moderate animal rights type like yourself are quite loony.

    • dellingdog says

      You’re right, but that doesn’t mean that animal rights activists are wrong. It’s entirely possible that future generations will look back on our treatment of farms animals with horror.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Those who think they can make the whole world vegan are barking up the same tree as those who think that every electrical need on earth can be furnished by windmills. As in, “tilting at.”

      The Japanese have a word for both: “Bakanaa!”

  23. Stoic Realist says

    This is yet another item in the long list of ‘first world problems’ that eat up too many cycles of time. The truth is that if you have the excess of time and resources to be worrying about this you are by all standards of history living a ridiculously luxurious life. In the past no one had time to worry about this stuff. And I am not so certain that ‘city folk’ who can’t tell a horse from a cow without an instruction manual are the right authorities to be listening to.

    Man does not simply ‘exploit’ these animals. We live in a symbiosis with them. When someone figures out a way to give them the ability to reason and communicate we can see if they would like to renegotiate the terms. Until then the only solutions being offered are paternalistic ones.

    • dellingdog says

      In the past animals weren’t raised in massive confinement facilities that severely restrict their ability to exercise their natural capacities. There’s nothing natural (or “symbiotic”) about factory farms. I’m sorry you’re indifferent to the suffering of other sentient beings. It’s kind of hilarious that you made this statement — “This is yet another item in the long list of ‘first world problems’ that eat up too many cycles of time” — on a website that’s obsessed with the “threat” posed by trans people and many other inflated pseudo-problems.

  24. Farris says

    Animals not utilized as food for humans become food for buzzards and worms.

  25. Don Collins says

    I went vegan because once I tried it my health greatly improved. Could care less what it does for animals or the planet and I truly don’t care if folks eat meant. Their body their choice.

    However, if you believe PETA should act like an adult rather than childish with the gimmicks, it is your perception of their goal that is wrong, not what they are doing.

    If leftist have proven nothing else it is that the loudest most idiotic folks actually get the attention and the funding. And it is funding and power that they are all about, animals are secondary in nature to PETA. It is a place where folks that can’t do anything in an adult way can go and polay kid until they are 70 and get paid for it.

  26. People seem to have lost all ability to discuss “animal rights” or animal food consumption with any nuance. Doctors plead with people to eat a “plant based diet” for their health, which does not mean going full vegetarian, but just having more meal based on veggies and grains. Climate scientists point out simply dropping consumption of beef could halt warming in it’s tracks and people hear “I must go full vegan”. Hi, chicken and fish exist – not to mention goat, the main red meat eaten everywhere else in the world.

    PETA I find to be a joke mainly because they seem to depend on (as pictured in the article) weird porn influenced stunts substituting young thin female models as “meat” and never seeing the problem this causes to their “brand”. They come off as mere sexual exploiters, or a group not to be taken seriously. They had a demonstration on Boston some years back called a “vegan love in” involving two scantily clad people rolling around on a mattress, with the idea meant to be “Vegans are better lovers.” The kids looked really awkward and uncomfortable, FWIW.

    When PETA isn’t pulling sex-based stunts for attention, they pull even more antagonistic tricks like handing “your mommy kills bunnies” fliers to children of women wearing fur stoles outside of the Nutcracker (they did this around 2004). Clearly this is just meant to disrupt and will not change anything for the lives of the average animal. It was pointed out they never try to do this thing to large, bearded, leather wearing bikers. Simply put, the combo makes them come off as woman-hating cowards and turns a good number of otherwise liberal leaning people to their message.

  27. Jungian Soul says

    However one may *feel* about it, the facts are apparent. A vegan/vegetarian diet wins every time over a meat-based diet and is the most rational and logical choice on matters of ecology, economy, ethics, and health. I’ve been a vegetarian (who consumes no milk but consumes maybe 5 % cheese in his diet) for over 25 years now. While it’s less prevalent today, it has always been the meat eaters who questioned my dietary choices whenever it came up during a conversation and having to defend my dietary decision against all kinds of culturally indoctrinated misconceptions (I’ll decide and think for myself thank you very much). Vegans or vegetarians generally don’t lecture people that they shouldn’t eat meat, on the contrary, my experience is that it’s the meat eaters who are always on the defense when the topic comes up. It’s also my experience that while meat eaters don’t stop eating meat, their consumption of it has declined, where there are 2-3 days in the week without eating any meat.

    On the political spectrum, I’m a center-left classical liberal / libertarian, and I abhor the politically correct climate and speech and thought restricted ideology of the current left. As such I think the PETA suggestion to change the language of idioms is ridiculous and does more harm than good to the cause.

    Useful resources of information are the two documentaries ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘What The Health’.

  28. Jungian Soul says

    It takes a sound and strong independent mind to learn and see against all cultural indoctrination that partaking in the consumption of industrially processed meat is not only unethical, but also uneconomical, and unecological.

  29. Lightning Rose says

    There are very few P.C. virtue-signaling phenomena more fatuous and annoying than people in the grips of such hubris that they actually believe their individual personal choices (veganism, “fair-trade”) are capable of influencing (gasp!) THE PLANET ™. Do whatever makes you feel happy, nourished, validated, righteous, or (the real deal) SUPERIOR. Tote that moral high ground all around town in your Prius or Tesla, I could give a rat’s ass. Just don’t try to curtail MY choices.

  30. Quilter52 says

    Around here PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. PETA are insane and have zero chance of getting people to change their dietary habits willingly. Because we are omnivores! Also it is clear that the lack of protein is finally effecting their brain development.

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