Wednesday, June 27, 2007

PETA's Problems at Home

The left's favorite "animal rights" group--People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA--is out with its list of the "Ten Sexiest Vegetarians," one of the organization's yearly publicity stunts that garners fawning coverage from the MSM. In case you're wondering, country singer Carrie Underwood tops this year's list, followed by a raft of other, veggie-munching celebs.

But around its headquarters in Norfolk, VA, PETA has received less favorable coverage of late, following a pair of incidents which illustrate that some of its employees are unethical, dishonest and cruel in their treatment of animals. Earlier this year, two PETA employees faced charges in North Carolina stemming from their illegal euthanization of dogs and cats in that state, and the dumping of animal carcasses in a grocery store dumpster. Amazing, the PETA employees beat most of the charges, after their attorneys argued that the dead animals had no value.

Observers could only note the hypocrisy in that argument. After all, PETA is the organization that supports the "total liberation" of animals (to use their term). The group is opposed to the use of animals as food, clothing, and even for medical research. PETA's founder once remarked that she would oppose a cure for AIDS if it was based on research using lab animals.

Yet, the same group that rails against the use of animal for legitimate commercial (and medical) purposes had no problem killing thousands of animals that it "collected." In the North Carolina case, PETA obtained some of the animals from local shelters, suggesting that it would put them up for adoption. Several North Carolina shelters suspended their relationships with the group after the euthanization and dumping scandal was exposed.

Now, PETA is in trouble Virginia, and this time, it may be tougher to beat the rap. One of the organization's staffers is facing felony theft charges, after she picked up a hunting dog along a local road, and removed its radio tracking collar.

On Tuesday, a judge in Courtland, Virginia (about 50 miles west of Norfolk) allowed the case to continue against PETA employee Andrea Florence Benoit. According to the AP, Benoit claims she was trying to "rescue" the dog, a Walker Coonhound. A resident saw Benoit load the animal in a PETA van and called Sheriff's Deputy J.T. Cooke Jr., an animal control officer for Southampton County, who also happens to be the dog's owner.

When Cooke stopped the van and confronted Benoit, the PETA staffer reportedly claimed that the dog wasn't in the vehicle. Cooke found his dog during a subsequent inspection of the van. The hound carried dye markings of numbers on its side and "JT" on its hip and wore a neon yellow collar bearing Cooke's name and cell phone number, the deputy said. The radio collar was found on the side of the road, at the place where Benoit and another PETA employee picked up the dog. Charges against the second PETA staffer have been dropped.

In testimony yesterday, Benoit claimed that she was only concerned about the dog's welfare and wanted to return it to its owner. She also stated that she was following PETA's policy by not contacting the owner directly. Deputy Cooke told the court that he had released several of his hounds the night before to chase foxes, and that the missing dog had failed to return. He also indicated that the hound was on its way home when it was intercepted by the PETA workers.

Allowing the case against Benoit to continue, General District Judge Robert B. Edwards said he had no doubt that Benoit believed she was doing the right thing, but "the right thing in this case was a felony."

Pardon the pun, but the PETA crew really screwed the pooch on this one. Hunting is serious pursuit in eastern Virginia, particularly rural areas like Southampton County. A quality Walker pup will run you at least $350, and a trained adult dog is worth several times that amount. Additionally, a radio tracking collar, like the one the PETA employees removed from the dog, typically costs between $150-$200. So much for the "no value" defense.

In other words, that homeward-bound Walker that PETA tried to "rescue" was worth a lot of money, hence the felony theft charges. The group will bring out its legal guns to defend Benoit (as it did in the North Carolina case), but I don't think a judge or jury in Southampton County is going to be very sympathetic to her story, or impressed by PETA's list of "sexy" celebrity vegetarians. Apparently, the group hasn't learned that good public relations--and common sense--begin at home. In Tidewater Virginia, PETA's reputation is shot. And deservedly so.

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