How PETA Generated $43.5 Million Dollars By Promoting Ineffective Single Issue Campaigns
If you’re like me, you have Facebook friends that share endless posts about cute animals, rescue stories, animal rights advancements, and so on. But don’t those same friends wear and consume animal products? It’s puzzling, I know. Hear me out – single issue campaigns that are supported by non-vegans is how organizations like PETA make money.
Professor Gary Francione defines a single issue campaign as one that “involves identifying some particular use of animals or some form of treatment and making that the object of a campaign to end the use or modify the treatment.” That can include ending seal hunts, or promoting bigger cages for chickens. These campaigns are easy to find online, and are often accompanied by protests, petitions, and donate buttons.
Single Issue Campaigns are not exclusive to vegans, far from it. PETA and other large welfarist groups rely on non-vegan donors, creating confusion by furthering the idea that some animal exploitation done one way, or done to one species, is more objectionable than others. That’s how meat eaters can be against fur, and people can feel good visiting zoos while refusing to support SeaWorld. As Francione has explained several times, they ultimately make people feel comfortable with consuming most animals while they boycott others. But this isn’t a matter of PETA being against veganism, it’s simply a business move that recognizes that profitability does not lie in promoting the unpopular opinion of promoting veganism. It’s a practice of following trends in the age of click-ability.
An article in the LA Times has brought the recent profits of PETA to light. In it, reporter Hugo Martin shares that “the organization reported $43.5 million in contributions for the year that ended July 31, a 30% increase over donations made in the same period two years earlier.” The reason? Namely, their intensified campaign against SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. Due in part to the success of the documentary ‘Blackfish,” PETA has also seen it’s ‘SeaWorldofHurt’ website readership shoot from around 30 visitors a day to over one million for 2015. So should we be celebrating the attention they’ve brought to the unfair treatment of killer whales? No. As PETA continues to promote single issue campaigns without mentioning veganism, they continue to prove that their activism is motivated by money. They continue to make the average person feel comfortable with consuming animals as long they donate and stop going to seaworld.
So how can PETA continue to drive single issue campaigns when they remain ineffective at large? Think about it, the fur industry continues to increase. NYC’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages hasn’t found success, and SeaWorld may have seen a decline in their visitation last year, but they’ll bounce back like all industries targeted by single issue campaigns have before them.These campaigns (and campaigns like them) have been around for ages, but the industries remain steady despite the activism against them. Why? Well, If people continue to be willing to participate in the needless death of 56 billion animals for food, clothing, and entertainment, it’ll remain difficult to end individual institutions of exploitation like SeaWorld. PETA is aware of the ineffectual model of single issue campaigns, but who can argue with 43.5 million dollars? Production in animal agriculture continues to rise, aquariums continue to be built, and PETA continues to use the average person’s discomfort with it all as a way to remain in business.
Now, I don’t think PETA came to be on the notion of paying out it’s employees, but I do believe that an organization of their size has expenses to worry about, not change. Whether or not you agree with me, there’s no denying that a $20 PETA branded tee shirt doesn’t help the animals that are featured on it, it sells them out. By targeting donations from people who directly contribute to animal use in other facets, they show that veganism is not their true goal.
The bottom line here is that PETA could easily say “Ban SeaWorld, Go Vegan For All Animals” but they steer clear of “the v word” for financial reasons. They’re far from being the only welfarist organization making a living on empathy, though. If real change is to happen in our world, donations are not going to be the catalyst. A grassroots vegan movement, the one ethical vegans are participating in and promoting, doesn’t rely on dollars. It relies on education and people making the choices to change their own lives. You absolutely can and should hate what SeaWorld is doing, but your choice not to participate in exploiting all animals is more powerful than clicking the donate button for one tank full of them. THAT’S what PETA hopes you don’t figure out.