(This piece is a response to an op-ed published in the Independent Journal Review last week.)
For the last 37 years, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been in the news for helping animals of all kinds. But while many are familiar with our more provocative, media-attracting actions, like our iconic “I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign, it's our behind-the-scenes efforts that are perhaps the most exciting.
A good example is our work with travel giant TripAdvisor, which recently made a wonderful, compassionate and ethical business decision. PETA's caseworkers constantly hear from distraught vacationers who have returned from a trip that was marred by the sight of dejected dolphins floating listlessly in small tanks, shackled elephants neurotically swaying back and forth, and crying tiger cubs being forced to pose for photos with tourists.
Conscientious travelers who don't wish to support such needless cruelty can now go to TripAdvisor to see what others are saying.
TripAdvisor recently ended its promotion of these types of inhumane entertainment in which wild animals are forced into contact with the public. And because it has now created an educational portal that allows animal protection groups such as PETA to explain why and how such activities harm and even kill animals, more people are learning how their choices can either perpetuate the problems or help to solve them.
This decent, forward-thinking decision is being heralded by everyone who cares about animals. Not however by the grandiosely named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), which took aim at TripAdvisor in a recent piece in this paper for doing the right thing.
That's because CCF is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, factory farmers, and other enterprises that profit from intensively confining and slaughtering billions of animals every year. Since some of CCF's clients include the alcoholic beverage industry, it has also campaigned against Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
CCF's chief propagandists fear the impact that PETA is having in informing consumers about cruelty and in changing their buying habits, so they respond with attempts to denigrate PETA's work by spreading falsehoods.
CCF tries to bully good businesses because it realizes that public sentiment about animal exploitation in entertainment is rapidly evolving. As a result of falling ticket sales and what a circus representative called a public “mood shift,” Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has been shunting chained elephants from city to city in dank boxcars for more than a century, will go dark in May.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is retiring the seven dolphins it currently holds and releasing them to a coastal sanctuary. The greyhound racing industry is on its last breath. SeaWorld has stopped breeding orcas. Countries, states and cities are banning the ownership of “exotic” animals, closing bear pits and factory fur farms, and the list goes on.
TripAdvisor and others are helping to promote a kinder future for animals. Times are changing, and those who don't evolve will be left behind.