I worked at PETA, too. I was senior special projects coordinator when I left. I enjoyed many things about working there, and also struggled with many things. Nothing in Laura’s post surprised me. I had heard every bit of it, before.
Bruce, you are an amazing advocate for animals, and everyone at PETA admired (to some extent idolized) you. You deserved it, because you’re whip-smart, have nuanced points of view, and if compassion were a box of breadsticks, you’d be Olive Garden. But you are also on the very very very very edge of a bell curve. You are one of the few who was selected (and for good reason!) to climb the ranks to VP, and were treated (I’m glad to hear) fairly for the value you brought.
But to get a good picture of what it was like to be an *average* staff member at PETA, you must ask people in the middle of that bell curve. Like Laura, since leaving, I have heard many stories like this. The themes she brings up here are a few of the common ones, but there are others, too. And I experienced some of it, myself.
One thing PETA capitalizes on is the fact that people equate them with the animal rights movement. They know that the average person hears “animal rights” and thinks “PETA.” And so, when employees dare to speak out, they are told that doing so will hurt ANIMALS. Not PETA, but ANIMALS. This is the scariest thing you can say to an animal activist, because hurting animals is the last thing in the world we want to do. We think things like, “If one person eats a burger tonight because of what I said, then that’s a whole life lost for my selfish need to express my feelings.”
But that’s just not true. PETA is not animals. PETA is not animal rights. You can criticize PETA without giving up on animals. And you are not “harming PETA” by being honest about your experience. If anyone did harm, here, it’s the people who mistreated their staff, not the staff who were brave enough to speak up.