Is PETA Effective?

PETA is one of the most controversial organizations in existence. People love them, hate them, tolerate them, question them. If nothing else, PETA is effective at getting attention and inspiring debate.

Even in Animal Rights communities, this question comes up over and over again:

Does PETA help or harm the movement?

It’s a difficult question to answer since PETA does so much and is involved in all kinds of campaigns. Moreover, few people or organizations take the time to measure efficacy. But one organization, The Humane Research Council, whose website is Humane Spot dot org, compiles and analyzes all kinds of information relating to effective strategies of the animal movement.

In their own words,

The Humane Research Council empowers fellow animal advocates with access to the research, analysis, strategies, and messages that maximize their effectiveness to reduce animal suffering.

When it comes to PETA’s efficacy, The Humane Research Council has some information that can help us answer the question above. There are two studies that indicate PETA is effective, at least in some areas.

Take a look:

1. “The U.S. Pork Checkoff (managed by the National Pork Board) conducted four focus groups of children ages 9 to 14 throughout the United States and surveyed an additional 350 children online. More than half of those surveyed had heard of “animal rights” organizations and almost one fourth of these children reported that these organizations have impacted their meat consumption in some way. There was low awareness of PETA among the children, but it had a high impact on their meat consumption. One-third of respondents had heard of or visited the PETA website,; of those who were familiar with PETA, one-third had seen a video about animal care or meat consumption. 53% said the web site/video impacted their meat eating habits.” (source)

2. “[Another] study examined the impact of a graphic animal rights campaign launched by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against alleged abuses on a corporate farm. It considered the impact of the campaign upon the credibility of the target of the campaign as well as the producer of the campaign.
Results indicated that PETA’s attack message against abuses at corporate pig farms was effective in eroding the credibility of the corporate food-industry raising animals for consumption. At the same time, PETA’s credibility rose overall after participants viewed the PETA attack message.” (source)

(Emphasis added)

Neither of those studies indicates that the other PETA programs are effective. It’s even possible that certain campaigns are counter-productive. But the evidence against PETA – on the basis of ineffectiveness – simply doesn’t exist yet. So be wary of “experts” who claim that PETA “doesn’t work” or is “counter-productive.” They are likely basing their opinions on personal bias rather than actual science.


3 Responses to Is PETA Effective?

  1. I have mixed feelings about what PETA does and what stands it takes on some topics. I think its position on homeless animals, including feral cats, is flawed. I find it hard to understand its support of bans on certain breeds of dogs. In general, I tend to object to its positions on companion animals. I also am bothered by the constant attacks on fat people. I suspect that these positions come from the head – Ingrid Newkirk – primarily, and are based on her own personal beliefs rather than any science or research.

    I believe PETA has done a great deal of good over the years in raising awareness about animal issues and in offering so much good information on veganism. The methods used are often shocking and disturbing, and many find these methods distasteful. Others, though, admit that they worked on them. Some people may need to be shocked.

    Overall, I think the organization has done enough good that I will often recommend its publications and websites. It will be interesting to see how it may change when Newkirk is no longer in the picture.

  2. I’ve always said that Peta has likely saved the lives of more animals, and people, than any other organization in history. If we look at the millions of people they have helped influence to become vegetarian, and the resulting millions of heart attacks and other afflictions that were likely prevented, along with the hundreds of millions of animals that were not bred, murdered, purchased and consumed as a result, those are some pretty massive numbers. It’s no wonder that they are so vehemently attacked, maligned and bashed endlessly by those in power. Though I must say, wonderful organizations such as Vegan Outreach, COK, MFA and others are definitely gaining much ground by the day, which is a beautiful thing to see.

  3. First, thank you for mentioning and HRC’s research! It’s very much appreciated and I hope your readers find our comprehensive and free database to be useful in their work for animals and veganism.

    I agree with the other comments that PETA is neither all good nor all bad. Your readers may be interested in a blog I wrote about PETA a while back:

    Most importantly, we need to constantly ask these kinds of questions and gauge whether or not our actions are effective for animals. Thanks for taking a close look at PETA and utilizing HRC’s research to do so.

    Che Green


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