PETA president sticks foot in mouth

Published June 1, 2001

As the Agriculture Department and U.S. agricultural authorities continue taking precautions to prevent hoof-and-mouth disease from entering this country, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said she hopes the disease will attack U.S. livestock and “bring economic harm for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence,” according to news reports.

PETA co-founder and president Ingrid Newkirk said that if hoof-and-mouth came to the United States, “It wouldn’t be any more hideous for the animals–they are all bound for a ghastly death anyway. But it would wake up consumers.”

Industry officials were quick to respond.

“She’s can’t be serious,” said Steve Kopperud, president of the Animal Industry Foundation, a nonprofit group that develops programs on farming and ranching. “Such grandstanding reveals incredible callousness, a lack of compassion for both animals and people.”

Kopperud added that the animal suffering involved would be “monumental” if hoof-and-mouth disease ever attacked U.S. livestock.

“How could anyone, with even the most basic compassion for animals, wish such a devastating disease and possible death on America’s millions of livestock?” he asked.

The economic devastation suffered by millions of farm families would be even more horrendous, he noted, citing suicides and bankruptcies across the United Kingdom in the wake of its current hoof-and-mouth crisis. At the same time, food prices would skyrocket, while availability would drop significantly.

“How can Newkirk say they care about ‘ethical’ treatment of animals–or people for that matter–while apparently salivating over the possibility that such a catastrophe might happen here?” asked Kay Johnson, AIF vice president. “This is typical PETA. [They] say anything to get headlines.”

Kopperud and Johnson said they agreed with PETA on one point: It is time for “consumers to wake up” . . . and recognize PETA’s total lack of credibility on animal care and welfare.

“From what we’ve seen, PETA spends most of its money on vegetable costumes and flying people around the country who are willing to take their clothes off to raise more money,” the AIF executives said. “It’s time for this group to be very quiet. As someone once said, ‘It would be good for the animals, good for consumers, and good for the environment’.”

Dan Murphy is editor of Meat Marketing & Technology magazine. For more information, visit the Marketing & Technology Group Web site at