People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters. PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. They also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals.

PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

PETA was founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, who were influenced by Australian ethicist Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation (1975). PETA’s earliest efforts included exposure of and litigation against government and private research laboratories that used animals in testing.

Gradually the organization began to appeal to industries—such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, which traditionally used animals for extensive and invasive testing of their products—to discontinue animal testing in favours of cruelty-free alternatives. Businesses responded to that appeal.

Many cosmetics industry leaders, for example, discontinued the practice of testing products on animals, and more than 500 cosmetics companies signed a pledge of assurance that they would not engage in animal experimentation. PETA also condemned and helped eliminate the auto industry’s use of animals in crash tests. PETA also targeted other areas of commerce closely associated with animal abuse.

The organization’s concern over the misuse of animals for their fur in the fashion industry, for example, prompted many industry leaders, including Georgio Armani, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren, to go “fur-free.” The once-standard use of animals in entertainment, such as in the circus industry, was also reduced.

Not only was there tighter legislation, but new industry standards were established by such circus alternatives as Cirque du Soleil, which did not use animal acts. Other significant changes included rising standards for the treatment of animals by suppliers for fast-food chains and increasing public awareness of the abusive practices of suppliers in countries such as China that lacked protective legislation.

PETA attempted to alter public attitudes toward animal rights by means of creative advertising campaigns that, while serious in their message, contained humorous and spoof like elements. The organization fought against “speciesism,” arguing that animals have rights in proportion to their “interests” and that those rights should be respected and protected.

As PETA explained it, an animal, like a human, has an interest, for example, in not experiencing pain unnecessarily. Thus, that interest should be respected, and an animal’s right not to have unnecessary pain inflicted should be protected.


PETA receives complaints of cruelty to animals; works for the release of and obtains care for abused, neglected, and at-risk animals; investigates cruelty cases; gathers evidence of law violations; and takes action to ensure the enforcement of laws and regulations in an effort to protect the animals involved. We also assist in bringing many animal abusers to justice and successfully advise on their sentencing.

PETA also operates a highly successful spay-and-neuter program with three mobile clinics. The program operates in an area of the country with one of the highest per-capita homeless dog and cat intake and euthanasia rates, and it makes surgeries available at little to no cost to disadvantaged animal guardians, preventing thousands of unwanted litters and providing relief to overburdened, government-run animal control offices and local animal shelters.

PETA conducts educational campaigns and publishes materials that are distributed to students, teachers, the general public, and supporters. Major publications include materials made available through our programs for younger children, high school and college students, and educators as well as publications such as factsheets, booklets, fliers, posters, and PETA’s magazine, PETA Global.

Campaigns involve eyewitness investigations, renowned celebrities, extensive media attention, interactive Web site features that reach millions of viewers, and public service announcements, which are typically placed for free in high-exposure outlets.

PETA organizes campaigns to inform the public about, among other things, how animals are abused in the food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment industries. To view recent examples of progress, please visit peta.org.

PETA encourages and facilitates cruelty-free living by providing educational materials and consumer products, such as cosmetics and household cleaners that are not tested on animals, animal care products, message T-shirts, educational videos and books, animal rescue equipment, and campaign materials that are used by concerned people around the world. These items are available online through the PETA Mall and the PETA Catalo (PETACatalog.com).


PETA works at reducing animal cruelty by keeping a consistent message across a wide variety of formats and outreach efforts. The group isn’t just trying just to do one thing. PETA raises concerns on all sorts of issues, from the conditions at slaughterhouses to the methods used to kill animals for their fur, to the way cosmetic and drug companies use animals to tests their products.

PETA’s history stretched back to at least the early ’80s when it brought a case before the Supreme Court.2 That case helped set a new standard for the way animals are treated in laboratories. Other cases and campaigns have resulted in felony charges against factory farm workers, renovations to the way oil companies design their exhaust stacks, and welfare improvements for animals that eventually make their way into food products at major chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Albertsons.

PETA’s tactics include in-depth, substantive debates on the issues, as well as rapid-fire short messages, images, and publicity stunts that are designed to be more eye-catching style than substance.

Everything they do is under the umbrella message of treating animals as more than objects to be used. Unlike most groups with a narrow audience, they are trying to speak to every person. However, their strategies vary depending on who they’re trying to target.

Targeting Audiences Around the World

PETA wants to reach beyond American consumers to influence everyday consumers around the world. Many cultures eat meat and wear fur, so those PETA messages translate across national borders. It’s fairly easy for the group to apply similar advertising and PR campaigns in multiple countries.

Targeting Businesses 

PETA targets businesses with pressure campaigns, both public and private. These efforts try to get businesses to change the ways they treat animals. In some cases, they’re pushing for minor changes. Many companies now advertise their products as not being tested on animals, and PETA played a role in that cultural shift.

In other cases, they’re pushing hard against the premise of entire industries like the fur trade. Businesses that are dependent upon fur products are less willing to work with PETA than businesses that can easily change their processes without sacrificing their entire business model. However, that doesn’t stop PETA from trying.

Targeting Lawmakers 

PETA also pushes for legal reforms, which means trying to persuade lawmakers. In other words, they engage in lobbying. They may not be the largest lobbying force on Capitol Hill, but they do make efforts to change laws to reflect their mission of reducing animal cruelty.

Targeting Mass Media 

PETA has several strategies for getting coverage in mass media outlets. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible to gain the attention of these outlets. However, they’re constantly flooded with news releases and pitches, so PETA has to get creative. Publicity stunts that have an element of shock may attract media outlets.

Celebrity power can also help. By using models, musicians, athletes, and actors as the subjects of their PR campaigns, PETA generates buzz from fans of those celebrities. Magazines, blogs, and TV shows are more likely to cover PR campaigns when they know there’s a built-in audience that will tune in to hear from a celebrity.


PETA India was founded in 2000 and is based in Mumbai, India. It focuses on issues about animals in laboratories, the food industry, the leather trade, and entertainment.” 

PETA and NGO Animal Rahat, authorized by Animal Welfare Board of India, participated in a nine-month investigation of 16 circuses in India. After it was revealed that “animals used in circuses were subjected to chronic confinement, physical abuse, and psychological torment”, AWBI in 2013 banned registration of elephants for performance

PETA India put up billboards prior to a 2020 annual religious event Eid al-Adha where animals are ritualistically slaughtered. The billboards depicted goats with the words “I am a living being and not just meat. Change your view towards us and become a vegan.” and “I am ME, Not Mutton. See the Individual. Go Vegan.” Muslim clerics wanted the billboards taken down and claimed that it was hurtful to their religious sentiments. 

In July, 2020, PETA put up billboards saying “This Raksha Bandhan, protect me: Go leather-free”


A lot has changed over the last 35 years. PETA began with two people working in a spare room—now, it’s the most powerful force for animal rights in the world, with more than 5 million members. PETA’s work and all of Its victories wouldn’t be possible without compassionate individuals who never stay silent when it comes to animal abuse.


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