Vick Case Ignites Battle Over Animal Rights

The fur is flying in an increasingly acrimonious fight over animal rights between two nonprofit groups after revelations that NFL star Michael Vick ran a dogfighting ring.

The Center for Consumer Freedom took a full-page ad in The New York Times today, citing the Vick case and accusing rival organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of hypocrisy and animal euthanasia.

"Who's Killed More Animals," the ad asked — Michael Vick (8) or PETA (14,400)?

The Center for Consumer Freedom bought the ad for more than $181,000, the most expensive category of "political" display advertising in the prime "A" section, the Times told

"PETA loves to point the finger at others when they should be looking at their own record of killing more than 90 percent of the animals left in their care," according to the ad.

The group cited records from the Virginia state veterinarian and court documents on what it called PETA's "roving death van" that "killed dozens of dogs and cats, tossing them into a trash Dumpster."

By the end of today, PETA had faced off against its critics on "Your World" with Fox's Neil Cavuto.

PETA countered that it upholds its motto: "Animals are not ours to eat, wear or experiment on." They said that the numbers cited in the ad are misleading and that the only way to avoid destroying animals is to spay and neuter pets.

Hidden Agenda

PETA put The Center for Consumer Freedom in its sights, which it says has a hidden agenda.

"This is typical of an organization that is basically opposed to everything that is good for Americans," said Daphna Nachminovitch, director of PETA's domestic animal department.

"We've struggled hard against the overpopulation crisis in the nation's 6 [million] to 8 million animals in shelters each year," she said. "Half are put to death and it's the fault of breeders and pet stores. It's a tragic necessity."

In other campaign ads, the center has defended food, alcohol and tobacco interests.

Some of its recent news releases include "Deep Fried Hysteria," "Banning Junk Food Isn't the Answer to Curbing Obesity," "Bird Flu Epidemic Not Likely" and "Vegetarian Diet and Cancer."

The Center for Consumer Freedom told its agenda is simply educational and PETA had "a nasty track record."

"We are very open about the fact that we are funded by the food companies, as well as getting a lot of money from individual donors," said Sarah Longwell, communications director. "We simply educate about the other side — the people wearing the white hats."

Longwell said the organization had a "dramatic" response from the ad and didn't mean to suggest that it approved of Vick's behavior.

"PETA is trying to exploit the issue for their own gain," she said. "They are not morally superior and they are not as credible as their name would suggest."

"They go around trying to judge people all the time for eating meat and wearing fur," Longwell said. "They do this under the guise of protecting animals."

Nachminovitch said the ad's claim that 90 percent of PETA's animals were euthanized was misleading.

Destroying Animals

The organization has spayed or neutered 45,000 animals since 2001, primarily in poor areas of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, where PETA is headquartered and where a high number of animals are abandoned, often left abused, sick or dying.

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