Former PETA Employee Exposes What It Was Like To Work For Them
A former PETA employee shares her experience of what it was like to work for the radical animal-rights and she reveals a story about working for a nightmare from hell.
Earlier this month, I wrote and published an article on how PETA was attempting to take advantage of the bush fires that were affecting Australian wildlife and why people should not give a single penny to them. Upon its publication, and to my own surprise, the article blew to the point where it had a lot more readers than I originally expected when I publish my articles on Vocal. One of those readers was Kitty (not her real name), a former PETA employee who was so devastated about the news regarding the fires in the land down under that she donated to the WIRES Organization. She described her time at PETA as being vicious and so, she shared her story to me, which I have been given permission to share with all of you.
Kitty's Story: The following may contain some upsetting themes and references:
I was in a place where I needed to have a job, so when it came to accepting the job offer at PETA, I was in a position where I had to take it.
From the beginning of my PETA experience, the entire thing smelled bad. When I first applied, it was just one job application among countless others, and I didn't pay it much attention. The role was for a producer/editor role in the LA office. I got contacted that they wanted more information after reviewing my application and was asked to fill out a questionnaire. The first requirement was that you had to be a vegan or vegetarian. Which makes sense... although, I've worked for left-wing companies before and even local political campaigns, and never been required to adhere to the beliefs. The questionnaire was filled with numerous essay questions, your opinions on animal rights, how you felt about animal cruelty, things like that. It took a very long time to fill out, which is never fun for someone desperate for work and money.
I met all of the needed qualifications, which were by no means entry-level. They were skills that you could only have after time and experience.
After filling out the very long questionnaire, I got an email back sometime later telling me they wanted to set up an interview, and the position paid $20/h. I was shocked. I have never, in my entire 12-year career working in Los Angeles seen that job, with those requirements (40 hours a week, running large-scale productions,) with such low pay. Ever. I figured I would have to just go along with the job hiring process and hope that by the time it finished, I would have found something else.
I had a phone interview which went fine, and was then asked to come in for a "work test." This is not completely uncommon in the editing world.
It's generally done by newer people/companies who either don't know what they're looking for, don't understand the film industry, or are trying to get free labor/ideas out of you without any follow up. It's usually editing a quick video, to show that you know how to edit and can adapt to a style, and once (when it was 30 minutes and part of a job interview,) have I ever been asked to do it not at home. PETA required that I come in and spend two full working days with them. Working for free. In any other circumstance, I would have immediately said no. For an organization as large, smart and old as PETA, there is no way that they are not aware that this is beyond unnecessary, and also from my experience with the video management team, they are all seasoned professionals who would be able to immediately spot from a person's reel, resume and interview whether or not this would be a good fit. In my personal opinion, this is part of an overhaul hazing technique, to find the right type of desperate and/or naive, and/or zealot people to work for them, so PETA can continue to abuse their time and good nature.
I was not going to pretend that I wouldn't be working with horrific animal cruelty videos. I guessed and got confirmed extremely quickly that this was going to be part of the job. However, I wish I could put into words how emotionally scarring, draining, and traumatizing it is, to have to sit and watch videos of animals being tortured 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. (It was actually 9 hours a day. No one at PETA took lunch breaks. More on that later.) And furthermore, you are expected to do this, without complaint. If you complain, you are deemed not good enough, since obviously, your problems are nothing compared to the problems of the suffering animals. If you can't sit there for 9 hours a day taking it, how do you expect the animals too? All this, I guess is well and good, but PETA offers zero emotional aid or support. I'd seen factory farms first hand before, I'd even watched PETA videos online, but nothing can prepare you for the abuse of being paid next to nothing, with no emotional recourse or outlet, and the shame if you speak up while being forced to watch these videos. I would come home every day crying. Miserable. I had to down massive amounts of Night Quil just to get to sleep and the images out of my head. If it wasn't for the support from my fiance and friends, I never would have made it through. I can only imagine what it is like for the even younger people/interns who are paid less or nothing at all to go through that every day.
The first assignment in my job interview for a film producer/editor position was to write three timed hand-written essays on specific animal cruelty topics provided to me over a 90 minute period. After I wrote my essays, I went in for a phone interview with a department head He flat out asked me how long I had been vegan, and I said "Oh, I've been a vegetarian for 19 years." and he scoffed and said, "I don't see how anyone could do anything like that if they have all the information." And then he started phrasing questions as if I didn't have the job, causing me to scramble and talk about how I really wanted to go vegan, (which is actually true, I've tried at least 10 times in my life to make the switch and never been able to follow through.) 'm going to jump around in time now, and address things from your well-written article and my experiences. Suffice to say, I was hired and worked there from mid-May to the end of June last year.
Labor Law: Peta is breaking (at least,) California's labor code. And they know it. Overtime at PETA is not encouraged, but at the same time, it is actually required. And you are required to do it without pay. But you will get NONE of this in writing. You are expected to meet arbitrary deadlines at whatever cost.
"Encouraged" Donations: One of the phrases I heard most often at PETA was "Oh, it's not required. Don't worry. But you totally should if you can." The first time I heard it was when I was filling out my orientation paperwork. I was offered the opportunity to shave off portions of my paycheck, To PETA. 5%, 10%, or more (if I really wanted to help the animals,) would be automatically deducted and given to a sub-PETA organization of my choice. She also told me all about the holidays we were lucky to get off, Christmas, Thanksgiving, we even got the day after thanksgiving off...to protest outside retail organizations about their use of animal products. Not required! But everyone goes. We were also lucky enough to get coffee, tea, and mugs to go with them! BUT coffee doesn't magically appear, so if we really wanted to help the animals, we would donate to the kitchen fund every day. Even if we didn't drink any of the coffee or tea.
Dress Code: One thing I did notice almost immediately was the amount of swag that employees were wearing. It seemed like every day half the office was wearing some PETA shirt or another. I mean, it's hard not to when they have a store right next to the front door of merchandise. Which might seem normal, except for the fact it is not a public space. In order to get in, you need your own passcode. Meaning, the only people coming and going in front of the store...are employees. While it wasn't required it was *encouraged* that we purchase clothing products from them because all the proceeds went to help the animals. So obviously if we didn't, we weren't doing our part.
You are also not allowed to wear any animal products in the office, including wool or silk. If you were found to have ANY accidental animal products, you would be sent home to change. If it happened more than once, you would be subject to be TERMINATED immediately.
Monthly Video: Every month PETA makes a video, to sum up, the work it's done for the past 30 days. They spotlighted an employee who had selflessly done their part to help the animals, but donating over HALF of their paycheck, volunteering for free, and look at how many animals they "save"! The employee didn't get a raise for their work, but they did get the spotlight that was seen by everyone in PETA around the globe, and if you work hard enough, maybe one day that could be you! The video ended with showing off all the new merchandise that we could buy as employees (before the public!) where we could purchase it, and if we wanted to, we could just have the fees automatically deducted from our paychecks every time there was new merchandise! Lucky us.
Compassionate Euthanization: So this I can't speak to in terms of first-hand observation. But Peta makes a special effort to assure the employees almost weekly that they are not killing animals. They say that the animals who are being euthanized are at the brink of death. But I can tell you, after learning that at least half of the things that PETA puts out are fabricated or at the very least, greatly inflamed, I'm going to make an educated guess that your stats about the vet clinic in Virginia are correct. It was an extremely touchy subject when it was brought up, but I've never worked for a place that has gone through so much effort to assure me they are not murderers, without really showing me proof otherwise
Illegal Words: At PETA, you are not allowed to refer to animals as she/he or it. They are always to be called "They or them." I got in trouble for this multiple times. There are also phrases you are not allowed to say. Onset one day I said, "The world is your oyster." And everyone got silent, one of my teammates spoke up and said, "You really shouldn't say that." Another time I accidentally said, "It's a dog-eat-dog world," as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew I shouldn't have said them. Again, dirty looks and a "You're not supposed to say that."
Talking with my co-worker about his car:
Co-Worker: I got a flat tire today
Me: Oh no, did you call AAA?
Co-Worker: No, we're not allowed to use them because they do business with Sea World.
When I could, I would read Glassdoor reviews of PETA to keep myself sane. I found this one to be particularly accurate.
I would like to give Kitty a big thanks for sharing her story about her time with PETA and giving the world another reason to why they should not consider giving a single dollar to such an awful organization.
About the author
Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.