Alka Chandna: Animal Rights Activists Not Racists; So Why Do They Adopt Racist’s Tactics?

In an op-ed for Knight Ridder, Alka Chandna argues that simply because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals compares animal agriculture to slavery does not mean that the group is racist. Then why do so many activists and groups, including PETA, support the tactics used by racists?

Chandna writes,

In the United States, the NAACP and others are now painting animal rights activists as white racists in order to marginalize and dismiss us. I can’t help but think that this sort of “analysis” that insists on painting a movement in a monochrome is the same pairing down of the world that people engage in when the truth makes them uncomfortable. Racists dismissed Martin Luther King as a womanizer. Colonists dismissed Gandhi as a short, brown main in a loin cloth. Sexists dismiss feminists as ugly, angry women.

Chandna’s invocation of King’s legacy is a bit odd. After all, King was famously arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1960 when he joined other activists across the country in a sit-in at a restaurant that was whites. The example set by King and student activists who started the lunch counter sit-ins quickly led to the end of this racist, demeaning practice.

But I’m surprised Chandna would champion this, because if PETA is correct all King accomplished here was to allow blacks to oppress animals alongside whites. If we are to believe PETA, if King had actually been served at that restaurant in 1960, he would have been guilty of treating animals as slave holders treated his ancestors. King, who pushed racial equality in this country further than anyone since the Civil War, was himself apparently possessed of the same sort of mindset that led slaveholders to treat blacks as simply objects. (Many animal rights web sites note that King’s widow and one of his sons are currently vegans, but conveniently omit that King himself was not a vegetarian).

But Chandna’s main hypocrisy is decrying tactics that PETA and other activists regularly endorse. She writes of racist persecution of minorities,

My family immigrated to Canada from India when I was three. My teen years coincided with the height of “Paki-bashing” in Canada and I spent most Saturday and Sunday mornings cleaning egg from our doors and windows or examining, with my very hurt parents, racist “jokes” that had been spray painted onto our driveway.

. . .

I ask other people of color who have had their windows egged or experienced other forms of racism to stop condemning for a moment and to consider that what they are now saying about animals — that animals are lesser beings whose suffering can be dismissed — was once said about them and was used as an excuse to keep them in bondage.

The racist incidents that occurred in Chandna’s youth obviously pained her greatly, and she is right to condemn this sort of mindless violence. But, why does she work for an organization that endorses just such tactics.

How can she work along side Dan Mathews, who praised serial killer Andrew Cunanan for murdering Versace? How can she work for an organization that employs people like Gary Yourofsky who says he “unequivocally support” murder if it advanced the animal rights cause? Knowing how much the eggs thrown at her house traumatized her, how can she support PETA activists who encourage others to douse targets in fake blood or throw pies in the faces of their opponents?

Chandna asks minorities to consider how arguments that non-whites were lesser beings were used to oppress them, and then consider whether or not such arguments are at work in depicting animals as lesser beings. But how does she expect anyone to take her seriously when she complains about the horrors of violent acts carried out against her family while simultaneously representing an organization that advocates and encourages exactly those sorts of acts and much worse?


Are animal rights activists racist? Alka Chandna, Knight Ridder, October 2, 2005.

PETA Protests Against Land Acquisition By Covance

Animal testing firm Covance Inc. recently purchased 38 acres of land in Chandler, Arizona, which prompted People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Citing an undercover video it shot of Covance’s Vienna, Virginia, laboratory and a several hundred page complaint PETA filed against Covance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PETA wants Chandler to prevent Covance from building a facility in that city.

In a press release, PETA’s Mary Beth Sweetland said,

Chandler should be showing Covance the door, not rolling out the red carpet. Covance has an abysmal record of animal abuse and threats to public health that shouldnÂ’t be welcomed by any city.

PETA’s Alka Chandna told the Chandler News,

We have to petition Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn and the Chandler City Council to pull up the carpet and prevent Covance from setting up shop. These are hardly the sort of people Chandler residents want as their neighbors.

For its part, Covance is suing PETA and the undercover activist who shot the video, and denied that it engages in animal cruelty.

The land that Covance purchased is currently zoned agricultural, so any decision by Covance to build a facility on the land would require a zoning change. A Covance spokesperson told the Chandler News that it has no immediate plans to build on the site and has not applied for any building permits yet.

City spokesman Dave Bigos, however, told the Chandler News that the city council sees attracting biosciences firms to the area as crucial,

Biosciences is a growing presence in the Valley. It’s critical for the future of the Valley and Chandler.


Bioscience firm irks PETA, Covance busy land in Chandler. Alex Pickett, Chandler News, August 23, 2005.

PETA calls on Chandler to reject CovanceÂ’s proposed animal-testing lab. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 15, 2005.

PETA Protests at Civil Rights Speech

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested outside a speech given by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger to honor the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka that found segregation in schools unconstitutional.

PETA activists have been protesting Bollinger’s public appearance since October in an effort to get Columbia to drop primate research at the university. PETA’s Alka Chandna connected animal rights with civil rights, telling The Memphis Flyer (emphasis added),

There are terrible things happening to the primates at Columbia. In one experiment, a researcher cuts out the left eyes of baboons and then induces a stroke by inserting a clamp into the eye socket, closing three critical arteries . . . We understand from a veterinarian who was working at Columbia that the animals were not given sufficient pain relief during or after the experiments.

Lee Bollinger has an excellent track record as far as civil rights are concerned, but we’d like him to also see that primates are complex and intelligent being with a social structure similar to our own. They shouldn’t be deprived of basic rights either. That a person of his caliber cannot understand that is shocking to us.

Perhaps if Chandna and other PETA activists were of the same caliber as Bollinger, they might understand.


Fighting for their rights. Bianca Phillips, Memphis Flyer, February 12, 2004.

PETA Takes Out Billboards in South Asia Linking Meat Eating to Impotence

People for the Ethical Treatment has taken its typically high-minded campaign against meat eating to southern Asia with a billboard connecting meat eating to impotence.

The ad shows a frustrated-look man in bed staring down at his crotch with the tagline, “Eating meat got you down? Get it up: Go vegetarian.”

PETA international campaign manager Alka Chandna told The Indian Express,

I’m afraid it’s very true. I know we tend to think that in Indian culture we hesitated to talk openly about se, but American culture is shockingly conservative as well.

Yeah, you hardly ever hear or see anything in the least bit sexual in America!

Here, in the US, most people know that heart disease and stroke are the result of constriction of blood . . . too much cholesterol in one’s diet has the has the potential of clogging the blood vessels — arteries to the heart, arteries to the brain, arteries to organs, and arteries to the genitalia.

Of course consuming health levels of cholesterol does not require one to become a vegetarian.


To grab South Asian eyeballs, PETA is aiming below the belt. Sonia Chopra, April 11, 2003.

Veggie Diet Helps Men ?Rise to the Occasion?, Says Group. Press Release, PETA, March 26, 2003.