Yesterday afternoon in Norfolk, Virginia, the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has developed a particular interest in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). On April 18 a dozen DEA agents searched PETA’s headquarters for records related to how the group uses—and trains its staff to use—controlled substances. We already know what the drugs are used for: PETA has killed over 14,000 helpless dogs and cats since it started reporting the practice in 1998. But since the animal-cruelty trial of two PETA employees closed three months ago, we have been wondering whether the feds would continue to follow the trail of barbiturates that a PETA van tracked through rural North Carolina. We’re not wondering any more.
During the North Carolina trial of PETA employees Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, DEA supervisor Brian Reise testified that “there is no registration in North Carolina for PETA to handle, in any capacity, controlled substances." Yet neither defendant has (yet) been charged with drug-related crimes. And PETA lawyer Jeff Kerr — who testified that Hinkle and Cook “were relying on my advice” when they improperly carried deadly drugs out of Virginia and into the Tar Heel State — still has his job.
Kerr is calling the DEA’s surprise April 18 search a “heavy-handed” over-reach of government. But Virginian-Pilot reporter Tim McGlone has uncovered court records indicating that the DEA feared any advance notice “could result in the destruction of or tampering with evidence” at PETA’s hands.
We’re siding with the federal government on this one. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, after all, has often come down in favor of defying the feds rather than working with them. In November 2003 a British documentary called “The Naked Revolutionary” included Newkirk’s comment that the Internal Revenue Service, which was gearing up to audit PETA’s books, “should go to hell.” To be fair, many Americans have had that thought around April 15. But unlike Newkirk, the rest of us stop well short of advising our friends never to cooperate with the FBI.
The DEA is estimating that it will be several more weeks until the fallout (if there is any) from the April search begins to materialize. But thanks to the Virginian-Pilot, we’ve learned at least two new facts. First, PETA has appealed the North Carolina littering convictions, despite Hinkle’s admission in court that she and Cook tossed over a dozen dead animals into a private dumpster. (Click here to read the court papers.) And second, PETA paperwork seized by the DEA shows that the group has been dispensing a powerful pesticide called Pentasol. Whatever happened to the ethical treatment of insects?