PETA logo

See if you can name which organization promotes the following radical agenda. The group pushes not for animal welfare, but for animal “liberation.” This organization also believes that animals should never be eaten, advocates against the wearing of fur, fights use of animals for medical research, and thinks that animals should not be used in an entertainment setting (e.g. a circus, zoo, or aquarium). Is it People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), or is it the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)?

Trick question: It’s both.

PETA is infamous for the over-the-top and offensive tactics it uses to promote its agenda, while HSUS takes a more muted tone in pushing for animal rights. However, HSUS occasionally shows its true intentions—like when Wayne Pacelle, the organization’s executive director says things like he never wants to see another dog or cat born or “I don’t love animals or think they are cute.”

Not only do HSUS and PETA share the same mission—even if HSUS has a different, more-clothed means to the end—but in many cases they have also had the same personnel.

So, HSUS may look moderate when compared to more blatantly radical groups like PETA, but that’s all part of the groups’ plans. As Michael Specter noted in The New Yorker, any successful protest movement needs a radical figure to draw scrutiny away from, and add legitimacy to, the movement’s supposedly less radical factions. He specifically notes PETA as that element to make HSUS look moderate.

But paying closer attention, one doesn’t have to look hard to see that PETA seems to be little more than a training ground for HSUS. Once new recruits have finished their time in the field, they’re ready for their next role—like Matt Prescott, an HSUS campaigner who was a longtime PETA activist (he created a PETA campaign comparing farmers to Nazis); Kristie Middleton, a former PETA “lettuce lady”; or Anna West, a former special assistant to PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk who now does communications for HSUS. (West was “occasionally arrested” for her activism.)

HSUS spends a lot of time and money on its carefully branded image, and probably doesn’t appreciate the comparisons to its more bombastic cousin PETA–but if the pleather shoe fits…