PETA obituary understated Mullins’ role as author, ghostwriter, & spokesperson
Alisa Marie Mullins, 59, a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals researcher and writer for 30 years, died on March 22, 2022 “after a 2-year battle with brain cancer,” PETA announced.
The PETA obituary announcement understated Mullins’ longtime role as author and/or ghost writer behind many of the organization’s most controversial position statements, advertisements either placed with or refused by mass media, and campaign slogans.
Mullins reputedly often engineered public controversies that publicized the PETA brand, then was the spokesperson who sought to put a reasonable spin on what at first glance appeared to many people to be outrageous.
Sit-in at Calvin Klein
“Her writing helped dozens of formerly abused cats and dogs find loving homes, and her pieces appeared in many newspapers and magazines,” said PETA, “inspiring all who read them to treat animals with respect and compassion.
“A person of deep conviction,” PETA continued, “Alisa championed her ideas and her ideals—but always with kindness, humor, and her legendary wit. To her colleagues, Alisa was more than a co-worker; she was a trusted mentor, a role model, an inspiration, and a beloved friend.”
A PETA staff biography, posted years earlier, mentioned that, “Alisa regularly contributes to PETA’s Animal Times magazine,” her last byline having come two months before her death.
“Her proudest achievement,” PETA said, “was participating in a sit-in at Calvin Klein’s office that led the designer to swear off fur. Alisa is an avid gardener and Home & Garden TV addict who is never happier than when she has a shovel or paintbrush in her hand.”
“We’ll show up dressed as Klansmen”
Mullins for most of her first 20 years at PETA was best known for her often formulaic letters-to-the-editor published by newspapers throughout the U.S., stating the PETA positions on commonly occurring local controversies, usually pertaining to dogs and cats.
In February 2009, however, having become a frequent blogger on the PETA web site, Mullins gained a higher profile after writing that PETA protesters carrying signs reading “KKK and AKC [American Kennel Club] Support Pure Bloodlines” would picket the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden.
Wrote Mullins, “We’ll show up dressed as Klansmen to point out some of the eerie similarities between the AKC and the KKK. Pure bloodlines, master race/master pedigree, woeful lack of fashion sense. Creepy, isn’t it?”
Correct in historical linkage
PETA was widely denounced for racial insensitivity, but the allegation was conspicuously amplified far more by purebred dog enthusiasts than by African Americans, many of whom may have known that Mullins was correct in her historical linkage: both the purebred dog fancy and the Ku Klux Klan have cultural origins in the historical belief of aristocracy to be inherently superior to “commoners.”
Those attitudes were extended to dogs, including the dogs, ancestral to today’s pit bulls, who were used to terrorize slaves and hunt down those who ran away.
This occurred at exactly the same time, and among many of the same people, who established the slavery-based plantation culture in the United States, especially the rural South.
Obama & the fly
Four months later, on June 18, 2009, after then-U.S. president Barack Obama swatted a fly on live television, Mullins blogged that, “Believe it or not, we’ve actually been contacted by multiple media outlets wanting to know PETA’s official response to the executive insect execution.
“In a nutshell,” Mullins wrote, “our position is this: He isn’t the Buddha, he’s a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act.”
Mullins was hit again for alleged racial insensitivity in November 2011, for a blog titled “Terrorizing Monkeys with Mr. Potato Head is Research?”
Animal studies at McDonald’s
Mullins denounced a study in which monkey fetuses were taken from their mothers’ wombs and killed so their brains could be dissected, supposedly to examine the biochemical relationship between stress on mothers and obesity in children.
Asked Mullins, “Gee, couldn’t he [the monkey researcher] have hung out at the local McDonald’s and learned the same thing?”
The criticism, however, came mostly from white defenders of animal researchers, rather than the people who were supposedly offended.
Among Mullins’ most frequent topics in writings for PETA were denunciations of neuter/return feral cat control, usually accompanied by a mention that she “shares her home with several rescued cats, including two former ferals.”
Summarized Mullins, “PETA believes that trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs are not usually in the cats’ best interests. TNR may prevent future generations of cats from suffering the hardships of life on the streets, but they fail to address the misery experienced by cats trying to eke out an existence in alleys and behind dumpsters.”
Mullins never appears to have addressed, however, why this “misery” might be any worse for feral cats, who pursued a similar existence for at least 7,000 years before a relative few cats became household pets, than for raccoons, opossums, and many other urbanized predator/scavengers whose experience foraging in and around human waste has been much shorter.
Amplified exaggerated numbers
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute ornithologists Scott Loss and Peter Marra and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tom Will on January 29, 2013 alleged in an article published by the journal Nature Communications that domestic cats in the U.S. kill up to 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice, voles, and other small mammals.
Loss, Marra, and Will based their claim on a two-fold exaggeration of the total U.S. cat population and a tenfold exaggeration of the U.S. feral cat population. The magnitude of their error has now been established by, among other research, the $1.5 million three-year Washington D.C. Cat Count.
Mullins, however, immediately amplified the Loss, Marra, and Will claims.
Responded Vox Felina blogger Peter Wolf on February 24, 2013, “Mullins having, it seems, enjoyed a generous helping of the Smithsonian/USFWS Kool-Aid, cited only the maximum ‘estimates’ from the Loss et al. paper (not that the minimums are scientifically defensible either) for greater effect,” while offering “nothing in the way of a solution” for addressing the feral cat population.
The PETA drones that never existed
After Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK) enjoyed extensive favorable publicity for using drones to expose pigeon shoots, “chase pens,” and rodeo animal abuse, Mullins on April 9, 2013 announced that PETA planned to develop a drone corps, in part to observe hunters “and catch them in the act as they terrorize animals and break game laws.”
SHARK founder Steve Hindi, having for years encouraged other animal advocacy organizations to obtain and use drones, often demonstrating their use at the annual national animal rights conferences hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement, immediately emailed to PETA offering to help the organization build a drone fleet and train drone pilots.
PETA never responded to his offer, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7––and to this day PETA has yet to deploy drones.
Mullins again in 2013 ran into allegations of racial insensitivity, this time over a billboard advertisement against dog-chaining, “trading on the grim story of a 10-year-old Camden, New Jersey boy who allegedly escaped a home where he was chained to the radiator as punishment,” reported Anthony Bellano for Patch.
“The artwork to be used in the advertisement depicts a baby sitting in a filthy yard, his neck shackled with a chain,” Bellano recounted.
“That image is accompanied by the words, “CRUEL! Kids don’t belong in chains. Dogs don’t, either. Families belong indoors.”
Dogs as well as children, explained Mullins, are “highly social beings who need love, attention, exercise and social interaction.”
About a year and a half later, on September 22, 2014, Mullins stepped into the middle of another controversy with ethnic roots, reporting that, “A peaceful PETA India gathering outside India’s largest mosque in Bhopal took a violent turn when an angry mob of men who had been lying in wait for the organization’s staff members and volunteers attacked them, hurling stones and trying to tear off their clothes.
“The peaceful appeal,” wrote Mullins, “which was led by a Muslim PETA India staffer wearing a lettuce-leaf hijab, was in support of nonviolent ways to give alms to the poor, such as gifts of grains, fruits, clothing, and money, instead of paying to slaughter goats during the Bakra Eid religious commemoration of Abraham’s offering of his son to God.”
Ran for their lives
“After men in the crowd reportedly shouted for the PETA India staff members, who are all women, to be stripped and stoned, men started hurling rocks and assaulting the women, who were forced to run for their lives,” Mullins recounted.
“One staffer sustained severe facial injuries and other wounds and remains hospitalized. Another staffer’s pants were ripped as the mob tried to tear at her clothes. Three police vehicles were smashed, and several police officers were beaten as they tried to reason with the crowd.”
Unclear is whether PETA India clearly understood that their protest would be widely perceived among the Muslim minority in India as taking sides in the centuries old, often violent conflict between Hindu nationalists who oppose cow slaughter, and Muslims who allegedly sacrifice and slaughter cows for beef.
Bones the Dogo Argentino
Mullins was on more familiar ground in narrating the story of Bones, a Dogo Argentino or supersized pit bull, on October 16, 2014.
“Was Bones guilty of manslaughter?” Mullins asked.
“We may never know for sure, but what we do know is that he deserved better than winding up in a shallow grave in a rehabber’s backyard.
“Exactly how the 130-pound Dogo Argentino died is still a mystery,” Mullins allowed, “but this much we know: His suffering may only have been prolonged by The Lexus Project, a ‘no-kill’ organization that seeks to gain custody of dogs who have been involved in an attack (or multiple attacks) serious enough to warrant a court order to confine or euthanize them.
“Bones was believed to have been involved in such an attack,” Mullins explained. “He was found alone in his guardian’s apartment with the body of the guardian’s roommate, who had died after sustaining bite wounds,” allegedly also having been bludgeoned with a pipe.
“Part of the blame lies at the door of ‘no-kill’ groups”
“After Bones languished for months in a cage as a result of legal wrangling,” Mullins continued, “the Lexus Project gained custody of him and shunted him off to a so-called rehabber in Toledo, Ohio. Less than two years later, Bones was dead.
“The rehabber claimed that Bones had been ‘stolen’ while she was attending a funeral,” Mullins summarized. “However, nine months later, members of the Lexus Project, acting on a tip, discovered Bones’ remains buried in the woman’s back yard. The group believes that he had become ill and had been denied veterinary care, eventually starving to death.
“PETA is calling for an investigation into Bones’ death,” Mullins said, “and for appropriate cruelty charges to be filed. But part of the blame in cases like this one lies at the door of ‘no-kill’ groups that are so anxious to save animals at any cost that they fail to screen adopters, volunteers, and ‘rescues’ properly before placing vulnerable animals with them.”
Shelters must not “turn away animals in need”
Mullins often returned to that theme, for example on September 29, 2015.
“When a man in Juneau, Alaska couldn’t afford the cost of euthanizing his sick cat at a veterinarian’s office,” Mullins blogged then, “the vet referred him to the local humane society.
“But the shelter reportedly refused to euthanize the cat and instead offered to provide “hospice care.”
“So the man, who said he didn’t want to prolong her suffering, took matters into his own hands—literally—and allegedly attempted to kill her with a broom handle in the humane society’s parking lot.
“What this man did was undoubtedly cruel,” Mullins concluded, “but shelters must shoulder a portion of the blame when they turn away animals in need and/or refuse to offer free euthanasia services for suffering, terminally ill, or elderly animals at the end of their lives.”