Those of us who are of a certain age, like me, are concerned not only with the work to save animals right now but also with what the future holds for the animal rights movement. And thanks to PETA’s one-of-a-kind youth outreach program, the younger generation is adopting a compassionate lifestyle like no other before them.
peta2 is the rockin’, hip arm of PETA that reaches out to those in the 13 to 21 age bracket to deliver serious animal rights messages in a way that appeals to today’s youth. And it is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world. There’s always something new and fresh going on over there. PETA makes sure that it’s fun to be a part of this group and that members will be inclined to spread the word to other people in school and social gatherings, including Internet contact groups.
There’s hope for the future: peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans (and it’s growing steadily every single day). It’s called viral marketing, I believe, and combined with a deep compassion for animals, the peta2 message is spreading like wildfire. Indeed, a Twitter campaign deserves the credit for getting one major retailer to stop selling fur! So make no mistake: All these numbers add up to victories for animals, not just numbers on the computer.
For three months every summer, peta2 sends out a donated RV to rock concerts. The Vans Warped Tour is a favorite, featuring popular bands like Chiodos, The Devil Wears Prada, 3OH!3, and A Day To Remember. Actually, the tour includes more than 200 bands, and I’ve never heard of a single one of them. But all the kids have, and that’s what counts—the total attendance this year was more than 1 million people! peta2 sets up tables and booths and hands out leaflets and signs people up to receive action alerts and more information about ways to help animals. How many people signed up this past summer? More than 220,000—in just three months! peta2 e-mail alerts now go out to 700,000 young people. Now that is an encouraging number. Many of them become vegetarians or vegans as a result of the information they receive through peta2, and many become very active to save animals in other ways as well.
The Street Team provides fun and innovative ways to stand up for animals: putting stickers on school lockers, organizing or joining street demos, writing e-mails and letters to stop animal abuse, and adopting a vegan diet and a cruelty-free lifestyle, just to name a few. For participating in these activities, members accumulate points, which can be cashed in for cool T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other must-have items. And then—well, their friends see these nifty T-shirts with animal rights messages and the peta2 logo, and they have to join for themselves. And so the fire spreads.
For younger kids, PETA Kids offers a unique Web site tailored just to them. And be sure to check out the new Kids’ Guide to Helping Animals. This 24-page magazine covers the animal rights spectrum in lively photos, celebrity quotes, and many actions for youngsters. How can you speak up for animals? Read to find out. Complete with cartoons, a crossword puzzle, and free stickers, this is age-specific content at its finest.
In addition to all the hip social networking and direct contact with young people, PETA works with teachers to make animal rights a part of their formal education through TeachKind. This terrific program includes everything you need to walk into a classroom and deliver material about compassionate living in effective and interesting ways. More than 7,000 people have already signed up for updates on that program—and I have heard several first-hand reports from educators that it is extremely effective and easy to use. It’s not just for full-time teachers either: I know some retirees who are using TeachKind for guest presentations at their local schools, and they love it.
These youth outreach efforts have been so popular that a few years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers what nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a 2 to 1 margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined. This brings us a great deal of hope that the next generation will do even more to see that animals are treated with the respect and compassion they deserve!
But while the numbers and accomplishments of young people joining PETA’s fight for animal rights are astounding, the funding for this operation is up to us older folks. The young ones have the energy and enthusiasm—the heart-to fight for animals, but not much money. And what keeps me working hard every day here in the PETA Foundation’s Planned Giving Department is that we are funding this fight for generations to come. PETA will grow bigger, stronger, and more effective as we pass the torch on to these young animal rights activists—you can be sure of that.