Meet Daniel Paden, PETA’s Associate Director of Evidence Analysis

Daniel Paden works closely with PETA’s eyewitness investigators to document the living conditions and treatment of animals in slaughterhouses, on factory farms, in circuses, in laboratories, and in the pet trade. His work has led to the rescue of thousands of animals as well as the first-ever felony cruelty charges for the mistreatment of animals in a U.S. laboratory and other landmark cases.

This article was originally printed in PETA’s Augustus Club newsletter for our legacy society members.


Augustus Club: How did you become involved in animal rights?

Daniel Paden: After doing graduate studies in theology, I read a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. That’s when I realized that helping animals is just as Christian as helping our fellow humans. Later I read Animal Gospel by the theologian Andrew Linzey, which reinforced this belief.


AC: What brought you to PETA, and what was your first position?

DP: Once I made that realization, I decided that being vegan was not enough and started getting active for animals. I applied for a job at PETA in 2002, and was hired as an assistant in PETA’s library. I later transferred into the Cruelty Investigations Department and eventually started specializing in eyewitness investigations.


AC: Describe a facet of your job that makes you especially happy.

DP: I love meeting with law-enforcement professionals—police departments, sheriff’s offices, prosecutors, and federal officials. As we conduct an eyewitness investigation, we carefully document every violation of local, state, and federal laws that our eyewitnesses observe, and we file formal complaints at every possible level.

Almost all the law enforcement professionals I’ve worked with have found the evidence that we’ve shown them compelling and have been eager to take action. They also really appreciate the fact that we’re so meticulous in our documentation that we make their job as easy as possible.


AC: What’s been your most gratifying accomplishment in your time at PETA?

DP: I’d have to say rescuing the animals from the sham sanctuary Darlynn’s Darlins. One of the things that was so galling about that place was that they had fooled people—including people who really care about animal well-being—into thinking that they were actually helping animals, when they were just hoarders who neglected them, even to death. That case was a particularly fulfilling experience with law enforcement. We presented our evidence to the police on a Tuesday afternoon, they procured a warrant on Wednesday, and the animals were rescued on Thursday morning!

Daniel Paden with Sheriff Judd after Florida news conference re arrest of Darlynn’s Darlins owners

Another thing that means a lot to me is that our investigations into the wool industry have led to the world’s first-ever convictions of sheep shearers on cruelty-to-animals charges. I watched many hours of footage of the abuse and mutilation of sheep in the shearing sheds. They were punched and kicked—one sheep’s neck was even broken.

The symbolism of “the lamb of God” has personal meaning for me. So when I saw such gentle animals endure that kind of torment, it was imperative to me that we expose the industry and bring about meaningful change and real consequences for their abusers.


AC: PETA is known around the world for its eyewitness exposés. What makes PETA more successful than other organizations in these endeavors?

DP: Well, for one thing, we simply conduct far more of them than any other animal organization and always have, since 1981. There’s never a time in which a PETA observer is not in the field documenting animal abuse somewhere in the world.

Second, we don’t limit our exposés to just one area of abuse, e.g., animals used for food. Of course, we do release exposés of factory farms and slaughterhouses and even of transport trucks. We were the trailblazers in that arena, and our investigations have led to many legal precedents, including the first-ever convictions of factory-farm employees for abusing pigs and the first-ever felony cruelty-to-animals charges for abusing birds on factory farms. But we also document cruelty in laboratories, in circuses, and on fur farms, and we’re the only organization that has released exposés of the small-animal trade, i.e., suppliers of animals to Petco, PetSmart, and other chain pet stores.

Third, we’re experts at presenting cases convincingly to law enforcement. And finally, we have geniuses in our Marketing Department who know how to use social media to attract as many eyes as possible to our video exposés—it’s not unusual for one of our videos to have received more than a million views within 24 hours of its release. And that’s the most important thing, because that’s what ultimately motivates people to take action and make changes in their lives, which in turn increases the market demand for cruelty-free goods and services.


AC: Do you find it psychologically challenging to spend so much time watching video footage of animal abuse?

DP: Definitely. But there are various ways to cope with the stress. For me, one is prayer—praying for the animals whose pain I’m witnessing helps me maintain perspective and strengthens my effort to stop that pain (as opposed to letting it fill me with despair). The rescued animals in the office are also a big help. For example, the three cats—Bubbles, Brandi, and Marshall—who live on the floor where I work in PETA’s Norfolk headquarters, the Sam Simon Center,  give off so much positive energy. We rescued them from the Gulf Coast after the 2010 BP oil disaster. It’s a huge comfort to have them around, especially amid hours of watching grueling footage. Hearing them purr or just seeing them luxuriate in a sunbeam is a balm to the spirit.


AC: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our Augustus Club members?

DP: I know that the only reason that PETA is able to carry out its mission is that we have such generous supporters. As Augustus Club members, you are special to us because your commitment helps ensure that we can make even more progress for animals in the future. Thank you so much!