Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) went on trial this week for killing animals. Adria J. Hinkle and Andrew B. Cook, employees in PETA's Norfolk, VA, headquarters office, are charged with 21 counts each of animal cruelty, a felony, and some assorted misdemeanor crimes of littering and dumping.

The duo is accused of discarding garbage bags of euthanized cats and dogs into a grocery store dumpster outside Raleigh, NC. PETA contends the pair provided humane deaths to unwanted animals, while local officials say the PETA workers took the animals promising to find them homes but secretly killed them.

In its defense, PETA says it actually euthanizes thousands of animals each year, claiming destroying the animals is superior to putting the animals in animal shelters.

The arrests and trials have been a public-relations bonanza for anti-PETA groups. One group, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) circled the courthouse this week sporting a banner that read: "PETA: As Warm and Cuddly as You Thought?"

"PETA doesn't deny that the two threw the dead bodies into a dumpster. And they don't deny that what Hinkle and Cook did is standard practice for a group that wants constitutional rights for pigs," CCF (www.consumerfreedom.com) says.

CCF asks, with PETA's $25-million budget, "if euthanizing these animals is more humane than keeping them in overcrowded shelters, it begs the question: If local shelter conditions really are that bad, and the preservation of animal life is PETA's singular purpose, why didn't they adopt the animals themselves? Maybe the home they'd provide is less than ideal -- but it's certainly better than being dead."
-- Joe Roybal