The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the nation's most notorious animal-rights group, has grown by leaps and bounds. With over 700,000 members, 120 employees, and a rich vein of celebrity supporters like Paul McCartney, actress Kim Bassinger and many others, PETA's 1999 budget was reported to be more than $16 million, $3 million over their previous fiscal year. Last year, PETA programs sponsored by its education department reached 170,000 schoolteachers and enrolled more than 4 million students.
Seeing PETA's unprecedented growth, other older animal protection organizations have grown more militant in an effort to not be over-shadowed. But in the war of words, it's hard to out-gun PETA. Here's how PETA and other animal rights zealots fight to restrict your food choices:
"Arson, property destruction, burglary and theft are 'acceptable crimes' when used for the animal cause."
* Alex Pacheco PETA's former director, now head of an animal rights fundraising company.
"We're looking for good lawsuits that will establish the interests of animals as a legitimate area of concern in law."
* Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's longtime president.
"Meat consumption is just as dangerous to public health as tobacco use. It's time we looked into holding the meat producers and fast-food outlets legally accountable."
* Neil Barnard, PETA science advisor and president of the militant Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
"Perhaps the mere idea of receiving a nasty missive will allow animal researchers to empathize with their victims for the first time in their lousy careers I find it small wonder that the laboratories aren't all burning to ground. If I had a more guts, I'd light a match."
* Ingrid Newkirk, after an underground group Justice Department mailed 87 razor-blade laced threats to medical researchers studying news drugs on primates.
"Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."
* Ingrid Newkirk, president, PETA
"The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration."
* Michael W. Fox, vice president, The Humane Society of the United States
"We feel that animals have the same rights as retarded children."
* Alex Pacheco
" To those people who say, 'My father is alive because of animal experimentation,' I say, 'Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.' Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade-off."
* Bill Maher, PETA celebrity spokesman
"If the death of one rat cured all diseases, it wouldn't make any difference to me."
* Chris De Rose, director, Last Chance for Animals