Those are PETA's natural enemies. Within the splintered animal-rights movement, Newkirk and PETA also have their critics. Some former allies have come to believe that the organization has gone too far with pie-in-the-face stunts and a newspaper ad that equates humans eating meat with cannibalism. "PETA is trivializing the movement by following what I call the `Three Stooges' theory of animal rights," says former PETA lawyer Gary Francione, a professor of law and director of the Rutgers University Animal Rights Law Clinic. "Their campaigns are selected more for media image than content."
[Bobby Berosini] alludes to the difference between rights and welfare when he charges that Newkirk and PETA "don't want cleaner cages; they want no cages." Although he's correct, it's also true that, faced with no alternative, PETA will accept the cleaner cage as a first step. Newkirk is often described as an extremist, but PETA is in the mainstream of animal-rights groups-al-[Alex Pacheco] says PETA was Newkirk's idea. "It just didn't sound great to me. I had been active in Europe (among other things, sailing aboard the Sea Shepherd, which rammed whaling vessels in the Atlantic), and I thought there were just too many formalities. I thought we should just do things ourselves. But she made a convincing case that Washington needed a vehicle for animals because the current organizations were too conservative."
Implicit in criticism by Francione and others is the belief that PETA, despite its national network of supporters, has lost touch with the movement's true grass-roots soldiers. Newkirk acknowledges that PETA's size has made it more impersonal. "But we don't need to represent everybody," she says. Since PETA has no chapters, it maintains an informal network of 1,300 contacts around the country. And these grass-roots activists, she says, "are extremely happy with what we do." Along with its victories, PETA has also taken some big hits, the epic one being the Berosini verdict, which came after a five-week trial in Las Vegas, where Berosini was then a long-running superstar at the Stardust hotel-casino, leading orangutans in a series of gags and tricks. Berosini sued PETA and other activists after a secret videotape of him repeatedly hitting the orangutans across the back with a rod showed up on "Entertainment Tonight."