On Tuesday People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) attracted the media’s attention by dredging up a 25-year-old animal cruelty claim against incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). But curiously enough, no one seems to be talking about PETA’s own history of killing defenseless animals.

As United Press International reported on Tuesday, Senator Frist acknowledged in a 1989 book that he honed his surgical skills at Harvard Medical School in the 1970s, by practicing on cats obtained from animal shelters under the pretense of adoption. In a letter to Frist, PETA senior vice president Mary Beth Sweetland revived this bit of ancient history in a bid to convince the new Senate leader to push for an end to scientific animal experiments.

The irony is thick enough to cut with a scalpel. In a July 2000 Associated Press story, reporter Matthew Barakat described government reports showing that PETA itself killed 1,325 — or 63 percent — of the dogs and cats entrusted to it in 1999. The state of Virginia expected those animals to be placed in adoptive homes. Only 386 of them ever were.

It’s unknown whether PETA continues its “angel of death” role in killing defenseless animals, but the group’s most recent IRS tax filing — only a few weeks old — shows that it spent $9,370 in May 2002 for a new walk-in freezer at its Norfolk headquarters. According to industry sources, that kind of money can buy a 10-by-15-foot freezer with 8-foot ceilings. And knowing PETA, it’s safe to presume that this huge appliance isn’t being used to store steaks or ice cream.

PETA’s Mary Beth Sweetland should also answer for her own personal hypocrisy. Like more than ten million Americans, she’s diabetic. Sweetland injects herself daily with insulin that was tested on animals; she has conceded that her medicine “still contains some animal products — and I have no qualms about it…. I don’t see myself as a hypocrite. I need my life to fight for the rights of animals.”