Washington — In its first week, an online petition aimed at revoking the federal tax exemption of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has already attracted the support of more than 10,000 consumers. The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) launched the petition and two national TV commercials on January 19, after learning that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is investigating PETA at its Norfolk, VA headquarters. Since PETA pays no federal income taxes, American taxpayers provide the radical group with over $3 million in subsidies every year.

Despite its special tax status, PETA has given over $150,000 to criminal activists — including those convicted of arson, burglary, and attempted murder. And in 2001, PETA donated $1,500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front, an underground organization that the FBI classifies as a domestic terrorist group.

“By bankrolling arsonists, PETA has failed the public’s trust,” said Center for Consumer Freedom director of research David Martosko. “Animal welfare is certainly worthy of the government’s support. But if PETA wants to pursue a violent approach to ‘total animal liberation,’ it shouldn’t be allowed to do it on the public’s dime.”

The first of CCF’s television ads features a young woman describing how she teaches her children to love and respect animals, but adds that PETA’s views go to extremes, and that condoning arson is the wrong message to send to children. The second ad reveals PETA’s opposition to animal testing for leukemia, multiple sclerosis and AIDS cures — and reports that PETA gave $70,000 to an arsonist who destroyed a research lab at Michigan State University in 1992.

“PETA supports domestic terrorism and fosters the development of animal-rights felons,” added Martosko. “Tax-exempt charities are supposed to conduct themselves in a lawful fashion, but PETA hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain. The IRS is already investigating PETA, and it should definitely derail this radical group’s tax-free gravy train. It doesn’t deserve the sort of tax break enjoyed by churches and universities.”

Click here to view the anti-PETA TV ads or to sign the petition.