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My Year at PETA: What to Do When Your Job Becomes an Ethical Dilemma

I checked the parking lot again: The coast was clear. We settled into the back seat of my car. What if someone caught us? Someone would tell Dan, surely. He’d throw a fit; he’d throw me out; he’d end our relationship. After all, what kind of monster would cheat after six months? There must be a darkness inside of me, I thought. But I tried to push it out of my mind. I tried to ignore the bead of sweat creeping down my temple; I savored the moment. After all, this was my first Chicken Grilled Stuft Burrito after working at PETA and being vegan for six months.


Yes, Dan was my boss. Yes, I was eating contraband food during my lunch break. And yes, I Febreezed myself afterwards so that no one at the office would smell the incriminating scent of Taco Bell chicken. But do I regret any of it? No. PETA wasn’t the right fit for me, and I had found a way to cope.

PETA is a very good organization that does wonderful, life-affirming work for animals around the world. I just happened to be more mainstream than them when it came to my views on animal rights. For example, I didn’t see the general public as a nebulous “other” that needed to be changed. I also didn’t want to be a vegan for the rest of my life because it’s really time-consuming and I’m really lazy and Chick-Fil-A is so freaking delicious ughhhh.

When I first joined PETA as an office assistant/copywriter, I genuinely wanted to make a difference. I’d been an on-and-off vegetarian for years, I despised factory farming, and I wanted to make the world a better place. But it wasn’t long before I started to feel isolated from my coworkers. I mean … I was cool with being vegan, but I wasn’t cool with throwing shade at people who weren’t. I was even cool with the general social awkwardness of some of my coworkers, but not so much with their general ignorance. Not everyone at PETA was like this, but things were bad enough to make me emotionally detach myself from the animal rights movement. Hence, my subsequent—and steamy—affair with Taco Bell.

I’m not the only person who’s become so personally isolated from his boss and coworkers and wonders why I’m even here. I mean … I doubt many of you could say that your main ethical difference with your employers is that you eat meat and they don’t, but there’s a good chance that some of you have felt isolated by your company culture at one point or another. The good news is that there’s a way out. Here are a few things to think about:


Confront the Issue

Is the ethical problem big enough to make you feel uncomfortable at work on a daily basis? If not, then you may want to directly address the problem in a meeting with your boss or coworkers. (It’s always good to have HR along for these conversations, too). Maybe you’ll be able to nip the issue in the bud. If you decide to stay, just make sure that you have a strong support network of friends and family to help you through the inevitable rough patches.


Hatch an Escape Plan

So you’ve decided to leave. Do you have enough money to immediately quit your job and survive without pay for the next six months? If the answer is “no,” then it’s time to start saving up money and lining up potential new gigs before handing in your 2 week notice.


Shop Around

You’ll want to be extra sure that your new job is a good fit for you, personally and professionally. Set up some informational interviews to find out more about the places where you’re applying. Be honest about what you’ll expect from your employers. Talk to some of their current employees to get a better sense of the company.

You are not alone. You can do this.

Good luck.

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal ethics didn’t fall in line with your company’s? Comment below!


  1. Don’t assume that having HR along during uncomfortable conversations is a good thing. HR is frequently on your boss’s side, not yours. A digital recorder is a better backup, or (better yet) a couple of co-workers who feel as you do.

  2. I love this article. What a great way to add humor to a topic that really is a challenge when you are faced with this problem. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Lynn! As they say, from tragedy comes comedy :)

  3. At the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and feel good abou the work you do. If a company, or your executive, are not a good fit ethically for you, it’s time to move on. It’s probably the best decision for everyone involved.


    1. Agreed, Cindy!! No point in dragging out the inevitable!

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