here, here morna! i'm not a peta basher. a couple of the groups i work with use some of their materials. i think a lot of the footage about the horrors of fur farming, factory farming, and so on are really effective in helping people to realize how messed up animal-based diets are. however, you can read a post i wrote at vegankid.solidaritydesign.net/2006/01/15/peta-makes-you-fat/
to see how i feel about peta's policy on single-issue politics (specifically how they maintain the cult of thinness). and when hey praised arnold schwarzenegger and featured him on the front page of their site for about a month, it became obvious that they didn't really care to take into consideration the fact that all oppression is intertwined and that we cannot eliminate one while another form exists.
but with that said, Nazis aren't PETA's domain. Neither is racism or sexism. doesn't mean they couldn't do a little more to eliminate it from their own publicity and organization, but its not their focus. They focus on animal rights and liberation. And they have had far too many successes in what they do to say they aren't an organization worth your time. BUT that doesn't mean we have to join hands with them and ignore the many faults they have. if we care about the work they do, then we will join PETA and help them to become an organization that better recognizes the links between the different forms of oppression (it would also be nice if they cited their information more often). because when they do this, they will be an unstoppable force with a volunteer base that isn't largely a bunch of young, college-educate white kids with a funding base of older, post-yuppie White folks.
and as someone who was involved with Food Not Bombs for years, i can tell you that there are also some very inherent ills that plague the different collectives (but we can get more into that some other time). They are not innate ills, they can be remedied, but i wouldn't want anyone joining up with them thinking they are the perfect group.
I'd say do what you want. If there are some cool PETA folks in your town, go for it. If there is a cool local organization, go for that. If neither exist, I'm sure there is enough experience on these boards to help you start a great organization in your community.
Personally, I like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). but that's just my personal style. I'm also involved in a couple other, much more laid back, organizations that focus on information, dinners, movies, and speaking events. their site is shacamerica.com, but unfortunately its mostly down right now because they have created a new site. and the SHAC 7 retrial starts next week, so i'm not sure it will be completely up any time soon.