Back before graduate school (you know, when I still had a life), I was active in three animals rights organizations including Compassion over Killing, Mercy for Animals and the Cincinnati chapter of Earthsave. But as a committed vegetarian and animal rights advocate, there is one organization I refuse to join: PeTA.
I’ve had some personal experiences in joint protests with PeTA that colored my views early on of the organization as a media-whore, but it’s the organization’s overall outreach tactics that’s really distilled my abhorrence of them.
I could start with how PeTA president Ingrid Newkirk recently wagged her bony finger at Michael Moore, attacking with a cleverly guised fat-based joke. This self-proclaimed vegetarian evangelical advised Moore to go on a vegetarian diet in order to lose weight, so he can avoid all those fat-related illnesses. Yes, the same illnesses which have yet to be conclusively linked to obesity.
I happen to think a vegetarian diet is the healthiest and most humane choice, but it is entirely possible to be a fat vegetarian – and even more shocking, a healthy, fat vegetarian.
But the real beef I have with PeTA is that they’ve long crossed the line from an altruistic horde of Dr. Doolittle’s into, instead, modern purveyors of soft core porn. They gladly exploit the bodies of women in their zeal to promote anti-exploitation of animals.
Take, for instance, their latest tawdry shock stunt below, h/t to EWHAED. This ad is not about promoting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle – it’s about sex. And does it strike anyone else as ironic that they sexualize Silverstone’s body as a piece of meat in order to promote a vegetarian diet?
(For more on this, see Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat)
But next to some of PeTA’s other stunts, this can be seen as tasteful. One of the women I knew from Mercy for Animals was also active with PeTA, and was chosen as PeTA’s “Sexy Pilgrim” several years ago. Basically, the campaign worked as such: The “Sexy Pilgrim” would dress like a stripper, and try to shill vegetarianism to scores of ogling men who were usually interested in far more than sampling a tofurkey breast.
When the circus came to Cincinnati last year, PeTA protested on the city-s Fountain Square, a central location of the city where families frequent. A woman, dressed as a dominatrix, whipped a scantily clad, chained and handcuffed man with a sign reading “Chains belong in the bedroom.”
And who can forget PeTA’s tawdry “Milk Gone Wild” – a spoof of Girls Gone Wild – which even network television refused to air. The spots feature four “udder babes” flashing cow-like udders to leering male patrons in a sleazy bar.
Of course, there’s the classic PeTA ad of a buxom blonde woman in an Uncle Sam outfit – cleavage spilling out of her unbuttoned shirt – with the inscription “I want YOU to go vegetarian.” The blonde featured is Playboy’s Kimberly Hefner and was magnanimously distributed to solders around the world.
Perhaps most disturbing is ad of yet another naked blonde woman, this time in a classroom setting. The model, Dominique Swain, star of Lolita, is partly turned toward the blackboard, with underdeveloped cleavage showing, writing “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” PeTA’s press release touts her as the youngest star to pose au natural for its anti-fur campaign.
These are just a few examples – the list goes on and on. How can PeTA, in all good faith, call itself an organization promoting the ethical treatment of anything when they so unethically exploit and demean women?