How PeTA treats women like meat

19th October 2007

How PeTA treats women like meat

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?

alicia silverstone poses naked for peta

(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?

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 12:14 pm and is filed under Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Vegetarianism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 20 responses to “How PeTA treats women like meat”

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  1. 1 On October 19th, 2007, Jen K said:

    I’m actually not a vegetarian, but I do my best to NOT support animal cruelty. I’ve had problems with peta since their “Fur Trim: Unattractive” campaign which displayed nothing more than female pubic hair poking out of some skimpy underwear–as if to imply there is something wrong with a woman’s natural pubic hair.

    It’s really nice to see someone talk about the peta in the context of feminism!

  2. 2 On October 19th, 2007, Miss Janey said:

    Earlier in the week, Miss Janey blogged about the Ellen/dog debacle here:

    To paraphrase: “… something about many animal rescue workers- they don’t give a tuppeny damn about your little human problems. They are all about the animals. They spend their days rescuing critters from shelter deathrows and their weekends at adoption events trying to find them suitable homes. They’re especially not impressed with “I didn’t know…” All they care about is the welfare of the animal… That’s because for MANY people, especially people who work in animal rescue, animals are akin to, or even better than, people…”

    Zealotry blinds people to ANYTHING beyond their cause, including the exploitation of the animals that are WOMEN.

    Miss Janey has been vegetarian, off and on, for twenty years. She can’t abide ANY animal cruelty, and donates to several animal rights orgs. But she too feels Peta goes too far. In their zeal to help animals, they lose sight of respecting people.

  3. 3 On October 19th, 2007, Sarah said:

    I stopped supporting PETA a long time ago, when they used images of Holocaust victims in their ads. But thanks for pointing out that there are many other fantastic organizations doing really good work.

    I think this ad backfires. I would imagine that people will focus right on her, not on the words.

  4. 4 On October 19th, 2007, Rose said:

    Almost 20 years ago I met some folks from PETA in the streets of New York. Since I love animals (but I’m not a vegetarian) I put $5 in their jar. Then one of them tried to shock me with the terrible torture they put rats through in looking for a cure for AIDS. Well, I responded that I cared more about curing AIDS than I did about rats. She told me that while AIDS patients did something to deserve what had happened to them, the rats were innocent! I put my hand in the jar and fished out the $5 I had just given them.

  5. 5 On October 19th, 2007, FashionableNerd said:

    @ Rose…wow. That’s absolutely horrid.

    And I too love animals despite my omnivore status. PETA, however, doesn’t make me want to change that status..I mean, ew, the advertising. Especially with this ad…so I’m supposed to not eat meat when Alicia Silverstone is laid out like a steak? Ughz.

  6. 6 On October 20th, 2007, Weebitty said:

    Here’s a fat, feminist VEGAN who never has and never will support PETA because of their sexist and discriminatory campaigns.

    That said, they do a lot of work that doesn’t use any of these shock tactics, but they also don’t get a lot of press. I do think everyone who takes PETA to task for their tactics should read Michael Specter’s New Yorker article “The Extremist,” in which Ingrid Newkirk is quite frank about why she makes the tactical choices she does ( It may not change many minds about the organization (it didn’t change mine), but it does provide some insight into the struggle animal activists face trying to raise awareness about what they feel is one of the greatest moral failings of our society (animal abuse).

    I was also gald to see the mention of other animal protection groups. It is so annoying to see people act as if PETA is the only group out there, or act as if they can’t be animal activists because they don’t like PETA.

  7. 7 On October 20th, 2007, Rachel said:

    Weebitty: Thanks for the link. I skimmed it and it sounds really interesting, actually. I’ll be sure to read it later.

    PeTA does do some good things, for sure. But for me, the ends don’t justify the means.

  8. 8 On October 24th, 2007, Christopher Arnold said:

    I am a boring troll. My head is stuck so far up my ass all I can utter is complete bullshit.

  9. 9 On October 25th, 2007, Charli said:

    Yeah, let me tell ya…

    Now, I’m against animal cruelty. I eat meat, and I hunt, but I am as humane in doing both of these things as is possible. My philosophy is that living creatures shouldn’t ever have to be tortured, basically.

    Here in Flagstaff, AZ, we’re a college town, and PeTA *really* likes to suck the college kids in with a lot of nonsense that sounds really good. Now, I’m not saying that they don’t have a good cause or anything, but I agree that the ends don’t justify the means.

    There is a KFC right on one of the busiest corners in town (its a small town, so there’s only a few busy corners), and every year, PeTA think up some stunt to protest KFC. There’s an Arby’s right next to it, literally within 50 yards, but they never protest their serving beef or anything. Only KFC’s torture of chickens.

    This past year, they had two young women stand on the corner in nothing but their sandals, and the only thing covering them was a large sandwich board that had some sort of slogan on it.

    All I could think was of how torturous it was going to be for one of the people who got into a traffic accident because they or somebody else was ogling these girls and was made paraplegic for the rest of their life.

    Heck, I was just trying to use the crosswalk and nearly got run over by a guy who was trying to impress the girls with his radio.

    Just another example of how women are jsut slabs of meat to PeTA.

  10. 10 On May 8th, 2008, I love the smell of bacon in the morning* » said:

    [...] that many veggies, including myself, find Peta to be as obnoxious as you do.  I’ve written before on why it is I won’t join Peta, and recently so have other vegetarians within the [...]

  11. 11 On May 8th, 2008, Heather said:

    I tried to contact PETA about this issue. They eventually just stopped responding and accused me of stepping on the toes of the feminists that came before me (them?). Here is an article I wrote (not my best or most formal writing but check it out).

  12. 12 On October 17th, 2008, Elaine said:

    I am most offended by the several occasions where nude women were locked in cages to make a point for PETA. In this article a pregnant woman was put in a cage for public display to make a point about caging pigs.

  13. 13 On October 18th, 2008, SugarLeigh said:

    I would like to start by saying this post is absolutely right, because their ads are blatantly sexist and women-hating. After all, they hate humans. Ingrid Newkirk has been quoted as saying the whole world would be a lot better with no people at all in it, so, trust me, they do not now nor will they ever give one iota of a shit about women’s rights.

    But I would argue that in one key way this post is also kinda missing the point.

    The thing is, I hate when people say “well, they just go too far, and I don’t support them because of their methods, but you know, their cause is good.” Um. Actually. No. It’s not. Yes, their methods are abhorrent, and they make them that way on purpose, because they figured out the best way to snow people over is to go for the lowest common denominator of publicity. But more importantly, their “cause” is all shades of cruel, shortsighted, and ultimately not good for the world.

    They WANT you to believe animal welfare is their heart and banner. But the truth is that one of their core and not-at-all-hidden goals is extinction of all pets. They want humans and animals to have no contact with each other whatever. None. No dogs. No cats. Your fond memories of your childhood hamster? PETA thinks they’re memories of exploitation and abuse and that you are a sick freak for them. People whose lives are made infinitely better by the aid of guide dogs, or pets that are their only source of companionship in the nursing home, or the pony-riding program that keeps their bone disease at bay? PETA would have all of them suffer or even die, because they believe this partnership is tantamount to abuse.

    PETA doesn’t believe in ethical treatment of ANYTHING OR ANYONE, INCLUDING ANIMALS (ask them how many they kill per year). They claim to revere the natural world so much that they only want to restore balance to it by stopping us meddling humans from screwing with it, but what they don’t get is that, for good or ill, humans are animals and we live on this planet and share a common environment with the other animals, and so, whether any of us will or no, we’ll be interacting. Animals interact with each other in nature, that’s kind of how it WORKS.

    They seem to hate everything. Their only aim is to make sure the world suffers inside as much as they suffer inside from being sad, sick people. And you don’t even need to look at an outside site, like petakillsanimals, you can go to the PETA website, where everything is propaganda and nothing has sources, names, or any form of contact information! It’s almost as though they’re afraid to stand behind the crap they spout because they know it’s a pack of dishonest yellow journalism!

    I intended this to be a short reply… sigh, but you get me on the subject of people like this, and here’s what happens. They give anyone who is genuinely interested in the welfare of animals and in respecting the delicate partnerships we all share as strands on that Web of Life Chief Seattle talks about (like me, and probably you guys) a bad name. So please don’t even give them the benefit of saying their “cause” is good at least, because if you knew what they really want, I doubt you would say that.

  14. 14 On January 29th, 2009, Why Peta still sucks » said:

    [...] get behind them for a number of reasons, mostly because of the paradoxical ways in which Peta treats women like a piece of meat to encourage others (mostly a young, hetero male demographic) to stop eating meat. Lisa de Moreas [...]

  15. 15 On May 4th, 2009, Miss America: A Piece of (Chicken) Meat » said:

    [...] If you read accounts by rape victims especially, it’s a common refrain.  Peta is infamous for treating women as pieces of meat in order to get mostly hetero men to stop eating meat, but [...]

  16. 16 On June 18th, 2009, Lexie Di said:

    PeTA is a very annoying organization. I eat meat but I feel that animals should never be cruelly treated. If I had to kill my own food… I don’t think I could do it.

    But I was watching one of their ads on “Reasons you shouldn’t eat meat” and one of them was “Because it makes you fat.” Right… It’s all a scare tactic: “No one likes fat people, you don’t want to be fat, do you? Then don’t eat meat!” That’s really insulting to me as a fat person. I like the way I am… period. Even if I were a vegetarian, I would want to stay big. So booyah, PeTA!

  17. 17 On August 11th, 2009, Against animal cruelty, but not human cruelty? » said:

    [...] if I needed another reason…  this new promotion reminds me yet again of why it is this vegetarian absolutely and [...]

  18. 18 On September 13th, 2009, John said:

    I have to agree with what most people have said here. I admit: I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, but do not oppose that diet choice at all. I’ve always found PeTA’s ads to be sexist and demeaning to women. It These ads are meant to titillate straight guys into donating to PeTA. The folks there could not care less about women. It also strikes me as odd (and both sexist strange and a bit homophobic) that they don’t also show naked men as slabs of meat. I’m not saying it’d justify the naked female ads if they had naked males as well. I’m just noticing the discrepancy. Again, meant solely to draw in dollars from heterosexual men.

  19. 19 On June 24th, 2010, Jennifer said:

    I am a long-time vegetarian, and a recent vegean. I am only a teen, but am a major activist. Unfortunately, I supported PETA for sveral weeks, which I truly regret, even if it was only a short time. I did some research on them, and immediately changed my mind. They are hypocrites, and they have almost completely torn down the reputation of activists. Let me rephrase that: They haven’t torn it down, but have instead made us all look like closeminded people.
    Everything that PETA has done is so degrading. It makes me angry on so many levels. The people running that organization claim to have an “ethical view for animals”, but they need to take a raincheck on that. Aren’t we all technically animals? Yet they are exploiting women just like their so-called ‘enemies’ are exploiting animals.
    And whose attention does this draw? Just the low life losers that don’t even look to support animal rights. Great job, PETA! You’ve just shown that you aren’t worthy of the title “ethical”!

  20. 20 On October 31st, 2010, Let’s make Peta history | Julie Bindel | Tracepk – Latest News From All Over the world said:

    [...] decent people – men and women – do not wish to be associated with an organisation that depicts women as pieces of meat in order to challenge folk that treat animals as, er, pieces of meat. A Peta spokesperson claimed [...]

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