Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Beef with PETA

By ChaToyya Sewell
Published Oct. 13, 2009
The Maneater

Full disclosure: I'm a vegetarian and have been for quite awhile. I'm not particularly political, but I do think more informed eating habits would help heal the environment, our bodies and our relationships with each other.

But I hate the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I hate PETA's demonstrations, I hate its hypocrisy and I hate hate hate its advertising.

In its sphere of the world, animals are not creatures deserving of compassion, or are they even creatures deserving equality as some of the more radical animal rights groups believe. PETA constantly reminds us through its racist and sexist advertising animals are better than people, at least, some of us.

In 2003, PETA ignited the ire of many mammals across the world with its "Holocaust on your plate" campaign. Yes, it was exactly what it sounded like. Photographs of chickens in cages were positioned next to photographs of children behind bars at concentration camps. PETA completely ignored the hurt this could cause some survivors of the Holocaust as well as ignored the fact that, historically, ethnic minorities and people of color were compared to animals to cement their lesser status.

In 2005, PETA ran a campaign entitled "Are animals the new slaves?" If you are not already gagging, let me give a little background. In these campaigns, shots of chickens' gullets hanging open are contrasted with shots of African American lynching victims. PETA ran this campaign through 17 cities before suspending it because of public outrage. The negative publicity did not deter PETA's rampage of ignorance. It has followed with other beauties, such as having protesters dress like the Ku Klux Klan at rallies and trying to purchase space to advertise on the border wall.

If PETA's ignorance surrounding race isn't enough to turn your stomach, let's examine its use of gender or, as I like to call it, the "women are worth less than chickens" campaign. PETA is known for such cutting-edge performance art as having people sit in cages to shed light on the uncomfortably tight conditions used in factory farming and people protesting nude as part of their "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaigns.

Unfortunately, these people are nearly always women and always women who fit society's limited construction of beauty. I've never seen someone of Beth Ditto's size lounging languidly proclaiming "I'd rather go naked!" Or someone of Barbara Walter's age. These women are just not considered sexy enough for the male gaze's imperceptible eye.

For Valentine's Day this year, PETA held a public rally based around the premise being a vegetarian makes for a hotter body. I kid you not. Who better to show off these hotter bodies than two female models wearing red lingerie making out in public? Once again, this is not Rosie O'Donnell making out with her girlfriend, an act subversive enough I could endorse it. No, this is reminiscent of "Girls Gone Wild" provocation — the same male-gaze-approved images, simply without the cover of spring break.

I understand, I do. Vegetarianism is not viewed as hip. Far too often, vegetarians are seen as deluded hippies. But is this advertising working? Between the fake blood and the racism and sexism, are people getting any kind of adequate information about the factory farming situations that produce most of our food? Because to be honest, every time this vegetarian is presented with another advertising campaign by PETA, all I want is a cheeseburger.
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