Deconstructing PETA’s Thinking


Earlier today I received a letter from PETA which I didn’t expect. I had previously responded to their letter requesting me to renew my membership, which I have not done in years, with the simple message on the slip “I will support PETA again when you guys stop the sexist campaigns”. I didn’t write them a long letter and therefore expected that this would be ignored among their thousands of letters.

Therefore, my comment must have touched a chord if it deserved such a long letter, which I reproduce here and will comment on:

“Thank you for your letter expressing concern about the women who participate in our ads and campaigns. We appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts with us.”

What is interesting is that they took what I said seriously even though it was just a small message on their payment slip which I just sent back in a stamped envelope. They are obviously concerned about activists’ opinions and they know they are getting a lot of backlash.

peta-went-on-a-global-campaign-against-kfc-and-used-dead-bikini-clad-women“As an organization staffed largely by feminist women, we would not do something that we felt contributed to the very serious problems that women face. Our demonstrations and models choose to participate in our actions because they want to do something to make people stop and pay attention. We believe that people should have the choice to use their own bodies to make social statements, and that there is nothing shameful or “wrong” about doing so. This tactic has been used since Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse to protest taxes on the poor in the 11th century. Please know that we also feature men in our ads and demonstrations.”

We need to look at the definition of feminism according to PETA. Is being a feminist reinforcing the idea of women as pieces of meat and body parts or is it about empowering women and elevate their status in a patriarchal society and therefore challenging said patriarchy? Calling a woman a “chick” is in itself sexist same as calling a woman a “bitch”. These terms, which apply to female animals are been degraded to represent a sexist mindset. PETA believes that it is all right to objectify women. According to a recent article from Scientific American, we live in a world in which three in ten women are either physically abused and/or raped by men. And what does PETA do? they promote violence against women and objectify them. 

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PETA has never showed women for who they really are: intelligent, educated, capable of contributing to society in a way men never imagined. Women can in fact change the face of society and elevate us above wars, greed, poverty, if they put their minds to it. Because women have, in fact, a lot of inner power and maturity, the patriarchal infantile powers will do everything they can to repress them. PETA, on the other hand, shows women as chauvinist men want them to be: sexual objects, deconstructed objects of desires, nothing else. They continually reinforce the dominant patriarchal paradigm of exploitation and might makes right. It is obvious that the world is not only treating animals like things but women too.

Using the example of Lady Godiva, an 11th century woman who had no other way of making a statement because in her time women just had to shut up and stay home is frankly disingenuous and misguided. It is the same as saying that people should eat other animals because the Eskimos do. It doesn’t represent the activism done by women as a whole at all.

We are not in the 11th century where women have zero rights and we are not in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan where a woman can be stoned to death for carrying a cell phone (as a news story indicated recently). This is the western world where women work even harder than men just to be equal, where women still mostly carry the burden of children and work and don’t even get equal pay for equal work, where women get raped every second of the day while a lot of men get a kick at watching sick pornography which promotes exactly the same thing as PETA: women as sexual objects.

When PETA says they use also men, it is true. However, only 5% of all the sexual objectification done in the media includes men. Women, on the other hand are objectified not only in men’s magazines but also women’s magazines, giving them the impression that a woman is only as good as her lipstick or the size of her breasts.

“These activist are dedicated to helping foxes who are electrocuted and skinned by the millions for the fur industry, calves who are torn from their distraught mothers and slaughtered for the meat industry, elephants who are beaten bloody and forced to live in chains year after year in circuses, and the billions of animals who suffer from torture, maddening isolation, starvation, terror, and violent death at the hands of uncaring industries.”

I don’t doubt one minute the sincerity of activists in any of their actions. What I don’t agree with is their tactics. How does it serve animals to have naked women on the street? What message does it send? How many men do you know stop by and look at women with lettuce leafs and think “geez I should really write a check to stop the fur industry” or “damn, I should really go Vegan?” I think it is, like a friend of mine pointed out, also insulting to men as it puts them all in the same category which says that men are only interested in sex. That is insulting to both genders and it is all the more insulting to animals.

We would NEVER apply these tactics to defend human rights. In fact, no one in the Suffragette movement has removed clothes to promote the rights of women to vote. Nor can I imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been ok with this kind of tactics to promote the cause of African Americans. Can you imagine him saying “I’d rather go naked than…”? We would consider this absurd in the human rights movement or the peace movement but we find this perfectly normal in the animal rights movement.

This is a form of Speciesism.

a-scantily-clad-pamela-anderson-starred-in-this-ad-which-was-banned-in-montreal-because-it-was-sexist“Take Traci Bingham and Pamela Anderson, for example, who posed for our ‘All Animals Have the Same Parts’ ad campaign. Both are deeply committed vegetarians known to millions for their television work, and chose to use their bodies as a political tool to grab public attention for serious animal issues. In this case, Ms. Bingham and Ms. Anderson were offended by the traditional ‘meat’ posters that treat animals as ‘parts’, and they wanted to make the point that neither farmed animals nor women should be viewed as parts – we are all precious.”

This campaign is just totally stupid and actually defeats the purpose. Women are already mostly regarded in society as ‘parts’. Just look at commercials and the media and pornography, etc. If this was not the case, we wouldn’t have this shocking three in ten statistic! So to make this “point” is just reinforcing what already exists. It doesn’t change the prevalent paradigm.

If Ms. Bingham and Ms. Anderson are so committed to animal rights, why are they described as “vegetarian”? Are they not full fledged Vegans yet? This stems of hypocrisy to me. But then again, PETA, like other welfarist organizations, shies away from the word “Vegan” whereas it is not afraid of the word sexism. I call this a double standard.

PETA PREGZ

If we really want to change society’s thinking about other animals and women, reinforcing the mainstream thinking on both issues is what keeps it going, not the opposite. To solve a problem, we have to stop feeding it. The crass campaigns are just PETA’s excuse to get more money to continue to exist because they know there are a lot of men out there who love to look at naked women… and nothing else. But these are exactly the wrong people to target for any kind of campaigns because they are the least susceptible to change themselves or really care. From a psychological point of view, you can’t easily change anyone whose thinking is the basest.

Once again, it does insult men who actually think of women as intelligent partners in the web of life and not just sex objects as well as other animals. It would be like starting an anti-rape campaign and targeting rapists as potential people to make changes. That is crazy.

“We feel that all people should be free to use their minds and bodies (italic in the letter) as political instruments to bring attention to animal suffering like this, and we appreciate any effort to help those who have no voice. We use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages. We have found that people do pay more attention to our racier actions, and we consider the public’s attention to be extremely important. Sometimes this requires tactics – like naked marches and colorful ad campaigns – that some people find rude or outrageous, but part of our job is to shake people up and even shock them in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and of course, action. After PETA publicized our “State of the Union Undress”, for example, we were rated the number one “mover” on Yahoo’s search engine, meaning that PETA received the greatest percentage increase of terms searched that day. The situation is critical for billions of animals, and our goal is to make the public think about the issues. Although some consider our projects that include nudity to be controversial, many women express support for these tactics.”

PETA clearly shows its colors in this text. They are for cheapening women and it is disguised as empowering them. That has nothing to do with being a feminist but everything to do with wanting to please the patriarchal and sexist dominant thinking. Women who “approve” of this do so within the context of a patriarchal thinking and they are as brainwashed as their male counterparts.

There is no challenge once again of the dominant thinking and it looks like PETA is desperate to grab any attention even if it makes Vegans/animal rights activist look like crazies and extreme lunatics (which they do). It makes the cause of protecting and saving animals look like prostitution. This is morally wrong.

Animal rights should be elevated to the same level as human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, etc… Everything is connected and interconnected. How we use a ‘ism’ affect all other ‘isms’. Ignoring this fact will get PETA more and more enemies in the long term and will NEVER really help animals being seen as more than just pet or food with just a very minimum level of rights. I find their “State of the Union Undress” distasteful. It does in fact sounds like a title for a pornographic movie. If that is the image of women they want to give, they are harming us and the animals every day. Case in point is that, very often, if I mention I am Vegan, a non-Vegan will often tell me: “oh, you must be one of these crazy PETA people.” And it’s not said in a nice way but with a mocking tone. Thanks!

I don’t really care if they were number one on Yahoo. What they fail to mention in this letter are the comments from people who read about them. They fail to realize that non-Vegans react to the first image of Vegans/Animal rights activists they get. If that image is an image of intelligent discourse, it is one thing. But if that image is naked women with lettuce leaves, a non-Vegan will never look at other Vegans after that with respect. The first impression either wins them over or not. PETA is only successful when they inform people (in a non sexist way) about Veganism. That is how I got to Veganism myself. If I had stumbled unto PETA’s sexist campaigns as a non-Vegan, I would have ran the other way saying that these people are crazies.

“You might find it interesting to consider that is the societies that allow women to wear revealing clothing in which women have the most rights and the most power. Likewise, it is the societies that punish women for wearing clothing in which women have the fewest rights and the least power. Should women only be allowed to participate in activism if they promise not to show their bodies or use their bodies as a political statements? If a person chooses to use his or her physicality and sexuality to convey a message of his or her choosing, aren’t those who would censor him or her, even if their motives are good, also somewhat guilty of disrespect and repression?”

This argument had me flip. It conveys the message that women are only as free as the amount of clothing that they wear. This is total nonsense and ignores the reality of patriarchal thinking. The fact that women are more free in some countries has nothing to do with the amount of clothing they wear but with the fight their mothers and grand-mothers put up to gain them equal rights to men.

PETA’s statement is in fact insulting the women who pioneered gender equality. Should are mothers and grand-mothers have gone naked to promote voting rights and abortion rights, etc. ? That argument is so twisted that once again it shows the high degree of perversity to which PETA has lowered itself in the last 20 years or so.

That women choose to go naked for PETA’s campaign is of course their decision. But these decisions are, once again, made in the context of a highly patriarchal world. They could say the same about prostitutes and porn ‘actresses’. But what they don’t know is the high degree of suffering in each of these industries in which these women are physically and psychologically damaged (but that could make an entire separate blog). All PETA does, I repeat it once more, is degrading one cause to promote another cause. You can’t change people’s thinking by keeping them in the same mind-frame. PETA treats women AND men as idiots and not as intelligent adults who can understand the rational message of Veganism. They resort to cheap tricks because they are incapable of giving an intelligent message. That is a high poverty of ambition.

“PETA does make a point of having something for all tastes, from the most conservative to the most radical and from the most tasteless to the most refined, and this approach has proved amazingly successful – in the three decades since PETA was founded, it has grown into the largest animal rights group in the world, with more than 3 million members and supporters worldwide. For more information about PETA’s vital work for animals, please visit our website.

We respect your right to disagree with our tactics but hope that you will continue to support projects that you agree with, such as our free vegetarian/vegan starter kit giveaways or our low-cost spay/neuter clinics.”

PETA calls itself an animal rights organization which I find highly ironic since they are in fact a welfarist organization just like other major animal groups out there. A real animal “rights” organization would clearly see the connections between the rights of animals and the rights of women, blacks, gays, etc… but it doesn’t. They act in fact like a prostitute who shakes her legs to get money from men. PETA does the same with its members. They serve the dominant exploitative patriarchal mindset by prostituting themselves to it.

PETA clearly confesses that they are not afraid of trash and they proved it over and over again. One big example is their ads showing battered women which sends a disturbing message that harming women is ok. Domestic violence portrayed in commercials, whether done tongue in cheek as PETA says or not, is disgusting and shows that PETA is NOT feminist.

How can I support any good work they do (like promoting Veganism which is in itself extremely limited) when everything else they do just cheapens the cause of animal rights and Veganism and reduces it to just silly antics by objectifying women. And I won’t even comment on their killing of perfectly adoptable companion animals, which would deviate from the issue. Whatever credibility PETA still had for me just ended with this letter.

The best service PETA can do for women and other animals is to disappear. Let the real activists send the right message. Just like HSUS sells out to pig producers, PETA sells out to patriarchy.

© Copyright 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No printing authorized without prior consent.

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44 Responses to Deconstructing PETA’s Thinking

  1. David Kirkpatrick says:

    Well said! PETA could benefit from researching modern developments in feminism. Their understanding of feminism is limited and flawed, and plays right into the hands of the patriarchy. Thus, entirely missing the point of feminism. For many people, PETA’s strategies achieve no more than associating animal products with sex appeal, and therefore fail to challenge either speciesism or sexism. Great work 🙂

    • veronique2 says:

      Thank you so much David. I find their use of the word “feminist” actually shocking and that is one part of their letter which really had me jump and almost yell at them.

  2. coloursofbyron says:

    Who are the “real activists” you are hoping will take over if PETA disappears? The ones busily preaching sanctimoniously to each other? We live in a world where sixty thousand million animals each year are killed needlessly so humans can eat their flesh. PETA draws attention to that obscenity in any way it can. I wish I could get attention by writing learned articles or holding symposia, but the people eating those animals read different papers and watch different programmes. To get their attention requires a hook that their preferred media can grasp onto. If it makes people think, then it really doesn’t matter if it shocks you or scandalises me or annoys someone else.

    Attacking PETA just divides us and helps the death industries.

    • veronique2 says:

      So if an organization told you to prostitute yourself to attract new vegans, would you be ok with that?

      • Samantha says:

        Well, PETA didn’t tell Pamela Anderson to pose like that… or force her to pose like that… Pamela WANTED to pose like that and gave her consent.

        That question is only relevant if it forces new members to do things they aren’t comfortable with. As far as I know, these women still have the ability to chose what they want to participate in and what they don’t.

      • veronique2 says:

        They choose within the context of patriarch mindset and therefore it is meaningless. The cards have been set by men 10,000 years ago and we play exactly the game they want. And we wonder why there is so much violence against women in the world. We give them what they want instead of rising above it.

    • Samantha says:

      I find it funny that people have no problem attacking PETA and their tactics. They claim PETA is trying to make vegans and the animal rights movement look bad.

      Recently, I have come across a lot of good people who are scared to call themselves vegan or raise awareness because they don’t want to be associated to groups that have a negative reputation, like PETA.

      If all of the good people hide themselves away for fear of looking bad, the vegan and animal rights movement will always be defined by what these large organizations do. If you don’t like what PETA does for whatever reason, start raising awareness in a way that you feel is positive and that makes you comfortable.

    • lunacoyote87 says:

      I think accepting or overlooking tactics of big organizations in the movement (although despite what people think, PETA hardly advocates for animal rights [welfarist campaigns against fast food giants, opposing BSL and no-kill shelters/shelter reform, etc.]) that don’t work and/or are counterproductive is what’s going to bring the movement down. If we (as activists) make ourselves figures of ridicule and get wishy-washy about the message of animal liberation, it’s going to be the animals who lose out….

      • veronique2 says:

        I definitely agree and that is one reason i also don’t support welfare campaigns as they don’t change people and only reinforce the status of animals as property.

    • “Who are the “real activists” you are hoping will take over if PETA disappears?”

      It’s not “taking over”, it’s something that’s already being done:

      http://abolitionistvegansociety.org/tavs-initiatives/tavs-advocacy

      Start doing something that actually helps animals.

  3. ashokbhatia says:

    A fresh perspecive!

  4. I created my own Facebook page called PETA sucks using one of their very own ads of an Asian woman fellating a carrot. What I found interesting is how many anti-PETA groups and pages already existed, including two more “PETA sucks” groups and Vegans Against PETA. A recent thread I posted directing people to my own anti-PETA essay ( http://veganhedonists.com/blogs/peta-slutty-not-very-bright-cousin-veganism ) went to over 100 comments, the whopping majority of them from various vegans who hate PETA for its misogyny and its hypocrisy. The next time some meat-eater accuses me of being associated with PETA’s hypocritical craziness, I’m going to show them my FB page and my essay. All anti-PETA vegans need to write essays like the one here and shame PETA for its misrepresentation of the vegan movement. We need to take PETA’s money and their power away and give it to better vegan organizations that make the world better for animals without the woman-hating “extras”.

  5. M jones says:

    Let’s start an alternative !

  6. Dee says:

    To me veganism is (still) a minority lifestyle, conviction, action, religion, paradigm – whatever you want to call it. I personally love having come to this place in my own life where I feel peaceful about my food.
    It’s sad for me to repeatedly have had interactions with “angry” vegans, “righteous” vegans, people who don’t seem to practice the same “compassion” toward human animals than they proclaim non-human animals deserve. They often make non-vegan humans wrong and themselves right in turn.
    I have encountered quite a few of these immensely angry and divisive expressions, many of them seem to be linked to feminism.

    I wish the war were stopped now.

    I wish we could rise above HOW someone tries to influence others to THINK about their flesh-eating habits. It’s like you can’t win. Whatever you try to say to others – there is always someone who will lash out at you anyway.
    When I first saw the Pamela Anderson poster – I thought, hmmm, how gutsy. Bound to be controversial, ruffle some feathers… But you know, people ARE asleep and disconnected about where their food comes from. Waking up is a process.

    I hate it, when women in the west blame manhood for womanhood’s suffering. As a boy I have suffered both physically and emotionally at the hands of my feminist mother (I am 50 now) who many times damaged my male esteem with feminist phrases, ridicule and sexist (oops, “feminist”) opinions. But I had to come to terms with it and come to the place of forgiveness in myself. It’s taken a lot of work on my part to reach this place. But it was a process, although the wounds themselves remain.

    I am aware however, that many woman suffer at the hands of men. And I want to acknowledge that both women and men are in this process together. Both “sides” need compassion.

    I may or may not agree with how PETA are doing their work. But they are a force of change in people’s lives. They make people think.

    I feel that contemporary veganism still has a LOT to learn about compassion toward human animals, collaboration and all those nice virtues of peacefulness, including the necessary integration of our shadows.

    And I feel that feminism still has a LOT to learn about compassion too. Because where there is a right – there is always a wrong. And that is NOT peace. And any “ism” actually… Because all “isms” are created by humans in the first place.

    And so to me, developing compassion means integrating more and more human expressions along that process of conscious evolution that we are on.

    It’s not like we vegans have taken on a process that will be over and done with tomorrow…

    Peace.

    • veronique2 says:

      Dee, thank you so much for your thoughtful response and your inteimate perspective of how feminism done the wrong way can also damage boys. I very much agree with you. In his book, The world Peace diet, Dr Will Tuttle (who is a teacher of mine) made a very strong case about how patriarchy also damages boys by promoting the idea that boys to become men have to fit the stereotype of the macho cowboy who doesn’t feel and doesn’t show any compassion. My problem with the feminist movement is that women have this illusion that freedom means to burn your bra and show your breasts in order for men to treat them as equal. This is misguided. Women have the potential to be beacons of compassion and rekindle Sophia, to use the Greek Goddess’ name that Will uses as a symbol of the inner feminine in his book. This doesn’t mean to be compliant to men or submissive. It means rising above everything that the patriarchal mindset has created for the last 10,000 years. According to some scholars, before men started herding animals for food and enslaving women, the world was a lot more equal and Goddess based societies were in fact equalitarian societies. According to these scholars, there were no wars. The idea that we have to act like some men (who have themselves been damaged by the patriarchal macho mindset) want, that is by objectifying ourselves, makes no sense. Instead of fixing the problem, it just reinforces it.
      I will add that I very much agree with what you say about compassion. A lot of Vegans are angry and bitter (which is understandable since we are so kinly aware of the suffering we fight against) but they have not learned to develop compassion to others or themselves.
      I very much appreciate your perspective.

      • Dee says:

        Thank you Veronique for your kind reply. It seems to have an unexpected healing effect on me, coming from a woman.
        I’ve just finished listening to Will’s CD “Living in harmony with all life” where all that you say about the feminine is said.
        I now appreciate your concern with today’s feminism better as it matches my concern with it. Assuming the same macho violent behavior as the dominant male forces they are trying to overcome. An eye for an eye? But there probably is a place for that too, as ugly as it may be, as it mirrors what the other side had to endure for such long time. Maybe this process still helps create a respectful and loving understanding across gender and cultural “boundaries”.
        I believe healing constitutes in first acknowledging (sharing) the fear, the pain, the hurt and the wounds we have bestowed on one another – and then letting go of the “right” for revenge.
        Gosh, it’s been quite a journey so far, hasn’t it? Hopefully we soon reach the tipping point toward the age of forgiveness!

        Peace

      • veronique2 says:

        I agree very much with you and I’m glad what I said was helpful. I have my own healing journey to do as well. There is a lot of violence in my life which had resulted in me becoming a rather aggressive person (it may not be noticeable to some from the outside). I am a typical product of our violent society but I don’t want to live with this model for the rest of my life.
        Men and women have to do some serious work on themselves.

      • Dee says:

        Yep Veronique, I am on the same page with the notion that both men an women have to do some serious work on themselves. Imagine how we each are holding one unique drop in the vast ocean of humanity’s peace, joy, happiness and prosperity. Let’s enjoy the journey 🙂
        Thank you for your passionate work.
        Peace.

  7. Dee says:

    Just wanted to ad to the above this quote, I think is of considerable value, not only regarding food but regarding all our cultural “isms”:

    – We are in the midst of a profound cultural transformation.

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that the old mythos underlying our culture is collapsing. We are realizing that its core assumptions are obsolete and, if followed further, will result not only in the ecological devastation of our planet’s intricate and delicate systems, but in our self-destruction as well.

    A new mythos, affirming cooperation, freedom, peace, life, and unity, is struggling to be born to replace the old mythos based on competition, separateness, war, exclusion, and the idea that might makes right.

    Food is a critical key to this birth, because our food habits condition our mentality profoundly — and because meals are the primary way our culture replicates and promulgates its value system through us.

    Whether this birth of a new mythos and more evolved spirituality and consciousness is successful will depend on whether we can transform our understanding and practice of food.

    quoted from:
    THE WORLD PEACE DIET
    Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony
    by WILL TUTTLE, Ph.D.

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  16. char684 says:

    Thanks so much for your amazing post. I just want to share that the letter you received from PETA is a pre-written form letter they send to all such concerned feminist vegans. I received the exact same one.

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