Bikinis, vegan desserts, and PETA

In this article, Phoebe-Jane Boyd, who is vegan, discusses the latest publicity-stunt-gone-wrong by PETA at Wimbledon. This time, PETA had bikini-clad women serving strawberries and vegan cream.  According to PETAthe tennis fans loved our vegan version of the classic Wimbledon snack, which helped prove that there are delicious plant-based alternatives to every dairy-based food you can think of.  Boyd questions the efficacy of these tactics: My own interactions with promotional models at these things have never ended in increased brand awareness, but rather with a feeling of discomfort at the expectation that I’m to treat the women like walking, talking product shelves with boobs instead of human beings.

I gave up my PETA membership a number of years ago, mostly as a reaction to their tasteless publicity stunts, such as this. I am so tired of PETA parading mostly women in scantily-clad costumes to promote animal welfare and veganism. PETA’s pat response is demonstrated below (this was in reaction to its tweet about the Wimbledon event):

PETA’s response is facile at best. The fact that the women in question chose to participate in this publicity stunt does not address the notion of exploiting women’s bodies. Exploitation does not presuppose or require consent (or lack thereof), but is the use of tactics for the sake of profit, marketing, and so forth. These tactics are outdated at best.

There is a long list of reasons why I cannot support PETA: The tasteless publicity stunts, the cloying pandering to celebrities, the sexist and tasteless “sexy vegan celebs,” the aggressive attacks on people (e.g., those wearing fur coats), and their association of the killing of animals with the Holocaust. Many people object to PETA’s euthanasia policy; I am less troubled by this, as euthanasia may sometimes be the only humane solution for animals who are severely ill or injured, and who are not candidates for adoption. At least, I very much hope that PETA does, in fact, use euthanasia as a last resort.

Some tipping points for me were PETA’s attempt to exploit Detroiters’ lack of water by offering to pay their water bill if they promised to go vegan for one month. I was so incensed by this crass attempt at publicity at the expense of people who were suffering, that I phoned PETA and expressed my utter disgust. Besides taking advantage of people who were at a low point, “veganism under duress” is hardly going to produce long-term commitments to veganism, so it was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Another spectacular low point was PETA’s suggestion that a prison serve a teen, who had practised cannibalism, vegan meals, arguing that we are all made of flesh and blood, that we are all animals, and that the violent acts that Harrouff has been charged with are similar to those commonly inflicted upon billions of farmed animals in the U.S. each year. I can’t even begin to imagine how the friends and families of the two people that Harrouff murdered were impacted by this crass suggestion.

There is no doubt that PETA has been successful in pressuring governments and organizations into improving the welfare of some animals, but I’ve never believed in the adage that the ends justify the means. I would much rather support organizations that use compassion, intelligence, and kindness, and whose focus is upon animals and their welfare, rather than on self-promotion.

The role of social media in the proliferation of fast fashion

This article discusses the role that social media has played in the growth of fast fashion, which is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends (Wikipedia). Popular retailers such as Zara and H&M are excellent examples of companies that promote fast fashion.  The article posits that social media accounts such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and so forth, have encouraged fast fashion, as people do not want to be seen wearing the same item often, or even more than once.

I know that some people who read this article will say “well, that’s certainly not me,” but is that actually the case? How many of us have closets bursting with clothes? How many of us buy items of clothing, shoes, or bags, for a “special occasion,” even though there are perfectly adequate items in our closets, because we want something new, or because we don’t want to be seen wearing the same outfit for the occasion? How many new items of clothing, shoes, and bags do we buy every season, even though we already have so many clothes? How many of us buy something because it’s on sale, even if we don’t need it? How many of this think that we’ve scored a big sale: “look, it was 50% off,” even though its money wasted because it’s adding to the mountain of clothes we already own?

I am the living embodiment of this attitude. In my student days and earlier in my career, especially when I lived in very small accommodations (I was living “tiny” before it became a thing), I didn’t have all these possessions. As my living quarters and pay cheque grew larger, so did my purchases. My Achille’s heel has always been handbags. When I travelled, it was always with a suitcase large enough to accommodate the purchases I would no doubt make. Shopping became a hobby; this was particularly true when I lived in Detroit, where the large variety of shopping malls beckoned me every weekend.

I’ve been committed to environmental causes since I was a child. I have always done what I could to reduce my carbon footprint. I remember me as a child lecturing my no-doubt exasperated mother on the need to shut off lights, to not let the taps run, to wear sweaters in the house in winter to stay warm, and so forth (I still do this. Sorry, Mum). My shopping and accumulation of stuff, however, was a hurdle that I did not overcome, or even acknowledge, until a few years ago.

I have made significant reductions in the items that I buy. My wardrobe has been pared down considerably, and I buy at most 2-3 items of new clothing a year, and now only to replace something that I can no longer use. I’ve slipped once or twice, I will admit it, but I see a vast improvement. I no longer care if people see me in the same clothes, as I rotate a small amount every week. Frankly, most people neither care nor remember what you wear. Men have been getting away with wearing the same items for years; it’s about time that women stopped this ridiculous obsession with not being seen in the same outfit every month or, heaven forbid, every week.

Fast fashion has many negative impacts on the environment, not the least of which is the sheer waste it generates. In our narcissistic world of selfies and posting daily updates (of which I plead guilty), we tend to be guilty of greenwashing. We congratulate ourselves on using travel mugs, recycling, composting, and so forth – all of which are excellent things to do, of course – but our rampant and increasing consumerism is causing far more damage than using bottle water or disposable coffee mugs. I have been appalled by my own consumerism, as it has crept up on me insidiously; I think so many of us equate possessions with success. I have been blessed – or is it cursed? – with a love of beautiful things, and I have indulged in this love far too many times. I applaud the growing movement of minimalism amongst younger people in their twenties and thirties; they have come to this realization far earlier than I. I think we have a lot to learn from this movement, and I, for one, am enjoying embracing it in incremental steps.

I have found owning fewer things to be liberating, not limiting. I smile when I see empty cupboards in my home, extra storage containers I no longer need, rugs that I no longer need to vacuum, and clothes that I can actually see in my closet. Travelling with a small carry on for a two-week trip with no more than four dresses that I rotate makes decisions about what to pack so much easier, not to mention negotiating airports so much faster. Not feeling the need to buy souvenirs for other people that will simply add to their clutter (hint, please don’t buy me souvenirs) saves so much time when I’m travelling; time that I would much rather put towards visiting museums and art galleries. It has been a most enjoyable journey, and one I look forward to continuing.