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 These tactics are outdated at best.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.

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