PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a well-known animal rights organization that promotes vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. If you watch the news, browse the internet, or socialize with people at all, you have more than likely heard of the organization and much of PETA’s many controversies, particularly with their ads.
I’ve been a vegetarian, mostly leaning to the vegan side of the plate, for over seven years. As a feminist and an animal rights advocate, I have to be honest and say I greatly dislike the organization and its tactics. Lately, their ads have been pissing me off and stirring up a lot of attention, mostly negative. Just last month on February 6, PETA launched an ad that hinted at domestic violence and abuse against women. According to PETA, the ad is supposed to highlight the positives of having your boyfriend go vegan–that he will have a higher sex drive and couples can have amazing sex. The 30-second video, which features a woman walking pantless down a street in pain with a neck brace, is taken by many to be a joke, but for many feminists and others, this ad is not a joke and celebrates—even encourages—abuse against women. After all, like the woman in the ad, who smiles at the end of the video and throws a bag of vegetables to her boyfriend, she loves the pain and abuse because women love being abused and hurt by their boyfriends. Obviously.
Of course, many people will disagree with me and see nothing harmful in PETA’s choice in promoting vegetarianism and veganism, but I digress. There are many things wrong with the images and ideas they promote, not all of them, I will admit. Do not get me wrong, as a vegetarian who is mostly vegan, I am all for choosing a meat-free (and even animal byproduct-free) lifestyle, but there are ways positive ways to do this without encouraging violence against women–and body hating, as another ad is a clear example.
As if that wasn’t enough, PETA’s Save the Whales Campaign is stirring up on the internet again. This campaign—big surprise here—aims at bashing women’s bodies. It started back in 2009, but recently I have seen it flooding popular blog sites such as Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger. With summer coming around and the pressure of getting thin and fit is everywhere, I thought this ad was only a fitting example of how wrong PETA and the body-hating part of society can be. PETA’s aim was to urge people to lose weight by becoming a vegetarian. The ad, featuring the backside of a curvy woman in a red polka dot bikini facing a beach, hates on people, particularly women as the choice of subject shows, who are not thin and have perfect a “killer beach bod.” It reads “Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian.”
According to PETA, if you do not want to be mistaken for a beached whale—ahem, in other words, if you’re not thin, you will be mistaken for a beached whale—then you should go vegetarian. In trying to back up their offensive body hating ad, PETA quotes a fact that vegetarians are 20 to 30 percent leaner than meat-eaters. I’m all for supporting animals rights and being conscious of what you eat, but that “fact” right there is a myth. Sure, vegetarians often are leaner, but that does not mean that if you’re a vegetarian you’re thin, and if you eat meat you’re not thin and lean. In addition, not eating meat will not automatically make you thinner or leaner. Your food choices influence that, whether you eat meat or not.
I’m sick of the body hate the surrounds society and targets women (and men). Pardon me, but as cliché and as overused as this phrase is, people do come in all shapes and sizes and people need to understand, respect, and accept that fact. No one can live up to unrealistic, idealized beauty standards. The models in magazines that appear perfect were perfected with Photoshop and often are not just one person, but a collage of different people manipulated to appear as one. Whether you’re thin, athletic, pear-shaped, curvy, or any other body type, do not buy into the bullshit that you’re not beautiful and you need to be thin in order to have a beach body. Be confident this summer in whatever style swimwear you choose to wear.
If you want to be a vegetarian or vegan, be one because you really want to be, not because it will (possibly) make you leaner and thinner. Don’t buy into that bullshit. Also, be conscious of the organizations you support and the messages they’re sending for causes and issues you’re passionate about. As a clear example, PETA’s aim and mission is good at heart toward helping animals, but their tactics and their body-hating-violence-against-women ads, are not something I support. Plus, they give vegetarians and vegans a bad name. In my opinion, if you want people to be involved in your cause and understand the positives to not eating meat and helping animals, then don’t do it in a negative way. Negativity only causes harm to your cause, which is all too familiar to PETA.