Violence against women – murdering them even – is acceptable if they are wearing fur. That is the message of the latest shock-and-awe campaign from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Oh my, how silly of me! PETA is really trying to say that we shouldn’t kill animals for fur. Let’s just hope the young muggers out there appreciate the metaphor!
The campaign video shows a man clubbing a woman in a park with a big stick before stripping a fur coat from her lifeless, semi-naked body. (To complete the sex-and-violence theme, we catch a glimpse of breasts as her stripped body hits the ground.)
The video generated angry comments on social media, denouncing its outrageous trivialization of violence against women. Several commenters suggested that “PETA has finally gone too far” and has now “lost all credibility”. If only they were right.
Unfortunately, PETA understands modern media far better than most of its critics do. It knows that the media, and especially social media, cannot resist sensationalism. PETA’s modus operandi takes a page right out of P.T. Barnum‘s playbook when he said: “We don’t care what you write about us, so long as you spell our name correctly!”
Or as PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk put it: “We are complete media sluts. We didn’t make up the rules, we just learned how to play the game.”
PetaFiles: A Legacy of Crass Exploitation
Here are a few examples of PETA’s adventures into the land beyond good taste and common decency:
THE HOLOCAUST ON YOUR PLATE campaign of 2003 was a travelling display juxtaposing photos of concentration camp prisoners with images of farm animals in abattoirs. Widely criticised wherever it went, this campaign was banned in Germany.
NEITHER OF US IS MEAT was a 2004 billboard campaign exploiting the case of British Columbia pig farmer Robert Pickton, who abducted and savagely murdered dozens of women. Authorities suspect that he may have fed their corpses to his pigs. PETA’s billboards showed a young woman on one side and a pig on the other.
GOT PROSTATE CANCER? was the slogan on PETA billboards in 2000 linking milk to prostate cancer. Featured without his consent was cancer sufferer New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with a milky moustache. “It’s tasteless and inappropriate to exploit my illness,” said Giuliani. “The message they’re trying to deliver just makes sense in their own zealous, out-of-control thinking.”
GOT BEER? was a 2000 campaign aimed at college campuses, encouraging underage students to drink beer instead of milk. “It’s official,” claimed PETA’s posters. “Beer is better for you than milk.” Another advocacy group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), was understandably not amused. For more on this campaign, read “Hey PETA: Got Ethics?“
We could also mention the 2008 Payback Is Hell billboard, which played off the story of spear fisherman C.J. Wickersham, who survived a shark attack with 800 stitches to his leg. Or PETA’s 2011 request to the US Federal Court to rule that five Sea World orcas be considered as “slaves” in violation of the 13th Amendment. Or Ingrid Newkirk’s call, this year, for Minnesota dentist and Cecil-the-lion hunter Walter Palmer to be hanged. The list goes on.
Raking It In
According to its website, PETA’s excuse for such excesses is that, “Unlike our opposition which is mostly wealthy industries and corporations, PETA must rely largely on free ‘advertising’ through media coverage…”
They omit to mention that PETA raked in more than US$50 million in 2014 alone!
Or that, despite zero tolerance for animal killing by others, PETA routinely kills more than 90% of the pets entrusted to it. In a recent case, PETA staffers allegedly killed a dog they had stolen from someone’s porch! While preaching “compassion”, PETA’s double standards bring to mind Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana’s definition of fanaticism as “redoubling your effort after you’ve forgotten your aim.”
Violence Against Women
PETA’s new woman-beating video is particularly disgusting at a time when most people are working to end violence against women. The period from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) through December 10 (Human Rights Day) has been designated as 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, to raise public awareness and mobilize people everywhere to bring about change. Talk about timing!
In fact, I hesitated to write this piece because I am very conscious that we are doing exactly what PETA wants: we are talking about them.
Nonetheless, I do think we need to denounce this latest PETA campaign, and not only because of the unconscionable trivialization of violence against women. This video also exposes how completely superficial PETA’s understanding really is of the environmental and ethical dimensions of the fur debate.
The fur trade is finally getting its story out, with public information campaigns like Furisgreen.com and TruthAboutFur.com. And the media and public are listening. Some may still choose not to wear fur, leather, wool or silk – or to eat meat – and that’s their right. But people are beginning to understand that, unlike most synthetics, fur is a natural and renewable resource that is being produced responsibly and sustainably. The fur trade is also a heritage industry that supports a wide range of cultures, skills and knowledge.
If this vicious video is the best response that PETA can offer to the serious discussion that the fur trade has initiated, its free ride with the media may soon be coming to an end.