Like many people I’ve spent most of the last week researching for the vegetarian section of a website called The People’s Zero. In the course of my intellectual travels I spent a lot of time on the websites of the Vegetarian Society and PETA and was struck by the inanity of PETA’s campaigns.
They do some good stuff, filming inside slaughterhouses and research facilities to show the reality of life and death there, and post uncensored videos on their website for the world to see. But their awareness-raising campaigns invariably feature nude or semi-nude women with innuendo-laden taglines. So we have a porn star’s arse and side-boob reminding us to have our cats spayed or neutered, models and celebrities proving they’d rather go naked than wear fur and, in a particular low, the State of the Union Undress that sees a PETA supporter’s full-frontal strip intercut with scenes from Congress, with narration giving us a sleazy campaign update.
It’s a baffling campaign to convert Page 3 fans to vegetarianism while leaving women objectified and ignored and feminists of both genders furious. It’s the kind of bone-headed wrong-think that says any publicity is good publicity, that if you’ve got people’s attention they’ll listen to what you’re saying. But as any woman knows, when men are staring at your chest they’re only paying attention to what they’re staring at.
PETA says, “Experience has taught us that provocative and controversial campaigns make the difference between keeping important yet depressing subjects invisible and exposing them to the public.” Fair enough, but when Martin Luther King told the world he had a dream, he wasn’t standing there with his chap out. Campaigns can be high profile without being cheap, attention-grabbing without being sleazy. And while large parts of the world still see women only as sex objects to be owned and traded and abused and uneducated, PETA’s campaigns are as muddled and unhelpful as the cast of a Carry On movie highlighting the plight of trafficked children by slaughtering three thousand fluffy bunnies.