Last week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)–the largest and most visible animal rights group in the United States–published a letter in The New York Times attempting to defend its used of naked women in its organizing campaigns. PETA writes:
“Few people know the depth of our work, as it is mostly our stunts that make the news. While cruelty to animals is a serious matter that should elicit widespread public outrage, efforts to reach the public through more serious means often fall on deaf ears in a world in which sex sells and there are both a war and an economic downturn.”
“Forgive us our bikinis and our shock tactics, but our message that all beings — both human and nonhuman — deserve compassion and respect is one that we must work hard to make heard.”
While PETA is correct in writing that the media’s coverage of animal rights issues is dismal at best and that there is a relationship between the well-being of human and non-human people, PETA is entirely silent on the relationship between their tactics and patriarchy. Nowhere in the short letter does PETA consider how the constant objectification of women in society impacts their treatment as a whole.
In the past, Mediamouse.org has criticized PETA as its focus on nudity or scantily clad women has often overshadowed its work, even here in Grand Rapids. Similar critiques have been forthcoming from many feminists, including the blog Feministing.com which has documented many offensive ads used by PETA. A compilation of some is reproduced below:
If PETA were serious about pursuing both animal and human liberation, it would stop relying on tactics that reinforce patriarchy.