PETA Leader Returns to Class

Kay Lee

PETA protesters Danae Pauli ’05 and Dan Mathews stand with their clothes on at Harvard Square before Mathews speaks to students in Religion 1529.

After a stint in prison and a three-week hiatus, Dan Mathews, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) returned to Harvard Square yesterday, only this time fully clothed.

Mathews was arrested three weeks ago for participating in an “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” nude protest in the Square.

His trip to jail prevented him from speaking to Religion 1529, “Personal Choice and Global Transformation,” but Science Center B was filled to capacity yesterday, awaiting his return.

Students sat in the aisles to hear him defend his decision to protest nude. Mathews also fielded questions about the use of nude men and women in PETA advertisements.

Mathews categorized PETA’s provocative tactics as necessary measures to grab the public’s attention, adding that they “didn’t always act like idiots.”

But not all students were convinced.

Currun Singh ’07 said that he was offended by Mathew’s portrayal of women.

“I don’t think he recognizes the damage that he is doing. He doesn’t realize that the women portrayed as animals are always Latino or African American,” he said. “Socially conscious individuals, should use socially conscious advertisements.”

Grace C. Wilentz ’07 said she got involved with PETA in fourth grade after seeing images of animal cruelty in Gillette factories. She wrote letters to the company and to this day refuses to buy Gillette products.

But Wilentz said that she does not support PETA as fully as she once did.

“I feel effectively alienated by the objectification of women,” she said.

Some students said they were not satisfied with Mathews’ responses.

“It did make me angry that Mathews was unwilling to admit there might be a problem with his tactics,” said Ellen C. Quigley ’07. But she added that she was happy he addressed the class because “anything that gets people to think is a valuable experience.”

Lecturer on the Study of Religion Brian C. Palmer ’86 said that he was pleased with yesterday’s class.

“The central goal of the course is to prompt debate about the social

and individual choices that we face as people trying to influence our society,” he said. “Today’s class was a model of that debate.”