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Saving the Animals by Acting Like One

By Andrew F. Nunnelly, Crimson Staff Writer

In order to hit the ground running after a nice, long summer, let’s consider a hypothetical.

A group of representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) walk into an advertising agency—say the firm from “Mad Men.” John Hamm’s character sits staring across the table, trying to act like he doesn’t want a cigarette, and he says to PETA, “Now tell me, who exactly would you like your ads to target? Because as of now, it seems to me you’re alienating some people.” The PETA people look to their point man. Their point man takes his glasses off. “That’s not our goal at all, “ he says. “We want to alienate everyone.”

However ridiculous as this imagined scene may sound, it is the only way I am able to reconcile the classist content of PETA’s recent ad campaigns.

PETA, whose Wikipedia page has probably been flagged for bias as often as the one on Scientology, is no stranger to controversy and the absurd. In their fight to protect animals, they have done everything from hurling paint on old women wearing fur to distastefully comparing chicken farming to Nazism and the Holocaust.

With the rise of ubiquitous internet media though, PETA has refocused their attack on the mediums with the highest hit count: pornography and viral videos.

Whether the cause be “Don’t Wear Fur” or “Don’t Eat Meat,” PETA has decided that one way they can get people’s attention is by showing pictures of naked women. One particularly fun one shows a nude Charlotte Ross of “NYPD Blue,” holding a rabbit, along with the slogan, “I’d rather show my buns than wear fur.” Or take their un-aired Super Bowl commercial from this year, which featured women essentially having sex with vegetables.

Why does PETA want to exploit women for the sake of animals?

“Save the Whales.” It may sound like a logical animal protection slogan that most people would agree with, right? WRONG! It was actually written on a billboard in Jacksonville, Florida accompanied by a picture of an overweight woman in a bikini and the words, “Lose the Blubber; Go Vegetarian.” I’m glad to see that PETA has now been able to not only publicly humiliate fat people into becoming vegetarians, but also to really take their objectifying sexism to the next level. Not to mention, the whole advertisement doesn’t really make logical sense.

Together with this kind of degradation of women and whales, PETA has also begun creating it’s own viral videos. One of these, posted on, is an interview starring Andy Dick as a cracked out version of Ronald McDonald. Though the primary target of the video is the fast food chain, there is still misplaced aggression toward innocent people--at one point comparing poultry factory workers to Oompa-Loompas followed by the line: “There are people who are obese, and they need their food.”

Propaganda like this with its misplaced blame—shaming the individuals who eat fast food rather than just those who produce it—ultimately fails. There aren’t many people left in the world that think fast food is healthy, and I’m not going to argue that it is. However, there are many people for whom, because of lack of time or money, fast food is at times a necessity. Though it may not be the most economic decision for low-income families, McDonalds is a relatively cheap and easy way to eat. Instead of attacking the people who eat the fattening food, they could focus their attention on the factors that drive people to fast food in the first place—food labeling, false advertising, a government in the hands of a strong agriculture lobby, or the heads of big livestock and produce operations, who endanger consumers with genetically modified and hormone-enhanced products.

If PETA were really smart, they would attack the system that forces the impoverished to choose fast food. They attack the livestock industry by portraying the working-class employees as bloodthirsty psychopaths, while ignoring the larger, more systematic problems with the status quo.

I love animals, don’t get me wrong. My best friend is named Tuck; he’s my cat. I am also bothered as much as the next person by the thought or sight of animals being mistreated. But to ignore, objectify, or blame the six billion HUMANS on the planet—many of whom are suffering whether from poverty, malnutrition, starvation, obesity, or any number of other things—is simply unforgivable.

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