The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization is known across the globe for giving animals a voice and campaigning for the better treatment of animals in all industries. Many celebrities have modelled for the campaigns and expressed their support for the organization, including Pamela Anderson, Bethenny Frankel and Stephanie Pratt, whose campaigns are featured throughout this blog post. The organization encourages the public to “go vegetarian or vegan” by using shocking and usually highly sexualized images to capture the attention of their target audiences, and despite the fact that the organization’s purpose is to campaign for animal rights, many people believe that their message often gets lost in translation due to the sexualization of the celebrities in the images.
“The “ethical treatment of animals” motive gets lost in translation somewhere between women sucking on veggies in the hot tub and blatant implications of sex-based violence.” | About-Face
Rebecca Watson of skepchick states, “I’m a supporter of animal rights who eats a mostly vegetarian diet (I occasionally eat fish). I support organizations like the Humane Society and the SPCA, and I would support PETA if they didn’t make a habit of lying, misrepresenting scientific data, and using images of dehumanized scantily clad and nude women to get money and attention.” It’s an ongoing issue for women that advertisers consistently objectify female sexuality in order to sell a product or an idea, and there has been outrage that PETA would do the same – sometimes to the point where an advertisement is banned – in order to generate such an important topic of conversation throughout society.
In Emily Gaarder’s book, Women and the Animal Rights Movement (2011), she analyses the perspectives of women activists on the sexualized campaigns released by PETA. According to Gaardner (2011), 44% of the women interviewed completely opposed PETA’s ads, whereas 26% felt mixed feelings towards them. The remaining women supported the ads, claiming that it was important to do whatever it takes to get their message across to consumers, and that the advertisements do well in attracting attention to the organization (Gaarder, 2011). The women’s activists opposed to the PETA advertisements disagreed with these notions. For example, Diane “…wished that the animal rights movement would have a better understanding of the way ‘women are all victims of this kind of advertising in our culture, in the fact that we’re supposed to be so beautiful and unnatural’,” (Gaarder, 2011, pp. 120).
An organization campaigning for the better treatment of animals shouldn’t need to further the unfair treatment of women in the media in order to grab consumers’ attention and get their point across. The nudity and various other sexual themes of the campaigns are merely for shock value, and the “I’d rather go naked” statement only appears to have been thrown in there to justify the sexualized images. Instead of raising awareness for animal rights and promoting animal activism, the nudity of the celebrities gracing the pages of the campaigns steals the spotlight, and suddenly the advertisement becomes about the naked celebrity – not better treatment of animals.
The above advertisement about the boyfriend’s sex life improving upon becoming vegan yet another example of PETA desperately trying to gain attention for a campaign that doesn’t even relate to sex. Shock value can be an effective tool in advertising, but there is a fine line between using sex as a selling point and shamefully objectifying both men and women unnecessarily.
- Gaarder, Emily. “The Animals Come First” – Using Sex(ism) to Sell Animal Rights in Women and the Animal Rights Movement. Piscataway, NJ, USA: Rutgers University Press, 2011. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 2 March 2016. Copyright © 2011. Rutgers University Press. All rights reserved.