« Running in the hail | Main | Uneasy coalitions »

February 22, 2005


La Lubu

I cannot stand PETA, and I don't wear fur. It's more than their holier-than-thou attitude. They are sexist, they are fatphobic (and especially push fatphobia onto women. A woman has to be quite scrawny before PETA wouldn't refer to her as "fat"), and during one campaign they made light of the Holocaust by comparing Jews in concentration camps with pigs lined up for slaughter. Pigs! For crying out loud, I swear PETA's only agenda is self-promotion and pissing people off. If they really wanted folks to do some self-examination, they'd use different tactics. They don't. They are the Left version of fundamentalists...it's all a dance of "I think I'm better than you."


Well, I am prepared to countenance the Holocaust remark, simply because I do understand that it is possible to regard all life as utterly equal -- a pig, a person, a cow, a mink, etcetera. I don't share that position necessarily, but I don't see it in as offensive a light as you do.

PETA's tactics are often unhelpful, and yet their campaigns do succeed in raising awareness, even if it comes at the high price of infuriating potential allies.


I find some of PETA's tactics to be a bit too extreme and offensive. How can you raise awareness for your cause if all you do is offend and even drive off any interests that would possibly support your anti-fur and proper treatment for animals campaign? Fur really doesn't sit well with me either and I am all for treating animals compassionately, but I just don't agree with PETA's Machiavellian tactics.

PS: Hugo, I think I'm one of the only carnivores and leather wearing feminists on your blogroll. Yeah, actually, I probably am the only one :-/


"Well, I am prepared to countenance the Holocaust remark, simply because I do understand that it is possible to regard all life as utterly equal -- a pig, a person, a cow, a mink, etcetera. I don't share that position necessarily, but I don't see it in as offensive a light as you do."

When animal-rights activists use the "pig = human = mink = rat" tactic, those who already dislike pigs/minks/rats assume that it means that we should treat people like animals (and they believe in treating animals poorly, so they figure that means we want to treat human beings poorly). What it REALLY means is that we don't want to LOWER respect for humans to that of respect for animals, but rather ELEVATE respect for animals to that of respect for humans. In other words, it isn't that we want to "treat people like animals," but rather that we want to "treat animals like people."

"PETA's tactics are often unhelpful, and yet their campaigns do succeed in raising awareness, even if it comes at the high price of infuriating potential allies."

In addition to being opposed to PETA's support of certain fields of medical research that destroy human life, I also find some of the emphasis on sex that some of my fellow vegetarians endorse to be distasteful. I don't so much mean the nudity factor -- because nudity and sex are two different things -- but rather bumper stickers like, "EAT PEOPLE, NOT ANIMALS". I am embarrassed to be associated with such a vulgar public message, and I think it paints vegetarians in a light that isn't really helpful or necessary.

La Lubu

Pseudo-Adrienne, I too am a feminist and leather-wearing meat-eater. ;)

But that's not why PETA pisses me off. The Jewish community here took strong issue with being compared to pigs; and held a simultaneous anti-PETA event when PETA unveiled their photo-op of concentration camp survivors and pigs. If PETA can't figure out why that ruse would be insensitive, to say the least, they need to fire whoever is doing their PR. Hello! Pigs are not kosher. It was the consensus of the Jewish community here that the PETA stunt was an insult at their expense...and that included many Jewish vegetarians. Both the Reform and Conservative synagogues were out there.

And I'm not kidding about the fatphobia directed at women. Hugo, I don't see how you can put up a post about the young women in your classes starving themselves, yet not call PETA on promoting that attitude.

And speaking of campus promotions, how 'bout that PETA anti-milk campaign that recommended college students chug beer instead? This, on campuses where alcohol abuse (and corresponding date rape) is already a problem?! They were also pushing the idea to young women that milk makes you fat. And isn't that the worst thing for a woman to be? Bah. PETA is worthless. They do not accomplish what they claim to. They don't "increase awareness". They alienate potential allies.


La Lubu, folks have often wondered how I can be pro-life and work in concert with pro-choice feminists. Ultimately, if I only supported those organizations that met all my criteria, I'd be the sole member of the Hugo Schwyzer fan club and not much else. I support NOW even though I am pro-choice; I support PETA even though I find their advertising problematic. I agree they alienate potential allies, but I am willing to look past that. I am not willing, however, to remain silent about it.

La Lubu

Hugo, have you heard of Friends of Animals? They hold the same beliefs regarding animal rights but also take a strong, vocal stand against sexism. Check them out.

PETA has been called out on their sexism many times by people and groups who are or would be allies, including Friends of Animals, Eco-Feminists, About-Face, Ms. Magazine, and others. I used to frequent a couple of (now defunct) parenting boards where the majority of members were vegetarians and/or vegans, and dislike of PETA was near universal because of their stance on women.

Now yeah, you could say that to take a controversial stand, you're gonna tick off a few people. However, when you consistently, over a period of years, refuse to take into account the heartfelt critiques of allies, members, and others who hold many of the same positions....let's just say it makes me call their whole mission into question.

Anyway, do check out Friends of Animals. You may find them a better fit with your values.


I support NOW even though I am pro-choice

Ampersand finally got to you?

Re: PETA. Ugh. I agree with them on numerous issues (certainly fur, generally meat, certainly frivolous cosmetics testing, certainly not medical testing), but I find them absolutely impossible. Confrontational and direct can be good social movement tactics, but they should be chosen strategically. PETA seems to choose to pick fights designed to make them look like marginal weirdos to 90% of the population. In the course of a respectful conversation, I can convince most decent folks we should do more to relieve the suffering of animals in our society than we do. PETA lobbying to not allow a condemned murderer to have to eat a vegetarian meal can undo that sort of progress really quickly.

I actually view PETA and radical pro-life prohibitionists in a similar light--their behavior certainly makes it appear as though ideological correctness and public assertions or moral superiority are a much higher priority than doing the work to actually decrease the harm and suffering they exist to oppose.

The Birdwoman

Psuedo-Adrienne: another omnivorous, leather-wearing feminist here.

I don't know all that much about PETA - they're not as big here in the UK - but what I've heard about them makes me unwilling to support them. In general, I'm very wary of "animal rights" organisations. While I'm a firm supporter of animal welfare, I think that a lot of animal rights organisations a) don't know what they're talking about (in the case of "anti-vivisectionists") and b) use terrible tactics that are completely irresponsible and (sometimes) morally reprehensible.


PETA lobbying to not allow a condemned murderer to have to eat a vegetarian meal can undo that sort of progress really quickly.

A badly mangled sentence on my part, I of course meant that PETA was lobbying to not allow him to eat meat in his last meal.


Again, PETA has managed to make being cruelty-free hip -- and that is not a small achievement, particularly when other forces (like hip-hop) are idealizing fur. That doesn't mean they haven't badly miscalculated, but they have also brought folks into the animal rights movement who might otherwise never have considered adopting at leasta partially cruelty-free lifestyle.

They oppose the work that Matilde has been doing with Pet Homes for Ranchies, because PHFR works in partnership with pelters. PETA doesn't want any negotiation with those who pelt; PHFR wants to put them out of business by making it financially rewarding to sell their herds for adoption rather than pelting. Of course, we hope to drive them out of business too, but in the meantime, we'll negotiate.

ms. b

Another omnivorous leather-wearing feminist right here!

To be perfectly honest, though it pains me to admit it, I'm not big on the animal rights thing. I don't think animals should suffer, but I'm not convinced it's morally wrong to kill and eat an animal. The pigs = rats = mink = Jews argument is so incredibly offensive to me; how can killing animals for food be the same as the Holocaust, in anyone's estimation? The whole thing baffles me.

I agree with The Birdwoman; most animal rights "activists" I've known are either very holier-than-thou (or should that be "veganer"?) or unconcerned about the suffering they cause humans to end animal suffering.


Well, then this animal-rightser has to do a better job of presenting a better, more nuanced picture, of animal rights and its link to feminism and non-violence issues.


Wow, I'm not alone in my eating habits and choice of jackets and coats. Whew. I guess I was too presumptuous.

Anyway...remember, PETA isn't the only pro-animal rights group. There are other groups that people can join and help animals. And you don't have to believe in the tactics used by PETA in order to be a pro-animal rights activist. I just don't understand why some groups regardless of their stance on an issue believe that there has to be an exclusive and even dogmatic policy in their activism.


I suspect you'll never catch the CVA (http://www.christianveg.com/) with a naked woman on their web page! They hardly wield the same influence as PETA, though...


I'm semi into animal rights and a vegetarian, though I don't find eating meat to be morally wrong necessarily, just not my choice. But PETA just crosses a line--I tend to agree that they are more about getting attention than actually helping animals. There are many, many, many animal rights groups that are less glamorous attention hogs that do far more for animal welfare to give your money to. I would recommend no kill shelters/adoption centers. There is never enough money for them, since there is an endless supply of animals that need homes and they have to turn away far more animals than they take in, animals that often end up being put down.

You might also be interested in donating your money to your local feral cat program and/or low cost vet clinic. These organizations are the ones that actually reduce animal suffering by improving animal health. Low cost clinic donations are double the value for your donation--they both help animals and low income people that rely on their services for their pets. All of the above organizations are usually begging for volunteers, as well.

In my never humble opinion, you do more good for the animals to get your pet from an adoption shelter, which frees a bed, gets money to the shelter, and introduces one more neutered animal into the community than PETA would ever do with your donation. They suck money away from people who need the money more.

La Lubu

"PETA has managed to make being cruelty-free hip..."

Yeah, the same way MTV made wearing "Porn Star" (and various knock-offs) T-shirts hip. Big deal. I'm female. That "hipness" is coming at my expense, not yours. PETA even ran a campaign promoting rubber BDSM products as a replacement for leather...yeah, that sure demonstrates a lot of "hipness". That's really questioning the dominant paradigm, huh?

ms. b

no doubt everyone will have seen this anti-PETA resource but here it is again just in case. (May not be entirely worksafe, reproductions of PETA ads from Playboy)

La Lubu

ms. b: that's a good resource.

The Friends of Animals site reminded me of a letter to the editor published in the Utne Reader (I remember reading that one and saying, hell yeah!) where a reader took PETA to task for their anti-fur campaign (at the time) being cowardly and anti-female (btw, it was a male reader). He pretty much said that it's easy for PETA folks to stand outside of ritzy stores and catcall the rich (usually older) women wearing fur, because they have no fear of retribution. Let 'em try that outside the local biker bar, catcalling the leather-wearing Harley dudes.

Just another way in which PETA makes press at the expense of women. Oh, and compromises their so-called ethics, too. They wouldn't be so "hip" if they made stronger anti-leather statements, would they?


Well, La Lubu, there's a class element to that as well. Most fur is worn only by the wealthy (including men, increasingly); bikers tend to come from a different socio-economic status.

Lee, that's a great site.

Look, I'm not a PETA member. But I'm not going to waste much time directing my wrath at my ostensible allies. A gentle rebuke, sure, but then back to the larger struggle.

La Lubu

I guess I'm riding your ass here Hugo, but damn! larger struggle defined by whom? PETA earns my wrath by disregarding my struggle; by perpetuating old, tired stereotypes and images of women (you did check out the site ms. b posted? you did see the film of the guy beating a fur-wearing woman with a ballbat, right?).

PETA has proven themselves time and again that they are not my ally. Time and again they continue to promote negative imagery of women and promote women as targets. Am I to understand that you do not consider this to be of (much)importance?


Ms. B's site is blocked by my college's filter, so it will have to wait. If there is a woman being beated, I am appalled. Spraypainting fur coats in public is defensible, assault is not.

La Lubu, please. I'm not defending everything PETA does. My whole post was a criticism of PETA. But I will not throw the baby out with the bathwater, and refuse to have anything to do with an organization that has played a significant role in raising consciousness about atrocities committed daily in this country. Do I decry their tactics? You bet. Would I decry them publicly? Hell, yes. But do I need ideological purity in order to contribute to an organization, no.

Have I given much evidence that I recklessly disregard women's safety? Does the fact that you and I disagree strongly about animal rights mean that my commitment to justice for women must be called into question? Perhaps so.

La Lubu

The "beating" was staged; it was a campaign of "what if you were killed for your coat?" The woman was not wearing much under the coat, so her "dead body" displayed the usual PETA-required amount of skin. How I interpreted this clip was that it is a sexualization of violence. I fail to see how this particular clip does anything to promote the idea that animals shouldn't be killed for their fur. It does give PETA a certain amount of "cache" for being "outlaws", y'know, for their willingness to show so much female skin. Like that's anything challenging, or radical.

As for being real outlaws, like say, standing outside the local biker joint catcalling and pouring paint on the leather jackets of the Outlaws....let's just say I don't see PETA advocating that ever.

And I'll address the rest in the other post.


Sorry, Hugo, I have to jump on the riding-your-ass campaign here. You are doing the opposite of what you claim. You say that you're looking at PETA's larger message and discounting smaller transgressions--when what you're really doing is ignoring and making excuses for PETA's sexist, anti-Semitic, obnoxious behavior simply because you agree with their stated message. (And have they changed their stance that owning pets, sorry, 'companion animals' is a bad thing? Do you think PETA applauds owning chinchillas?)

From what I have seen--and I live in the Bay Area fercryinoutloud--PETA's main accomplishment is to convince otherwise sympathetic omnivores, and potential supporters, that vegans and animal-rights activists are self-righteous, violence-towards-people-loving, bigoted buffoons of the sort many of us were glad to have seen the back of our sophomore year in college.

I am especially flabbergasted by this quote: Frankly, though I do not generally condone the destruction of property, I won't utter a single word of criticism against those who choose more direct action against the producers and purveyors of animal coats. Imagine putting some other phrase after that word "against"...say, abortion clinics, or les/bi/gay community centers, or conservative churches, and see whether you are quite as fine and dandy with that. Because what you're really saying is that you don't oppose destroying property as long as you think the people who own the property are in the moral wrong.

Way to be consistent and moral, Hugo. I'll be back here pondering how much like a pig I am, having the double whammy of being a Jew and a size 8, which is by PETA standards probably obese.


Hmmm. I'm trying to figure out how my post which was written to call PETA to account ended up being interpreted as a ringing defense of everything they do.

I do think nonviolent action is appropriate. I compare vandalizing coats or fur farms to vandalizing missile silos (ala the Jonah Community and the Berrigan brothers). Property and people are different things. Fur farms are places of torture, mythago -- genuine, horrific torture (watch the videos available many places, I'll send you a link if you like). Those who blithely wear the product of that torture deserve to be confronted, but not assaulted.

PETA is very clear that adopting animals is acceptable.

Here is PETA's current position on companion animals:

Adopting a cat or dog from a shelter and providing a loving home is a small but powerful way to prevent some of this suffering. The most important thing that animal guardians can do is to spay or neuter their animals and avoid buying animals from breeders or pet stores, which contribute to the overpopulation crisis.

Mythago, as far as I know, that has been PETA's stance for several years.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004