PETA – The vegan love-hate relationship

As a 15 year old kid, I was into a lot of punk and nu-metal, that whole thing. I listened to a huge number of bands, and followed them on Myspace and their email lists. For anyone who’s into similar music, particularly the punk scene, you will know about the large proportion of vegetarian and vegan musicians out there.

Some of those bands I loved (and still do love) who happened to be vegetarians/vegans included Rise Against, Goldfinger, and Strike Anywhere, to name but a few. Now, these bands had ties with an organisation called ‘PETA‘ and supported ‘animal rights.’

At the time, that meant very little to me. I mean, I thought hunting sucked, and people who wore fur were douchebags. But I ate meat and loved it, and wore leather without even considering that it was an animal’s skin.

I got an email through from one of the bands to sign a petition against Chinese fur farms on PETA’s website. Thinking ‘right, fur does suck, I’ll sign!’ I opened up the link, and watched the accompanying shock video. Two minutes later, cringing back in my seat from what I had just watched, I signed the petition and began browsing PETA’s site and resources. A couple of months later I was a fully-fledged vegetarian, and a few years after that, a vegan.

In the past week, PETA published this video and campaign:

This is yet another of a long string of offensive and obscure campaigns run by that same organisation that set me on the animal rights trail in the first place.

Other highlights from PETA’s past include a large string of misogynistic, sex-sells style adverts with nude female celebrities, holocaust comparison posters displayed in Germany of all places, and (my personal favourite) a number of anti-video game campaigns against the likes of Super Meat Boy, Cooking Mama, and, most bizarrely, Super Mario.

Tactful doesn't seem to be in PETA's dictionary

I want to ignore, if you will, issues with PETA supporting convicted animal rights terrorists as that opens up a huge ethical black hole surrounding animal testing and morality of methods used to stop it. I know where my opinions lie on these issues, but you should decide for yourself. Just so you know though, PETA has supported convicted members of the animal liberation movement in the past.

I want to primarily focus on PETA as a resource and as an associate of the vegan movement. In this regard, PETA is now something of a joke. The organisation is routinely ridiculed and parodied from all sides (including in an infamous South Park episode), and unfortunately this organisation is now the face of veganism and animal rights.

It’s not just embarrassing campaigns though. PETA is hated by vegans for their policies and treatment of animals. One incident which sticks out in my mind was over a device called the Crustastun. This device, which kills lobsters more quickly and humanely than boiling water received approval from PETA. PETA then hosted an event in which they invited a load of seafood fanatics to come and eat humanely killed lobster, but forgot to get the Crustastun devices shipped in time. So…

  1. PETA, a devout animal rights organisation, supports the killing of lobsters for consumption so long as it’s done humanely.
  2. They organised an event in which they’d use the Crustastun device to kill a few hundred lobsters for seafoodists.
  3. The Crustastun devices failed to turn up, so PETA used traditional methods to boil the lobsters alive, rather than cancelling the event altogether. Wouldn’t wanna upset those seafood fans now, would we?!

Face palm to the max

Despite all of this though I still find myself utilising PETA’s resources on a regular basis. Their animal testing database is woefully incorrect and often contains companies which use animal tested ingredients (I recommend Uncaged or BUAV for trustworthy lists), however it can often be a gateway to finding some companies which are worth supporting.

They also offer an excellent free vegetarian/vegan starter kit, which I still recommend to people looking to go veggie. They also have a great recipe database available online to browse.

Perhaps most importantly though, PETA has brought more light to some abhorrent issues in the world than any other organisation that I can think of. These issues include the Chinese fur farms, animal testing in cosmetics, and Canadian seal hunting. They have changed a lot in these areas, and drummed up a massive amount of support.

Their campaigns in these areas have been relatively mature, intelligent, and well-targetted. I’m sure there are actually very few who don’t back them. Yet then they go and piss themselves by claiming that Super Meat Boy is the most evil character in videogame history, and put together a campaign against the game.

Why does this happen? My thoughts are that, whilst some of PETA’s causes are easy to support, a positive thing is not actually that newsworthy. We love controversy, cynicism, and negativity. If someone fucks up, it’s fun to hate on them. They will be the centre of news attention. PETA is playing on this to grab attention for itself, but is damaging the animal rights movement in the process.

In the end, I feel PETA is kinda like that friend I’m sure we all have. The person you invite on a night out who gets obscenely drunk and makes a massive dick out of themselves (leaving you to apologise to all your other friends for his/her behaviour). However, when you’re in private, they’ve actually got a lot to them, and that’s the side of them that you wish everyone else would appreciate.

Anyways, that’s my personal stand on PETA, and I guess I’ll always feel like I owe them a little seeing as they turned me vegetarian in the first place, but I’d love to hear some more views. What do you think of PETA? And, to you, how important are they as an organisation?

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7 responses to this post.

  1. I love your analogy of PETA to that “friend we all have”…so fitting. Great analysis. I try not to bring up PETA whenever possible vegans are inquiring about stuff.

    I just don’t understand why PETA continually promotes other forms of oppression (violence against women, lobster murdering-news to me, etc) in order to end other forms of oppression (insert whatever current campaign PETA has going on- fur, gestation crates…).

    Reply

    • Posted by flouncel on February 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks very much for the kind words!

      Yeah it’s a real shame, they used to be an organisation with integrity. Now I’m not sure what their aim is. Is it furthering animal rights, or is it just getting in the news?

      Reply

  2. Excellent post!! PETA and HSUS are often considered off limits to critizisam in the vegan world but let’s be real, they both went corproate a long time ago.

    Again, great post. Thank you !!!

    Reply

    • Posted by flouncel on February 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Thanks Debbie! Yep they both have dark sides to them for sure. It’s too bad as there are a lot of wonderful charities out there doing great vegan work, but they don’t get any coverage whatsoever.

      Reply

    • Posted by flouncel on February 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks Aaron, nice article. Could you illustrate why you disagree with me though? That was not clear from your link. Seems like we are on the same page here?

      Reply

  3. […] few pounds by following a plant-based diet as a hero. At times, the vegan community is at danger of becoming like PETA who seemingly lauds any celebrity as an animal rights activist simply because they said ‘I […]

    Reply

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