The Objectification of Women and PeTA

Foreword: I am opposed to many components of the animal rights movement. I do not support the idea that animals have the same rights as humans, nor do I feel that animal emancipation is for the betterment of mankind or the animals. This post is one of the more confrontational posts I’ve written for this blog, but I feel the need to say it. Body image and its impact on young women is something I am very passionate about, and felt compelled to share my views on the animal rights industry and their exploitation of women.

I’ve had a problem with PeTA for most of my life. Even from an early age, I knew that they were “whackos.” While maturity and experience have shown me that name-calling and snap judgements are not any way to get through life, I continue to disagree with PeTA for many reasons. Their agenda to force veganism onto the general public goes against my beliefs of food choice and freedom. Their efforts to shock consumers into veganism by using worst-case-scenario bad actors in agriculture goes against my experiences on so many different farms across the country. Their methods for gaining attention for their cause is probably what disgusts me the most; they objectify women with the primary intent of using sexuality to encourage their agenda.

Found via I find it ironic that they use a rabbit in this logo, seeing as I spent several years raising rabbits for show, meat, and companionship as a 4-H and FFA project.

As a women, this infuriates me. As an advocate of healthy self-esteem and realistic body image, it saddens me. It isn’t the simple fact that PeTA uses women to try and bash the people I have chosen to spend my life working with. (While, that is a contributing factor, there is so much more.)

To try and better support my points, I’ll put it into list form. I’m not sure how to start eloquently, so I’ll dive right in:

  • Pop culture and media expose young women (and men, as well) to harsh pressures for image and appearance. This sort of approach is a slippery slope. By implying that one automatically becomes more sexy because of a vegan lifestyle can create an unrealistic image. Not every vegan (or vegetarian) out there has a model-esque body, just like not all meat-eaters are morbidly obese. If a young girl were to switch to veganism to obtain that body image, and did not have the desired results, what then? What would be the next logical step to reaching that unrealistic image?
  • Pamela Anderson is a perfect example of buying your beauty. She is a recurring member of PeTA’s cast of characters, and ups the unrealistic demands for to a new level. On this blog on plastic surgery by Dr. D, a well-established and much-trusted plastic surgeon based out of Orange County, CA, Anderson is one of the most scrutinized celebs…primarily because of her consistent “overdosing” on implants and injections, as well as her consistency of procedure. Is this really want we want to expose children to?
  • PeTA continues to push the objectification of human beings to a younger audience. PeTA2, the PeTA group geared towards targeting pre-teens and teenagers, holds polls on their website each year voting for the “Hottest Vegetarians.” While this may be socially acceptable in adult publications, this blatant sexuality seems a bit scandalous to be exposing children to.
  • As someone who struggles with issues like self esteem and body image, I see it as one more attack against the reality that “healthy” has many different appearances. Not everyone who is “healthy” is shaped like the models in these PeTA campaigns; not everyone who has that kind of body is healthy.
  • Sex sells, and PeTA is trying to sell a veganist agenda. This approach may have the impact of causing people to make rash decisions regarding their diets, which could lead to deficiencies and complications. If PeTA wanted to responsibly spread their message, they’d be doing so without objectifying women and with disclaimers and advice to properly promote health while sticking to vegan beliefs.

I think now is a good time to state that I don’t disagree with veganism or vegetarianism; I promote choice of lifestyle and freedom to follow the path that fits your beliefs and health best. However, PeTA’s agenda is not an internal thing. Many of their efforts are focused towards limiting options and taking away the freedom of choice in our food system. PeTA (and similarly, the Humane Society of the United States, aka HSUS) would like to see legislation passed to make meat consumption more costly and difficult.

It’s also valuable to point out that PeTA isn’t the only heinous contributor to this problem. Culture as a whole encourages girls to be more inappropriate and more self-demeaning from a younger age.

Factor in PeTA’s complete lack of ethical marketing, and you’ve got a pretty corrupt organization there. I mean, look at it this way: they value the welfare of food animals, over the emotional strength and well-being of the young people that are exposed to their foul propaganda. Do you think PeTA cares that they are contributing to the degradation of self esteem in North America? Do you think they acknowledge their part in growing rates of eating disorders, emotional damage, and lack of personal worth?

While my issues and disagreements with the animal rights movements are many and profound, this is one thing that PeTA does that really stands out to me as inappropriate and downright wrong. And as I said before, they may not be the only violators of this rule. Many industry use sex appeal and body image to sell a product or an idea. However, PeTA is using the promise of appearance to sell their ideals, and is traversing a dangerous and slippery slope.

So tell me, what’s your view on organizations objectifying women? If the models do so willingly, is it less offensive? Is it more suitable if it’s kept in adult-only venues, or should this sort of practice be limited? How do you think this impacts Freedom of Speech? Please, let me know via comments. I would like to see productive dialogue occurring about this issue.


13 thoughts on “The Objectification of Women and PeTA

  1. I think there is a time and place to objectify women (and men). However, my kindergartener’s classroom or my teenager’s reading material isn’t either.

    • I think it’s valuable to note the difference between objectifying, and just using sexuality, as well. On a tv show where there’s an attractive woman, that’s a display of sexuality. The way PeTA uses women is clearly an act of demeaning them to objects to be used. And I agree whole-heartedly. PeTA is much too aggressive about putting this material in the wrong places.

  2. I agree with you completely Kelly, and think that we need to do a better job at getting our side out to the public.

    That being said, I wish I could write as well as you so I could submit basically what you’ve written here to my local newspaper for publication in the “Reader’s Forum”.

    Thanks for what you do and lead on!

    • Thank you very much, Dean! While I have many oppositions to PeTA’s stance, this is just another reason to disagree with their views and tactics. I love the idea of animal welfare, but disagree with animal rights. The demoralization, demeaning, and objectification of women in their campaigns is just the icing on the cake!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and support. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Good post, Kelly. As you know, I tend to have pretty strong feminist views, so I pretty much agree wholeheartedly with every point you’ve made. I will add, however, that we’ve got our own work to do, as I unfortunately learned last week.

    I was NOT impressed with (“a new, innovative, educational and interactive site focused on all aspects of raising calves”, according to their website) at World Dairy Expo. They promoted the site by hiring models in short skirts and high heels to walk around the trade show handing out bags that featured a calf against the long legs and short skirt of some girl (a girl’s calves and a real calf – haha, get it?). While most think I’m too uptight about this, I don’t think it’s much better than what PeTA has chosen to do. We, as an industry, need to get our act together, as well.

    • Amanda, I agree whole-heartedly. I stopped by their booth when I visited World Dairy Expo, just because I had heard that it was a bit scandalous. I was not impressed, at all. If you believe enough in your product or cause, you should be able to find a good, comprehensive way to promote it without using sexuality. I find that especially true for an industry like ag, where family values are usually at the forefront of decision-making processes. While I do not agree with Calfology’s approach, I will say that a scantily glad model is the lesser of two evils when compared with PeTA’s use of full, partial, or near nudity in public places and on public venues. Also, their investment in an “animal rights fueled” pornography site is even more shocking.

      I agree, agriculture needs to make some improvements, but Calfology’s objectification is hardly as offensive or progressive as PeTA’s.

      • Oh, I would agree that the scale to which each uses sexuality is different. However, as the phrase goes (or as close to the phrase as I can get off the top of my head), we need to make sure our own house is clean before we start picking on someone else’s. We need to be willing to stand up and say, “PeTA’s not right, but neither is Calfology,” and both need to change if we are going to continue to improve society’s view of body image/sexuality for both women and men. After talking to several people about the Calfology display and models, I don’t think we’re ready to do that yet. Too many people got excited about hot women with skin showing (and, let’s face it, that’s why the PeTA ads work, too).

      • Great points, Amanda. We want to avoid hypocrisy. In adult-only, opt-in-only venues, it’s a different story. But, in open, family-friendly, public locations, this sort of campaign is hardly appropriate or beneficial. Myself and many other young women that I talked to agreed that Calfology was completely off-base and inappropriate. I would hope for better from a group that navigates such a family-friendly industry as agriculture. Even if children hadn’t been present at WDE, it’s hardly the sort of campaign that needs to have a presence at a fairly professional event. This is the sort of work I would expect from an adult brand like, say, a beer/liquor/wine company…not an educational, informational agriculture group.

        Great points, Amanda. We should focus on cleaning up ag’s act in widespread public outreach campaigns.

    • I was also disgusted when I saw the models and bags being handed out at WDE. I’ve been searching the internet for a picture of this bag to pass along to others who haven’t seen it, yet. The only one I could find was with a Hoard’s Dairyman article discussing the best freebies at Expo. It even went as far as to name it “bag of the year due to its sturdiness, size, and color”.

      It was bad enough that Calfology brought on this degrading design, but the Hoard’s Dairyman- the Bible of the Dairy Industry- endorsing this? Appalled doesn’t even begin to describe it! Has anyone else been able to find a picture of this bag?

      • I did not realize Hoard’s was promoting this! That saddens me. I may have to take a picture of the bag with my phone to post here, since I did take one as proof. I don’t have time to right now, but I’ll try to remember to later today as time is available. I get the “concept” is to look like you’re leading a calf, but the effect of the bag looking like a calf would be just as impressive with the model wearing jeans, or at least a longer skirt. I may have to write a follow-up to this post or at least add a segment in my next one about this.

        Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad Amanda and I (as well as the women I talked to at Expo) are not the only ones offended.

      • Yikes – what’s next a breast contest for people to go with the best udder. :-/ There’s a line that gets crossed too often. How about weightlifters at the beef expo. It seems this kind of thing does as much or more to put animals = people in the minds as animal rights saying “how would you like…”. I’m not a cow, and I doubt a cow would like to do what I do too.

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