People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long used shock value to encourage people to ditch fur and eat vegan—and that hasn’t always helped its popularity. Now, many are accusing its latest campaign of sexism, as it appears to compare animal slaughter to rape and human trafficking.At the beginning of the ad, women appear to be describing sexual assault, using language common to many stories of rape and abuse. “One man held me down while another one touched me,” says one woman. “They use my body,” said another. However, by the end of the ad, it’s revealed that the women have been the voices of animals kept in slaughterhouses. PETA argues that these animals are subject to forcible insemination through rape.
Many are saying the organization has gone too far in their comparison.The Daily Dot has reached out to PETA regarding the ad and the ensuing backlash, but hasn't heard back as of this posting. This isn’t the first time PETA has made some troubling comparisons, however. In 2005, it launched a traveling exhibit called “Are Animals the New Slaves?” full of images of lynchings and slavery next to animals in captivity. In 2011, it used similar imagery in its “Glass Walls” campaign. It also tried to link drinking milk to autism, a claim that it could not back up with any research.
The thing is, there are plenty of arguments for not wearing fur and going vegan that don’t involve comparisons to rape victims and slavery. Animals do not need to be compared to humans for people to have compassion, and ads like this will always anger people and possibly retraumatize victims.
In response to a tweet from @UnburntWitch, who said, “No survivor of sexual assault should have to go through their trauma being compared to an animal's when we've already been dehumanized,” PETA responded that “acknowledging [sexual abuse] for animals doesn’t take it away from humans.”
Update Nov. 4, 7:58am CT: PETA President Ingrid Newkirk sent the following statement to the Daily Dot: "We are talking about rape: It is rape when someone sticks their hand into a vagina or rectum without permission. That’s the dictionary definition of rape. We believe that everyone should see the reality of dairy, meat, and egg production and then, unless they’re ethically blind, they will be appalled. Who can honestly complain about the sexual abuse of women if they accept the sexual abuse of other females who happen not to be human but have the same vulnerability to pain? Who can fill their mouth full of steak, bacon, or turkey when they realize that mother cows are routinely sexually abused and that their calves—their beloved offspring—are taken from them shortly after birth? Any woman (or man!) with a heart should scream bloody murder on behalf of the animals who can't scream it themselves."