Commentary Forum 6/7/11

PETA’s Pitiful Ads

By Rana Odeh

Rana Odeh

Rana Odeh

We’ve all seen the vulgar PETA ads in which celebrities jump at the chance to be nude in something that doesn’t carry the same stigma as Playboy or Hustler, so the general public has a pretty good idea of the extremes that PETA goes to in order to attract attention. However, I wouldn’t have guessed the ultimate low that it has stooped to this time, creating an ad out of a tragic real-life horror story.

In 2011, Dayton resident China Arnold was found guilty of putting her 28-day-old baby girl in the microwave and “cooking” her to death. PETA’s newest ad is a new low, directly playing off of baby Paris’ tragic death for which Arnold was recently sentenced to life in prison. The death of a baby girl should never be mocked, no matter what the reason or “cause.” For many reasons, a baby girl who suffered her mother’s atrocious act should never be compared to a pork chop.

If their goal is one of efficacy, with their extreme billboards and ads, the one mocking the death of a baby is likely to upset many people, — human rights organizations, churches and families — but it is not an equivalent that would make people stop eating meat. Eating animals is not illegal and nobody would be sent to life in prison for putting a pork chop in the microwave — this ad is just extreme, distasteful, insensitive and rude. This is the shared feeling among the many billboard companies that have refused to display PETA’s wretched ad. Whether it was their personal feelings or just a wise business decision, the billboard companies who refused to put PETA’s ad up, made the right choice. The ad would be the death of whatever billboard company agreed to display it.

For an organization that advocates the “ethical treatment of animals,” they often choose unethical means of advertisement or what they call “public outreach.” PETA exploits women in their semi-pornographic images of them in their advertisements, to get a message of animal exploitation across to a large population. There are the anti-fur ads (that I would never show to a child) in which women are exhibited as pieces of meat for men, and then there are the ads with women drawn into portions of meat cuts, directly comparing females to meat. This new proposed ad of comparing a dead baby girl to a pork chop is just going too far. The women who choose to be sprawled across an ad at least have that choice; baby Paris does not. If PETA really wants the world to go vegan, I suggest it makes more child appropriate ads, because kids are the most likely group to actually stop eating meat if they see something that disgusts them. The pictures of naked women are not disgusting anybody, except for feminists.

In all their inefficient efforts to reach the public and to convince people to adopt vegan diets, PETA’s financial statement shows that the organization spent $11,081,144 in 2010. Who has that much money to spend on telling people what to eat? You’d figure the organization has something better to spend its money on than a sign that says, “Go Vegan.”

Seriously, it’s worse than those costly billboards that impose their views on abortion, on every single person that drives by it. At least the people who spend money posting those signs are defending human life and can claim some religious purpose, but “Don’t Eat Animals” — really? Well, those signs are not getting anybody to stop eating meat or translating cow to beef, pig to pork, deer to venison, chicken to Buffalo wings and fish to seafood. PETA is spending an extremely disproportionate amount on their extreme ads, they are targeting the wrong group (their target group seems to be lonely men), and they are contradicting their claim of ethics with their ad choices.

First, it’s nobody’s business to tell me what to eat. Second, animals were not randomly placed on this earth for us not to eat. And third, if you cared about animals so much and that was your real purpose for these vulgar ads, wouldn’t you rather spend money “rescuing” animals or something of that sort? I understand they needed the publicity to get all the donations since PETA is a non-profit organization, but they got the attention already. Why are they still spending over $11 million on public outreach? That’s one third their reported contribution amount for 2010, which is an extremely disproportionately high number compared to the amount they spend on actual “rescue” efforts, just over $1 million.

Their spending is misguided, which makes me question their purpose; perhaps the rescue of animals has taken a step behind their fame and publicity stunts. Sooner or later, their $11 million of unethical advertisements will backfire on them and PETA will have to consider other methods of advertisement, and may also start spending their money where an animal rights organization should spend it — on protecting animals.

Rana Odeh is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in English and Philosophy.  Her research and writings focus on issues of race, class and gender.  She can be reached at

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