Commentary Forum Topic 6/7/11

Outdoor media: Cowardly? Or, socially responsible?

The infamous PETA ad.

In their mission statement, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) define their organization as “the largest animal rights organization in the world.” PETA claims their first priority above all else is animal liberation. And let’s be clear, from PETA’s point of view, one doesn’t liberate an animal by lathering it in barbecue sauce and slapping it on the grill. PETA believes in a vegetarian lifestyle for all, and has made it their mission to convince us that all humans need to give up our carnivorous ways, becoming herbivores. Their philosophy is that it’s the ethical thing to do for the animals (not eating them) and it’s also better for the environment.

The challenge for PETA is that many Americans enjoy our non-vegetarian lifestyle. In order to challenge that, PETA is perhaps best known as an organization which commits outrageous acts in order to shock the consciences of those who do not yet follow their philosophy. There is little doubt that most would view their tactics as shocking; some would even say disturbing. From disturbing and graphic ad campaigns showing the inside story of slaughterhouses, to publicity stunts using Hollywood royalty to strut their naked bodies in a protest of wearing animal fur, PETA’s approach to their cause is to force non-vegetarian fur wearers into contrition and a change of heart. If you click around the PETA organization’s website, it won’t take long to find heart wrenching pictures and shocking videos of abused animals. Often, these pictures are taken in slaughterhouses and meant to promote vegetarianism. Because of their shocking tactics, PETA has gained more publicity than other animal rights organizations.

PETA has many critics who argue that PETA has become too extreme in its agenda. In recent years PETA has been financially linked to groups who have been classified as eco-terrorist organizations. There is also a recent story about how ineffective PETA has been in the operation of the one animal shelter that it operates. With the millions of dollars PETA makes every year, they have a grand total of one animal shelter. As much as PETA advocates an animal’s right to fair and ethical treatment, this is not a “no kill” shelter. In fact, PETA has killed roughly 85% of the animals its shelter has “rescued.”

However, many supporters view the PETA organization as the strongest voice of animal rights in the U.S. due to their many successes. Many stories cited on their website include victories after PETA investigations, including this story: “Undercover investigations of pig-breeding factory farms in North Carolina and Oklahoma revealed horrific conditions and daily abuse of pigs, including the fact that one pig was skinned alive, leading to the first-ever felony indictments of farm workers.” With more and more Americans becoming conscious of what they eat, and the recent popularity of vegan and vegetarian diet and lifestyle changes, some might view PETA as being stronger than ever.

PETA made local news when it attempted to put up local billboards with a message that linked the recent conviction of China Arnold, a mother who was accused of microwaving her 28-day-old baby with the cooking of meat. Despite its efforts, PETA failed to find a billboard company that would accept the message. With the text reading “Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby. Go Vegan,” the billboard was to feature two images: a mother pig nuzzling her piglet and a person about to place a pork chop in a microwave oven. The PETA campaign drew sharp criticism from the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which said the ad compared black people to animals.

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