Another post where I bash PETA and invite a flame war

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, October 17, 2008 1:51 EDT
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From Feministing, further evidence that PETA president Ingrid Newkirk is wading in the shallow end of the IQ pool. She was challenged in an interview on PETA’s obnoxious habit of using animal love and guilt trips to get young women to undress in public for their publicity stunts, and she was, as expected, unable to grapple intelligently with the critique.

MJ: I guess I just feel that there are so many more women who are vegetarians than male and I don’t know if these campaigns are to raise general awareness or appeal to heterosexual males. What do these campaigns bring for PETA?

IN: It’s a biological fact, isn’t it, that people are drawn to breasts and whathaveyou, it’s just a biological fact.

It almost feels trite to point out that the “biological fact” excuse is exactly the one used by meat eaters, is it not? Our bodies digest meat, and we crave it. Therefore it’s justified. End of story.

Or, you could have a more nuanced view of the situation, which is to say, yes, there’s nothing wrong either with the desire to eat meat or look at boobies, but as moral human beings, we should consider the effects of our actions. I don’t anticipate a world where everyone is a vegetarian, nor do I really desire that. But it would be useful if people considered the horrible effects on the economy, the environment, and just on our collective character that come from the “3 times a day” meat eating habits of Americans. Similarly, there’s not a problem in any individual act of looking at boobies, and in fact, looking at boobies is a fine part of life that I have no desire to deprive anyone of. But it’s important to consider the effects of reducing all women to sexual objects whose minds, talents, and character are irrelevant. And PETA’s approach—telling young volunteers, “Love animals? Get naked.”—absolutely reduces young women to sex objects. The more they scream, “Sex sells!”, the more they confirm the belief that young women have nothing to offer the world but their attention-grabbing boobies, and older women have nothing to offer the world at all. That their president is a woman has no more bearing on the basic gist of this problem than Sarah Palin’s high station is a move forward for women’s rights.

Blah, blah, I’m sure they do more than that. But I never hear about it, which of course is the point. They’ve moved from being an obnoxious absolutist group on animal rights that has less of a grasp on the complexities of our relationships with animals than anti-choicers have on human sexuality and reproduction to a sex and guilt roadshow. They’re worthless. Meanwhile, they give ammo to the right who wants to attack those of us who are interested in realistic approaches to reducing animal suffering. PETA is no more about helping animals than the National Right To Life is about “life”. It’s about sitting around stroking yourself over how morally superior you are because you make entirely unrealistic demands (that humans quit using animals for anything, that people basically stop fucking). In fact, the fantastical nature of the demands is precisely the appeal. Because they will never, ever be met, you can imagine that you’re one of the select few people in this world with a real morality, like you’re a saint swimming in a sea of sin.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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