Serious Vegans and PETA

As I begin this post, I find that I have so much to say in frustration with PETA that I hardly know where to begin. So I'll start with the organization's most recent advertisement:

Trigger Warning: Depictions of Violence Against Women:

Now let's look at another PETA campaign from 2009.

Here's what the Huffington Post had to say about it. Here's what the Feministe blog had to say. Both give good context to the advertisement and to PETA's treatment of women's bodies in general.

Beyond the misogyny, fat shaming and sexualization of violence against women, which are themselves appalling, PETA is an aggressive euthanizer of animals, and most of them are not suffering from abuse, neglect or disease. In fact, as a former member of the Augustus Club, PETA's legacy society, I would warn prospective donors against willing their companion animals into PETA's care. Those animals will likely be put to death as soon as they arrive at the organization's office.*

Ryan Patey calls PETA the awkward uncle at the vegan family dinner because it often says or does something that shocks and embarrasses everyone else. Erik Marcus believes PETA needs a Terminator, a public relations person who can keep the organization from putting its foot in its mouth and making the animal rights movement look bad. I think PETA needs to stop hiding its outrageous euthanasia record behind its reputation as an advocate for animals, and I think its treatment of women is unforgivable. As my fellow vegans have said before me, it isn't okay to end the exploitation of one species at the expense of another. Period.

As a longtime vegan, I have been unavoidably saddled with PETA's baggage from time to time. Many people presume that because of my ethics, I must support the most vocal animal rights organization in the world. So they bring their complaints about PETA to me, as if by finding fault with the organization they might also find fault with all vegans and the ethical ideals we espouse. Since vegans are already subject of so much animosity, and since so many people dismiss vegans altogether when we fail to achieve an impractical standard of perfection, this is deeply problematic. We find ourselves hobbled by PETA's stupidity and embarrassed by its approach, even as we support whatever successes it achieves toward an end to animal suffering.

PETA could be doing so much more. It could be highlighting the abuses of animals in ways that encourage advocacy. It could be promoting the health benefits of the vegan lifestyle without using women's bodies as things to be sexualized or shamed. It could use part of its budget to help the thousands of dogs and cats it kills every year to find permanent homes. But it doesn't, and as long as it doesn't, it remains a millstone around the ankles of serious animal activists everywhere and a harm to the very beings it purports to protect.

*Talk with your veterinarian and your attorney about estate planning for your companion animals. They're the experts, and together they can help you ensure the well-being of the animals you love in the event of your death.