PETA's Response

Monday, 20 February 2012

One of my blog readers emailed PETA in relation to my post on them below. She then forwarded me their automatic response, which is an exact copy of the excerpt copied and pasted by another reader who commented on my original PETA post. We both felt this subject is important enough to make their response public. Here's my reader's original email to PETA:

Dear PETA,

As a vegetarian who tries to eat organic, free-range and environmentally conscious, I think the fair treatment of animals is vital. I therefore find your cause an honorable one.

I am however, disgusted by your campaigns. Comparing the slaughter of animals to the holocaust is not only insensitive, but sickening.

The worst is your current 'Boyfriend went Vegan'.

Your aim is clearly to shock to get attention, but you have chosen the lowest common denominator for your approach.

How is this message, filled with abuse and distortion, supposed to inspire people to educate themselves to act for the fair treatment of animals?

Perhaps my reaction - any reaction at all - is what you are seeking. You have underestimated what your campaigns will do to the credibility of your cause.

I think you need to seriously reconsider your approach if your goal is to do something positive for the future of this planet.



And here's PETA's automatic response. Please note that the only thing I've edited from their email response is removing any links they provided within. I guess PETA feels it's a good opportunistic technique to provide an automatic response peppered with more links to their sites/campaigns that don't actually have anything to do with the email being sent to them, or the questions directed to them. I refuse to give their thoughtless and insensitive campaigns anymore publicity than I need to for the purpose of critique, so I have removed all their self-serving links. But I've indicated where such links originally appeared in the email:

Dear friend,

Thank you for contacting PETA about our BWVAKTBOOM website and videos [link].

We often do “shocking” things to get the word out about animal abuse. PETA’s job is to draw attention to animal suffering, and we have found that provocative tactics yield more attention than the facts alone, which, in today’s tabloid media, aren’t enough to attract interest. We use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages, and we often take a humorous approach to educating people about serious issues. Making people laugh is a great way to open them up to receiving more somber information. The situation is critical for billions of animals who are suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, and our goal is to make the public think. Sometimes this requires tactics, such as naked marches and colorful ad campaigns, that some people find outrageous or offensive. We welcome discussion about—and even criticism of—our ads and campaigns because we know that getting people talking is the first step in raising awareness.

We have found—and your message confirms—that people do pay more attention to our racier actions. Judging by the spike in visits to our websites generated by BWVAKTBOOM, this tactic is working, and more people than ever before are learning and thinking about going vegan. Billboards, print ads, and TV and radio airtime can cost millions of dollars, so PETA tries hard to think creatively about how to bring the animals’ message to the public. Our website and videos get the word out on the airwaves and in the public eye in ways that no amount of money spent on traditional advertising methods ever could.

As an organization staffed largely by feminist women, we would not do something that we felt exacerbated the very serious problems that women face. We abhor domestic violence and work to educate the public about how animal abusers often move on to human victims [link]. However, BWVAKTBOOM is not about domestic violence—it’s a public service announcement–style, tongue-in-cheek “warning” about the side effects of vegans’ healthy sex lives! We believe that no topic is taboo—including the benefits one reaps with a vegan in the bedroom.

Medical evidence indicates that meat and dairy products can lead to impotence because they clog the arteries that go to all organs, not just the heart. Consuming meat and dairy products is also linked to numerous other health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Doctors and nutritionists will tell you that the best way to prevent artery blockage and other conditions that cause impotence is to avoid meat and dairy products and to eat a diet high in fiber, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—in other words, a healthy, plant-based diet. To learn more about the link between eating meat and impotence, please visit [link].

To learn more about going vegan, order a vegetarian/vegan starter kit, or browse through meat-free recipes, visit [link].

To learn how you can get active to help animals, please go to [link].

Thank you again for writing and for sharing your thoughts with us.


The PETA Staff

There are many things that are clear from this response. Firstly, they don't actually bother to read the valid criticism directed at them, nor do they care to. This rather glibe and self-promotional response is basically typical of their approach in their campaigns: 'hey look at me, are you looking, I want some attention!' I had to laugh at the mention of 'feminist women' too, considering most of their campaigns work against feminism and the basic principle of treating women like human beings. Did it ever occur to them to focus on animals in their campaigns rather than abusing women and Holocaust victims?

Most importantly however, the main message I got from this response is how little they care that they are hurting people. But you know what, there are people who do care, me being one of them. And there are many of us out there who won't sit silently, accepting the kind of crap they dish out regularly. Thank you so much to Sara for sending them an email and for forwarding it to me. We need more people like you!

I know that some of my readers find me raising these topics a bit uncomfortable and confronting, preferring that I didn't blog about them at all and stick to 'lighter' posts. That's not me though. I blog about 'light' and beautiful things, but I also blog about 'serious' and confronting things. These uncomfortable things are part of life too. And the thing is, I've gotten to a stage in my life where I realise more and more how responsibility lies in our own hands when it comes to fighting prejudice, abuse and injustice. Things won't magically change on their own. So if anyone finds these types of posts offensive, I do sincerely apologise, but I'm not going to change the content of this blog. I do hope though that raising these types of topics does ignite some sort of fire within people to view the world differently and seek change.


soph (owl vs. dove) said...

Your previous blog post on PETA pretty much summed up my feelings towards them to the tee (albeit in a much more succinct and coherent manner). This follow up just confirms my disdain towards them. There's no doubt that their cause is an honourable one, but their self-serving approach is what tarnishes it all for me.

From a reader's point of view, I quite like the mix of 'light' and 'serious' topics on your blog. It's one of the main reasons I keep coming back :)

Accidentalwriter said...

I am staggered by PETA's apparent stance that the 'end can justify the means'. It has however reinforced my concern about marketing strategies and exposure at any cost. I admire your willingness to make a stand in relation to this. I must confess, I am generally one of the many who observe things but do not have the courage to pursue these when the little voice inside our heads tells us it is the honorable and basically the 'right' thing to do. More power to you Hila. I admire your courage and integrity and will continue to follow your blog because of your willingness to say it as you see it.

Jane Flanagan said...

Rating the success of a campaign based on traffic spikes is hardly a valid indicator. When a media company f%$#s up, their traffic numbers spike. When readers want to complain, traffic number spike. It's not an indicator of success as much as spark. And spark is not always a good thing.

There's so much to be said about animal suffering. To me, it just shows that PETA gives no credit to people at all that they can only convey their message through (disturbing and inflammatory) human analogies.

It's like they think people are incapable of making decisions from an animal welfare standpoint and will only rethink what they do through shocking, anthropomorphizing campaigns. It does a discredit to people in general and to animals too. Animals are not humans, but they do deserve humane treatment.

I found their auto-response completely vacuous and off-point. (Aside: I wonder how much it differs from an American Apparel auto-response.)

Sarah Rooftops said...

I just don't get their logic - all attention is good attention? The clients at my work are constantly complaining that their causes (they're all charities) don't get as much attention as causes involving animals - people respond to adverts with cute fluffy bunnies in them, so, you know, maybe if your cause is protecting cute fluffy bunnies... stick to showing them?

Hotly Spiced said...

I've had trouble with this organisation in the past and it was to do with bringing the Thai elephants to Taronga Zoo. What was glaringly evident was that their protest had nothing to do with the comfort or well-being of the elephants but all to do with creating publicity for their organisation and therefore donations. The facts and circumstances were just irrelevant. And it was sad to discover because I have always been an avid supporter of the humane treatment of animals. I didn't expect to find corruption.

etre-soi said...

feminists ??? well they have a very weird way of acting ! This only shows how society is today 'do whatever what so that someone talks of you even if it is 10 minutes and forget about it all in 2 seconds' because this is exactly what their type of campaign works !
Hila, keep on, we are here with you and we love to read your posts on any subject, because that's life : a whole !

Fen said...

"we often take a humorous approach to educating people about serious issues" - ?!

Humorous approach? I can't recall one Peta advertisement which has ever been remotely funny in any way, quite the opposite. I find that Peta do more of an injustice to their cause than anything else, it's absolutely shocking.

Please never stop blogging about things like this, I really enjoy the medium between light hearted and more serious topics on your blog.


SARAH said...

here's what I have to say: uuuggghhhh!!! Don't apologize; this is real and important and the offense it creates should move us to action, which is my next question: is anything being done about this?

Monica said...

I think i gave money to peta years ago, otherwise i give to local shelters and such.

thanks so much for blogging about this because i honestly had no idea about their ad campaigns. and will from now on refuse to support them in any way.

because, i love animals, and i love humans too.

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing this exchange, and thanks to your reader for passing it on to you. And once again, thank you for writing posts like this. It's a pleasure to read anything you write because it is always beautifully written and your ideas, light or serious, help me look at the world with a more care and interest.

blazebratcher said...

Thank you for posting on my blog! I'm glad to find yours! :)

B said...

Thank you for raising awareness about this and for having a strong opinion. PETA's response is incredibly disturbing. I am not of the opinion that violence can be stopped with violent imagery. The most ironic thing is that you have nowhere in your post talked about stopping animal abuse - so their campaign to "get people talking" doesn't appear to be having the desired effect. It is all so creepy and disgusting.

Nancy Baric *negfilm said...

I find the "shock and awe" approach counterproductive...

Sasha said...

"We use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages, and we often take a humorous approach to educating people about serious issues. Making people laugh is a great way to open them up to receiving more somber information."

When I read that (^) I had to step away from the screen for a bit. I absolutely do not see how that horrific ad is humorous nor how it is educating people about anything other than their insensitivity.

Don't get me wrong, I understand humor. It's hard not to as an indigenous person. If you take everything as seriously as you want to it overwhelms you. But their idea of "feminist" humor (a woman who looks as if she's been physically and sexually abused) needs some serious reconsideration. I'm disgusted that they think such things allow people to 'lighten up' before hearing "somber information" (which isn't even the point of that ad, it seems, because they're trying to give you "good" information: i.e. be a vegan and have a great sex life...).

Rambling Tart said...

Hila, I'm SO glad you post about things like this. I love reading your blog for this reason - you make me think. You open my eyes to issues and situations I'm unfamiliar with. You make my world bigger, and I really appreciate it. :-)

Chuck said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this. I can't really comment because I can't face watching the videos but I am glad that you are saying something. x

vegetablej said...

Reading the automatic response and watching the ad created a disturbing echo back to the various rights movements of the sixties when men co-opted the voices, services (sexual and otherwise) of the women in their groups under the guise of being "cool". For cool read sexist and denigrating. They got away with it primarily because they were doing "good work", and because there wasn't much analysis of what was happening until a bit later, when the women started to protest.

It's obvious to me that if there are any feminists at PETA they are either silenced by a group of men of similar outlook or they are very strange feminists indeed. I'd guess the former.

C said...

I'm really glad that you posted about this issue–I respect how insightful your writing is, on all topics, and that is why I follow your blog.

I've always wondered why the PETA campaigns can't seem to be centered on actual animal rights issues, and I'm glad that you brought it up. They're so far removed from being an advocacy organization when they refuse to relay information relevant to their cause in favour of shocking people into paying attention. I can't believe how moronic their reply is, as it basically takes pride in all the negative attention that they've been receiving.

Hila said...

Soph: Thanks Soph :) And yes, while I'm all for the cause of animal rights, I'm totally against the way they go about it.

Accidentalwriter: Yes, I see little difference between their approach and millions of other companies that exploit women and others for financial gain.

Jane: Yes, exactly - the fact that they get attention or that traffic spikes because of these campaigns is not actually an indicator of success. It's a bit immature to think this way and I'm struggling to understand it. And you're right, they're not giving much credit to people who would probably respond better to actual discussion of animal suffering rather than puerile shock tactics.

I found their auto-response vacuous and off-topic too, it was just more promotion. To me, they fall into the same sexist basket as American Apparel. I really can't stand both companies.

Sarah Rooftops: Exactly! A lot of people do care a lot about animals and would love to support an organisation that worked on their behalf. But aligning their cause with this kind of sexist/insulting rhetoric just puts those people off.

Hotly Spiced: "What was glaringly evident was that their protest had nothing to do with the comfort or well-being of the elephants but all to do with creating publicity for their organisation and therefore donations." That's exactly what I think too, it's more about the money and attention.

etre-soi/Sofia: Yes, I nearly choked on a biscuit when I read the 'feminist' line. In what planet does what they do constitute feminism? Ugh.

Fen: That's a really sad point too - not only are they insulting people, but they're doing harm to animals. This turns so many people away from the cause and that's just terrible.

Sarah: I'm not sure what can be done about this other than raising awareness. I feel so powerless sometimes. I'm also bewildered by why famous and powerful celebrities continue to align themselves with PETA - is it just to appear 'cool', is everything about publicity rather than ethics these days? I guess the only thing we can do is keep talking about it.

Monica: Thankfully, I've never given them money. I have given money to various other more ethical organisations. I question whether donations to PETA are put to good use. I'd want my money to go directly to caring for animals and saving them, not these stupid ad campaigns.

Amy: Thanks for reading it.

blazebratcher: Thank you.

B: Yes, violence does not stop violence, it's counter-productive.

Nancy: So do I!

Sasha: Ah yes, the old 'lighten up', or 'it's just a joke' excuse. It's been used by many misogynists before. It's just a way to tell you to shut up and stop complaining about something that is totally worthy of complaint and critique.

Rambling Tart: Thank you!

Chuck: I don't blame you for not wanting to view it.

vegetablej: feminism is often co-opted in various ways that works against equality and women's rights, even amongst radical groups. You'd be surprised how many times I've heard men utter totally sexist crap in these radical groups. Even if a certain cause is valid, it does not excuse sexism in any way.

C: That's what amazed me about their response too, they were actually proud they offended people. 'Moronic' is being kind.

Maura said...

Thank you so much for writing both of these posts. As a newly vegetarian teenager I loved reading PETA's publications, at that stage their inflammatory articles and photos just fueled my devotion to the cause. Now I just can't believe I ever fell for their shock-value tactics.

This ad, and the one you described that uses the Holocaust (which I have yet to watch), are so shameful. Yes, I'm sure they have seen a spike in views. I suppose they must have the "any attention is better than no attention" approach, because I don't know a single person who would look kindly upon this ad, and I know a lot of vegans/vegetarians.

Again, thank you for speaking out, and please don't hold back on posting about topics that aren't light. You are a fantastic writer and your posts are always so well thought out, I appreciate seeing your views whether they are on ballet, movies, or heavier topics like this.

Tracey said...

What a pathetic response from PETA. I used to respect the work that they did to raise awareness to unethical animal treatment, but for many years now PETA has completely lost the plot. They've been caught up in some strange place where it is less about the plight of animals and more about being sensationalist.

I think it's wonderful that you blog about all manner of things Hila, and will never understand anyone that doesn't respect a blogger's right to write about whatever they like. I really love that you blogged about such an important issue as this latest PETA campaign.

Hila said...

Maura: it's easy to fall for this crap when you're young, I know I did. Thankfully, we both have much more sense now.

Tracey: It is pretty pathetic. It would be nice to receive a proper response, but that would be unlikely.

elliottwithlove said...

Your posts on PETA have been a real eye opener, and I want to say "thank you," Hila, for speaking out about this. I had no idea PETA was running such tasteless & frankly ridiculous ad campaigns. It's really quite shameful, how they think that such campaigns are okay and justifiable.

Hila said...

elliottwithlove: I feel the same way, sigh.