PETA has stooped to new lows with their latest campaign, which has them inaccurately connecting the recent news about Plan B's ineffectiveness for women over 165 pounds to suggest that women use "Plan V" instead – aka become vegan in order to lose weight.
In a press release entitled "PETA Launches 'Plan B' Lifeline for Overweight Women: 'Plan V' for 'Vegan,'" PETA announced Monday that they were asking Population Connection, an organization that advocates for population control and "works to ensure that every woman around the world who wants to delay or end childbearing has access to the health services and contraceptive supplies she needs in order to do so," to work on this new "Plan V" program "which would encourage women to lose weight (and regain access to Plan B as a family-planning tool) by choosing healthy vegan meals." What? Let us try to explain their rationale:
"If extra pounds are thwarting a woman's ability to use Plan B, PETA's 'Plan V' could be the prescription they need," says PETA Executive Vice President (and mother) Tracy Reiman. "Going vegan is a great way to lose weight and get healthy—and it could help women regain control over their reproductive lives."
PETA is legitimately suggesting that women try to lose weight by becoming vegan – because "vegans are 18 percent thinner than their meat-eating counterparts" – in order to become thinner so they can use Plan B without fearing that it won't work. As a bonus for PETA, all those new vegans out there would mean fewer people killing animals to eat meat, greenhouse gases decreasing, etc.
PETA's essentially falling into the trap of confusing "this drug might not work for people over X weight" with "this drug doesn't work on fat people." Though the original study that prompted European regulators to change the labeling on their Plan B-equivalent packaging used language that discussed obese women, the current weight recommendation has specifically not called women over 165 pounds overweight. That's largely because there's a context for this development; there are other hormonal contraceptives that have demonstrated issues with effectiveness for women over certain body weights, unrelated to whether they are actually considered overweight for their body size. As Indiana University sex research Debby Herbenick pointed out:
The issue of why a certain weight threshold interferes with hormonal contraception effectiveness is a bit puzzling to scientists who study it. Fat is metabolically active and plays a role in hormone production, making finding the right levels of hormones for contraceptive purposes (yet still being safe and healthy) a challenge (btw, the fact that fat plays a role in hormones is one reason lipo, which removes fat all at once, sucks because it messes with hormones).
Putting a weight limit on drugs like Plan B is closest drug companies can come to making general recommendations to their consumers at this moment in time without getting in legal trouble. It also doesn't mean that all the women who use Plan B and are over a certain weight are actually overweight and should lose weight; it just means that this is the information researchers have and is the best drug companies can do right now, especially given that a large portion of American women fit this profile. Unfortunately, as Amanda Marcotte and others have noted, the Plan B news and FDA announcement that they'd be looking into whether American drug companies should do as the Europeans have done prompted many media organizations to talk about how Plan B doesn't work on fat people instead of the complexities of the recommendation, a mistake that PETA seems to have fallen into as well.
PETA's history of using "sexy" ladies to promote their agenda is long and storied, which is to say it's incredibly tired. In an email to Mother Jones, John Seagar, the president of Population Connect, responded to their letter, writing that, "It would be unfortunate if the importance of access to and consistent use of modern contraception gets lost in some wide-ranging discussion about everything under the sun, including the many positive benefits of a vegan diet." If Population Connection is smart, they'll continue to stay far, far away from an organization that makes animal lovers look like misinformed nuts.
Image via Rafiq Maqbool/AP