Whether they're calling shark attacks "payback" or accusing photographers of necrophilia, PETA rarely goes a month without a serious dick move. Here's why they're one of the worst supposedly do-gooder organizations out there.
Mocking shark attack victims
A man was attacked by a shark last weekend while spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico — he needed over 600 stitches. PETA's response: an ad that, in PETA's words, "shows a human 'drumstick' hanging out of a shark's mouth next to the words 'Payback Is Hell. Go Vegan.'" Because nothing wins people over to your cause like making fun of someone who almost died.
Freaking out over a chicken pic
Okay, this Times photo of a sexy chicken is kind of weird. But is it "necrophilia?" That's what PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk claims. She says, "It's necrophilia. It's not amusing. It's just ghastly and sickly. It's not fitting for The New York Times." Way to focus on what's important, PETA.
Calling obese people "whales"
In an especially tasteless billboard campaign, PETA equated veganism with slenderness and meat-eating with obesity — aka being a "whale." In response to criticism, Ingrid Newkirk said,
America's obesity epidemic calls for tough love à la Dr. Phil and America's Biggest Loser, not more coddling and mock shock over a billboard pointing out that the majority of fat people need to have some discipline and remember that being fat means being a bad role model to our children, many of whom are now so fat themselves that "teeter-totter" has come to describe their wobbly gait.
Aligning your ideology with that of The Biggest Loser is a sure sign that your organization is extremely respectable.
Spreading misinformation about autism
What the world really needs is more confusing and poorly substantiated claims about autism. And PETA jumped right into this niche in 2008 with the following claim:
Regardless of the cause, testimonials show that many people with this disease may be able to find relief with a simple dietary change — removing milk from their diet. The Internet contains numerous heart-wrenching stories from parents of kids who had suffered the worst effects of autism for years before dairy foods were eliminated from their children's diets.
Despite what Internet testimonials say, at least one recent study shows no benefit for a milk-free diet in the treatment of autism. And several autism groups protested the billboard. Said the president of the Autism Society of America, "We think the PETA ad campaign is inappropriate because it gives a misleading impression toward a cause or a treatment for autism."
Playing on teens' insecurities
In 2001, PETA distributed its "milk suckers" trading cards outside schools in the US and the UK. Depicting characters like "Spotty Sue," they aimed to convince teenagers that drinking milk would make them fat, pimply, and flatulent. The organization also produced a Spanish-language version, featuring Andrea Anti-Lactosa. Her card read (in Spanish), "Andrea's got milk, but she also has painful and foul-smelling gas. The faster she quits milk, the faster her family and friends can breathe in peace." There may be a link between milk consumption and teen acne, but preying on teenagers' body-image fears and desire to fit in is a pretty cruel way of trying to win them over.
Comparing meat-eating to the Holocaust
In 2003, PETA launched its Holocaust On Your Plate campaign, in which it juxtaposed images of concentration camp victims with those of farm animals. PETA representative Mark Prescott defended the campaign thus: "The very same mind-set that made the Holocaust possible — that we can do anything we want to those we decide are 'different or inferior' — is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day." That may be, but the HOYP campaign also equates Jews with animals, which didn't sit well with the Anti-Defamation League. The group said, "abusive treatment of animals should be opposed, but cannot and must not be compared to the Holocaust." The campaign was slated to run in Germany in 2009, but a court banned it. The judge said it would make "the fate of the victims of the Holocaust appear banal and trivial."
Scaring kids at The Nutcracker
In 2003, PETA announced a plan to distribute "comic books" titled "Your Mommy Kills Animals" to the children of all fur-wearing parents at productions of The Nutcracker nationwide. Said PETA spokeswoman Lisa Franzetta, "What we are really targeting is the mothers of those children. The cold-hearted few that still buy fur and maybe need to be confronted by their children to melt their hearts." Translation: we are cynically targeting the young and impressionable as a way of emotionally manipulating people who don't agree with us. Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Dolgan told the Denver Post,
The implication is that mother is a murderer and a killer. Parents will have to do all this unwinding after what is otherwise a very positive family experience [...] Some vulnerable kids will not do well with this. It is potentially very anxiety-arousing. Someone has made a big mistake.
Yup. And that someone would be whoever decided that PETA could traumatize, offend, mock, and belittle everyone else in the name of protecting animals.
PETA's Not Laughing At The New York Times's Sexy Chicken [Atlantic Wire]
PETA Ad Tells Shark Victim Attack Is ‘Payback… Go Vegan' [Washington Post]