PETA: The awkward uncle at the vegan family dinner

peta bwvaktboom

Trigger warning: references to violence towards women, exploitation, and rape.

Everyone has that family member (or maybe more than one). You know, the one who every now and then says or does something that shocks or embarrasses everyone else? Then, after the awkward silence, the conversation moves on and everyone just chalks it up to “oh, that’s just your uncle. He’s set in his ways and doesn’t quite understand why such things might offend us, but he means well.”

Drawing the line with uncle PETA

I’ve muttered on this site before about other PETA campaigns, and I’ve downplayed most of them as just another drop in the bucket for an organization that is so focused on one goal they don’t see the damage their doing to other movements. Unfortunately, the latest PETA campaign entitled “Living With BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me” is more than just another ignorant misstep. This one crosses far too many lines to just be pushed aside by a comment on how great Aunt Jane’s garlic mashed potatoes turned out.

So, I want to make this clear, just in case I’ve been vague in the past:

Although T.O.F.U. and PETA are promoting veganism, in no way does T.O.F.U. promote PETA. Their most recent campaign, along with so many in the past, relies heavily on damaging and irresponsible methods filled with stereotypes and ideologies that T.O.F.U. strives to eliminate rather than propagate through our own actions.

Sure, we may be in the same family, but that doesn’t mean we have to support everything our weird uncle does. What is it that offends us so you may ask? Well, let’s see:

1) Exploitation of women

Granted, the women in the campaigns may do it of their own free will, and the fact that they are able to do such things is a sign that we have come far in some ways. However, the use of oversexualized campaigns (see previous banned Super Bowl ads, including the most recent one) to promote veganism is weak marketing at best. With so many other possible avenues, such as the plain and simple truth about the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry, why must an organization that aims to stop the exploitation of so many species support the exploitation of another?

2) Violence towards women

Again, assuming that the overall purpose of PETA is to promote a more humane lifestyle, why should we accept a campaign entitled “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me” as acceptable when it so clearly plays on the idea of the dominant male and the women who continues to cater to his needs while ignoring the damage it is doing to her? Compare some of the “People’s Stories” clips with this domestic violence PSA and tell me the marketing team didn’t use it for inspiration.

3) Rape culture

This newest campaign seems to be built on the idea that vegan men have an overactive sex drive, and the women in their lives (admittedly, there is one homosexual couple referenced in a video, but the overall content is incredibly heteronormative and lacks any major ethnic or racial diversity as well) must cater and adapt to it. Why? Because deep down they want it as much as the newly virile man, and despite temporary blindness, displaced hips, concussions, repetitive stress injuries, and other dangerous consequences, they just can’t resist the allure of their “man of steel” and his newfound superpowers. Of course, these men turned sex machines are powerless in controlling their new desires, and trying to discourage it is portrayed as foolish. So, PETA is nice enough to suggest several ways to handle the repercussions of having a vegan boyfriend. Hmm, suggesting that it is up to the women to control a man’s sexual advances since he is incapable of controlling them seems familiar. Where else have we seen this myth promoted?

4) Virility and being a man

Not only does the newest campaign, as well as so many previous to this, promote a stereotypical view of women, it also promotes the common misconception that the true value of a man is found in his ability to please his partner sexually. The fact that these newly vegan men may have chosen their lifestyle based on compassion and love for other living creatures, a desire for better health, or a variety of other reasons is not promoted at all. No, the true reason to go vegan, which popular media already promotes as the reason to do anything, is because by being able to “knock the bottom” out of your partner you will obtain the title of a true man. Just check out the video of the guy bragging about the great sex he just had with the attractive girl behind him all because he went vegan. Of course, there is no real portrayal of vegan women being great in bed and their partners having to deal with that at all. Apparently, these specific benefits are bestowed upon the men only.

And the list could go on…

Working toward a well-balanced meal with the family

When we released issue six we hoped to give people a platform to discuss and consider so many of the things that intersect with veganism, and this campaign is a perfect example of why such a view is necessary to make true and beneficial change happen.

So, if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting at the kiddie’s table. Sure, there may be food fights, but at least the jokes will be innocent and a lot more mature than what our uncle typically brings to the table.

Photo credit: PETA



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  1. Jen wrote: Feb. 15, 2012

    completely agree!

  2. maria wrote: Feb. 16, 2012

    While I admire your tasteful and balanced approach to promoting vegan-ism, and can recognize the holistic attitudes that are the basis for many vegans, I support (as a vegan and marketing professional) the approach of PETA as being relevant and effective in promoting vegan-ism at this time. In the overwhelming battle to curb cruel excess in the animal food industry, niceties are irrelevant in some “markets”. By any soft options available, ignorant and complacent people must be lured, enticed and inspired to adopt a vegan lifestyle, it must be seen as sexy, in the full sense of the word, if this is what gets you going. This may not represent the values of a fully realized being, or a very modern thinker, but is still a highly effective strategy to influence ” the masses “. In India Hindu-ism inspires Hindus, and Islam inspires Moslems, but all paths lead to God. Do your thing to bring in the flock, and let PETA do theirs, and so the world can be won.

  3. Ryan wrote: Feb. 16, 2012

    Hi Maria,
    First off, thanks for taking the time to offer your opinion on this whole matter. Whether or not we agree with each other, I’m always happy to discuss anything I post on the blog. If I wanted to live in a bubble with people who agreed all the time, I certainly wouldn’t be posting on the Internet.

    In regards to the content of your post, we certainly do disagree, and it seems we do so on a number of things. As a vegan and a marketing professional as well, I have a big problem with the idea of promoting a product or an idea through such methods as those that PETA typically employs. There are many reasons for this, some of which I have already highlighted in the article above or past posts, but two of which I believe you yourself presented in your comment.

    Describing the purpose of a campaign as something to “lure, entice, and inspire” the “ignorant and complacent people” into a vegan lifestyle shows a great lack of concern for anything but an increase in “sales” or simply the number of people who go vegan from any one campaign. This scares me since we’re not asking people to buy the newest television or wingsuit. We’re asking people to change their lifestyle, and to ideally do it for their whole life. The problem I have with this, and the problem that exists in so much marketing today, is that PETA is selling someone on an idea or suggestion that just may not prove true. Similar to the get rich quick schemes or the newest miracle diet plan, PETA’s current campaign suggests that going vegan will lead to the best sex in your life, as well as your partner’s. The fact of the matter is that a lot more goes into sexual health and satisfaction than a bunch of vegetables. Luring people into veganism on the premise of sex will most likely lead to the majority of your “customers” finding disappointment and betrayal in the result. When this happens, and they realize the only reason they gave up their cheeseburger in the first place was to act like a “tantric porn star” they’re going to return to what they were doing in the first place. Depending on your goal as a marketer or a company, losing a long-term customer represents a failure.

    As if disappointing the people that this campaign entices is not bad enough, there is the ripple effect that is felt by so many other people who are fighting for change in regards to other things. These same people avoid the animal rights movement due to organizations such as PETA that show a complete lack of compassion or understanding towards their concerns. The problem is that I believe any organization that suggests they are fighting to end oppression should be considering all forms of oppression, and they should be striving to be a “fully realized being, or a very modern thinker”. Veganism is not the be all and end all solution to winning the world. It may be a part of it, but until people like yourself and organizations like PETA realize that much more has to be done, we’re not going to get very far. Anyone who is fighting for change should be willing to change themselves, and that needs to happen on many levels. To this day, despite a few apologies or the removal of a couple billboards, PETA continues to show little regard for how much their campaigns perpetuate so many horrible attitudes towards women.

    On another note, we will also get a lot further in this world the sooner people realize that all paths do not have to lead to god. The world is an amazingly diverse place, and the last thing we need is to bring in another element of our society that refuses to acknowledge the harm it has done to so many through its campaigns to promote its own view.

    sincerely,
    Ryan

  4. Laura wrote: Feb. 18, 2012

    It’s funny how this Ryan guy tells us that this is not sexist, and not promoting violence against women, just because he doesn’t think they are. His opinion being based on, like, his opinion.

    Dear Ryan, I suppose you would not admit me telling you the meat industry is barbaric. However, rape culture and misogynistic porn culture don’t seem to bother you. YAY for double standards!

    To maria: no. PETA manages to contribute to rape culture and the constant, pervasive objectification of women. It is harmful to women, and harmful to men. They are not opening the path for a better world, they are helping fucking it up.

    And not just by making things worse for women. They are managing to alienate all non-vegetarian and non-vegan intelligent people who dislike seing women abused and constantly displayed as meat and as victims.

    I, for one, am pretty far of becoming a vegan thanks to PETA. YAY for progress!

    Thanks to the author of this post for publishing this.

  5. Ryan wrote: Feb. 18, 2012

    Hi Laura,
    I have to admit, I’m slightly confused by your comment. Who exactly is the Ryan guy you are referring to?

    If it’s me, I’m not sure if some lines were crossed or if what I wrote was unclear, but I certainly do think that this ad is sexist and promoting violence against women. I am also incredibly bothered by rape culture, and agree that the meat industry is barbaric.

    If this was not clear, and the Ryan you are referring to is the commenter and/or original poster, I’m sorry. I hope we’re back on the same page now.

    As for not being vegan due to PETA, if you do ever choose to consider becoming veg for reasons not being shoved down your throat by PETA, that’s great. If not, I am sad to know that one of our loudest mouthpieces drove you away from their supposed main objective.

    thanks for the feedback,
    Ryan

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