Alex Blaze

Top 10 Offensive PETA Ads

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 28, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: CBS, fat people, godwin's law, Jewish, Klan, lynching, peta, racist, sexist, superbowl, Vegetarian

I'm a vegetarian, and have been for a few years now. Which is probably why I find PETA's ads more offensive than most people do - I actually agree with most of their goals.

peta-environmentalist-ad.jpgThe problem with their ads is that they're stuck in the infantile phase where they're still trying to shock people instead of make any sort of coherent message. They shock, get earned media, and then there's something completely unrelated at the other end that people aren't likely to be listening to at that point.

After the jump are some of the most problematic of their ads, in my humble opinion. To the right is not a PETA ad that I find offensive, per se, but one that exemplifies the larger problem with PETA's advocacy: focusing on shaming people for individual lifestyle choices instead of working to change society or increase protection for animals through legislation. We like to think that we each have the power to change the world, but we really don't. One person not eating meat any more isn't going to prevent climate change, and pretending like someone can eat a tofu burger (while they continue to exploit the environment for everything else they want) and that'll have a noticeable impact on the environment.

Anyway, they do know how to shock. So did Tom Green and Marilyn Manson. And I suppose it's important to keep in mind all the offensive ads PETA didn't make....

10. Don't let your dog be like Octomom

After all the shaming Octomom received for having too many kids while not having a job, which was an extension of anxiety around undeserving people having too many kids and then using all our tax dollars to buy them Nintendo grumble grumble, PETA paid her to put their ad in her lawn. Comparing her to a cat in heat. Actually, the implication is more that she's worse than a cat in heat.


9. Dog breeding is like Hitler

Godwin's Law! Which means PETA loses this debate. So I have to buy a dog from a breeder. Or something.


8. Women are meat

No real animal rights message here, other than: "Look at this cut up woman! She's wearing skimpy clothes, is all tied up, and is bleeding! Also, some silly wordplay."


7. Lose weight by going vegetarian!

Selling ineffective ways to lose weight isn't just the domain of Suzanne Somers, late night informercials, and spam. PETA also does it! Did you know that going vegetarian is an easy way to lose weight that doesn't involve a real diet or exercise?

There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan foods that aren't healthy, like fries, candy, and lots of packaged pastries. I've been vegetarian for years now but my weight's gone up and down. In fact, I gained a lot of weight the year I went 100% vegan.

Does that mean that eating meat makes people lose weight? No, it just means that America's obesity epidemic is a lot more complicated than one personal decision people make. The equation is snake oil; if PETA were actually concerned with obesity there are lots of other solutions to that problem they could advocate for. But I'm not holding my breath.


6. Dressing up as the Klan at the Westminster Dog Show

You know, I'm sure my first thought if I saw the KKK pamphleting at an event would be to go up and learn about their message. PETA's VP said that the protest was against the American Kennel Club's "fetish for body image," which is rich considering the next ad on the list.


5. Fat shaming for animals

I had to separate out this category, because it's more than just telling people that they'll lose weight easily if they go vegetarian - it's about making fun of people who are fat. And there's no group of people Americans like to make fun of more than fat people.

While the message about meat consumption might be indirect and hard to understand, the message inviting people to hate fat people is pretty clear. It's almost like that's the real point of these ads....

petawhales.jpg peta-child-abuse-ad.jpg

4. The sexy woman ads

The mainstay of PETA ads, which generally feature a sexy (usually) white woman and some tiny message about vegetarianism next to her. They produce so many of these ads that the following examples aren't anywhere near exhaustive.

As anyone in advertising knows, sex sells, but that's usually to make people part with their money. When it comes to making personal sacrifices? And does comparing women to meat (in that they're both for consumption) really make people think twice about eating animal products?

Have these ads convinced anyone to go vegetarian? I'm going to put myself in the "doubt it" category, but I'm sure they get attention to PETA. And that's any nonprofit corporation's goal, isn't it?



As I said above, not all the women in these ads are white. Not when they're talking about exotic animals!


3. Eating meat is like lynching

Dr. James Cameron, found of the Black Holocause Museum, had this to say about the "Are Animals the New Slaves?" campaign:

"They may have treated us like animals back then, but there is no way we should be compared to animals today," he said. "You cannot compare the suffering of human beings or the suffering that I experienced to the suffering of an animal."

PETA responded by saying: "Generally speaking, mustn't rhinos think that rhino suffering is more important than vervet monkey suffering and vervet monkeys think that their suffering is more important than songbird suffering?" Funny how the animal of choice was the monkey.


2. You know what's fun to watch? Violence against women!

And PETA's, of course, not below using anything it thinks will attract people's attention to move its message. But sometimes instead of women just posing for their ads, they choose to act out violence against them. The best reading of this ad is "Animal cruelty is as bad as violence against women." The worst is "Look at this hot chick getting killed? Does that titillate you? Also, don't wear fur." The most likely one is "Don't be a stupid, fur-wearing bitch like this woman."

1. The way we treat animals is the Holocaust

This Godwin's Law violation got declared an "offense against human dignity" by the German government last year after several Jewish organizations filed suit. PETA responded that the point was "discrimination based on any difference between living beings" is what caused both the Holocaust and animal cruelty. It's funny that they don't make that same connection in any of their other ad campaigns.


None of these has been censored by a government other than the last one, to my knowledge. And I'm not advocating censorship. The best response to bad speech is more speech, and I usually fall on the side of people being allowed to open their mouths and make a fool of themselves in front of everyone if that's their choice. It only makes people hate them more.

The problem for me is that I agree with a large part of their advocacy and wish that they weren't giving animal rights advocates such a bad name. I suppose the lesson to take from their ads isn't that animal rights activists are sexist, racist, fat-phobes, but that nonprofit corporations that based their advocacy on using star power to make people make better lifestyle choices are so frivolous from the start that they aren't likely to have much of a commitment to social justice.

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Chitown Kev | March 28, 2010 8:29 PM

Oh, Alex, and where oh where does this gem by PETA chart?

Interesting collection of PETA c**p. While reading the ads I couldn't help chuckling with a whole lot of humor over the ludicrous (big word guilty as charged)thought process. I am a queer farm boy in the city with a huge garden. I happen to own and manage 14 Guernsey cows and heifers who have the privilege of showing off at the State Fair each August. Yup I eat meat so what? Had a chuck Steak Roast with Red Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions for dinner today. Yes golly darn it one of my heifers wouldn't breed so in my freezer she went. A little over 2 weeks ago I tried a new diet at I happened across on the Internet. It involves keeping my blood sugar on an even keel at about 90. So it is the point that I am trying to make and if it works the 234.6 pounds that I carry on my 6'4" frame will now stay at 228.2 as I move from already limited processed foods to lean meat, bacon, eggs, milk, rice, and cheese. Sorry about that PETA your tactics make me puke so if that would help my weight I will read more of them....oh and yes Whales do make me sick I once said, "kill me if I ever get that fat".

I've been vegetarian for 15 years, and vegan for half of that, but I absolutely despise PETA's tactics, which I think are completely inefficient and lack an intellectual basis. Who really goes vegan because they think breeding is like eugenics?

SarasNavels | March 29, 2010 4:03 AM

PETA exists for the same reason as HRC: to solicit donations. Ever hear or read of them doing anything of substance, something other than PR? Just about every six months they (PETA) do something really stupid that is sometimes also somewhat original. It's done on the cheap, picked up by every paper and blog since it's so outrageous and as a result they stay in the public's eye and checkbook. Yes, they offend most people, but "most people" are not the target audience, only those that would donate to such an organization. It's almost self-selecting.

It's also almost unbelievable that they have not yet collaborated with Israel Luna.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 29, 2010 8:42 AM

Alex, I agree with you wholeheartedly concerning PETA's excesses. But at the same time I've always wondered about what appears to be selective concern for certain animal species but not others.

For example, cruelty to Bambi and Fido is pretty universally condemned by PETA and most everyone else. Rats, mice, ants and spiders? Hardly a pang of conscience. Why is that? Likely because we simply can't attribute anything like our own thinking and feeling consciousness to them. Somehow we only think kindly of rodents when Disney attibutes human feelings to Mickey and Minnie.

Somehow I suspect that even PETA folks sleep well at night when they stomp on a cockroach.

I won't even get into why it's preferable to be a vegetarian. My spider plant is having enough of an identity crisis, anyway.

SarasNavel | March 29, 2010 8:42 PM

The real irony is that it's not just a matter of cute verses less-cute animals. It's that plants are no less a form of life than any animal. Eating either ends a life. There is the "causing pain" argument but that really comes down to an action that damages the living thing enough to reduce it's chances of survival, so it applies to plants as well, even if they don't "feel" the damage.

About the only person that can eat with a completely pure conscience would be someone that only eats the *products* of life, such as fruit, seeds, veggies, milk, eggs and the like. Everyone else is equally guilty (including me).

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 30, 2010 7:05 AM

Which seems to take us back to the whole notion of the morality of taking any life of any kind. At some point, don't we have to say that there is something "natural" about the way the food chain operates? Tiny living things chew up slightliy tinier things only to be digested by successively larger and larger species, with life getting snuffed out at each step. Worst of all, probably federal funding is involved.

I'm still trying to figure out how all of this fits in as an LGBT-related issue.

As a meat eater I'm for improving not only how farm animals are treated but what they are fed. I believe that any animal that's life is to be taken for food should be treated in a way that shows appreciation for the sacrifce it's making. Peta will never turn everyone vegan and the more they push vegeterianism the more they fail at helping the plite of animals.The big question that remains to be answered is how do we accomplish the most humane way of raising animals for consumption?

I can't stand PETA! They are way over the top and are incredibly offensive. And I have to wonder why PETA exploits women in a lot of their ads. Who knows what a person who thinks all animals should be free to roam through our streets thinks.

CaliberGuy | March 30, 2010 3:34 PM

I am not a big Meat eater, but I find that PETA's adds offend me even if I do support a good chunk of what their goals are. I think that if they would focus on human farming and treatment of the animals that would be far better, they are getting no where by being the wing nuts they are now.
I know that even though I support many of their stance for the most part the moment i hear their name I already know I don't agree with what they are doing, or what they have done to some other "bad" group. besides the fact they are very offensive and abusive towards those they are tying to change the minds of.

Its the same as the more extreme greenest I support a lot of their goals and believe the same as them but when they come after me like I'm evil it dose not make me want to change but just do the opposite of what they dang well say, so if they say drive an SUV is evil drive a hybrid it makes me want to drive the SUV to give them the finger and show I can do what I want. After all if I'm going to painted as evil I might as well dang well just be so and enjoy it.

These are some nasty ads. But you know, I really hadn't picked up on PETA's overall strategy till I saw them all in one place. PETA just isn't huge on my radar. Except for one thing:

Redistribution of fur coats.

I first heard about that program through a website of a place in Canada that worked with trans sex workers. The ladies were getting really sick in the winter because they weren't properly clothed. But if they were properly clothed, they couldn't get as much business. So this org partnered with PETA. PETA came up there and gave the trans sex workers fur coats to wear that they had gotten from people who felt guilty for wearing fur. Rather than just destroy them, I guess PETA felt they should be recycled.

Fast-forward to my AmeriCorps year when I worked at a small nonprofit serving homeless people in the gayborhood. A lot of women were getting sick in the winter. Granted, Seattle winters are nothing like a lot of Canadian winters. I got in touch with PETA to see if they were still doing their fur coat program. They were.

So they came on down to the org's office, and we gave away about 30 coats that day to people who needed to be warm. They're marked with a big red painted X on the bottom at the back, which makes them unsellable.

But, some people were a lot warmer because of it.

And that is my main use for PETA. Especially since, 2 yrs later, I had to give whatfor to a group in the gayborhood who were protesting at a restaurant. I'm walking around the gayborhood one evening, and see a group of people screaming at folks and waving huge signs.

Well, naturally, who am I going to think is there, but the religious nutjobs who so often think they're doing God's will? Nope, they're friggin animal rights protestors.

Sometimes people just don't think about how they go about doing their business and what they perpetuate.

Oh the horror of it all. Peta makes people face what they eat and wear...and it makes them feel uneasy. Just awful, isn't it? Peta isn't perfect but the good it does far outweighs the selective outrage of a journalist who needs to meet a deadline with a "top 10" cheese story. If any of the previous authors are truly vegetarian because of ethical (as opposed to health) reasons, they should thank their lucky stars Peta brought factory farming, dog breeding and fur into an international spotlight. next time, Alex, do an efffing story on the meat industry's exploitation of its workers, its consumers and, oh yeah, its victims. Lazy, lazy journalism.

Judas Peckerwood | April 4, 2010 3:30 AM

Two true things about PETA:

1) They can be way, way over the top; and

2) They are way, way effective about raising awareness about animal rights issues. Nobody else even comes close.

You should think long and hard about what you put into your body, carnivore, vegetarian or vegan. The decisions you make about what you eat, where it comes from and what they do to it have a profound impact on the economy, the environment and public health.

SPURWING PLOVER | February 14, 2011 10:31 PM

This only proves that PETA are a whole bunch of stupid mindless pea-brains They squander millions of dollars on these stupid protests and proving their stupid