Another Day, Same Old PETA: New Appalling PETA Ad Sparks Controversy

TRIGGER WARNING: This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

The animal-rights group PETA, an organization notorious for controversial ad campaigns, released a video that might just be the last straw to break the camel’s back. The controversial video, released on PETA’s official YouTube page, features four women sharing horrific details of sexual assaults as they stare straight down the camera.

“One man held me down,” starts one victim, and another continues, “while another touched me.” The women take turns to recount their terrifying experience, sometimes even tearing up because of the pain associated with the memories. It isn’t until one of them holds up a picture of a cow and says, “Because I am you, only different” we understand that this is in fact a campaign for animal rights. The video ends with the same woman and the same cow picture as the phrase “Don’t participate, go vegan” appears.

PETA, meant to be purposefully outrageous with this video to get a reaction out of the public, might have gone a little too far this time. The video compares the livestock born in the meat and dairy industries with human victims of sexual assault. Towards the end of the video, the phrase “Almost all of [the animals are born into the meat, egg and dairy industries] are a result of forcible artificial insemination” morphs into another line, “Almost all of them are a result of rape.” Many took to Twitter to express their upset:

“I am vegan. I am an animal activist. I am a rape survivor. This ad is atrocious. PETA needs to be put to an end,” says one.

@peta‪ no survivor of sexual assault should have to go through their trauma being compared to an animal's when we've already been dehumanized,” reads another.

Someone else points, “Peta is here to trivialize sexual violence and suggest you support rape if you're not vegan.”

In the face of the backlash, PETA defended the campaign: “@anthoknees‪ Acknowledging that animals are sexually abused for meat & dairy doesn't take away from seriousness of sexual abuse of humans.”

In a statement about the controversy surrounding the ad, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said, “It is rape when someone sticks their hand into a vagina or rectum without permission. Every decent person abhors and denounces sexual abuse of women but we cannot blithely accept the sexual abuse of other females who happen not to be human but have the same vulnerability to pain.”

Newkirk, oblivious to the psychological damage the ad causes, can learn from what Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia executive Karen Willis had to say. “Using sexual assault to promote any other issue is highly inappropriate and anyone who is watching that who has experience of sexual assault will be incredibly distressed by those images,” she says. “When we oppose animal cruelty there is a certain concept in it that ties in with humanity and respect, but we know that violence against women comes from gender inequity, whereas treatment of animals is about seeing those animals as something involved in production for food. It’s very different.”

PETA have been consistently criticized for objectifying women in their advertising. Whereas many believe in the core values PETA stand for, their messages lose their point and legitimacy for their supporters when they add insult to the injury.

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