28 September 2007

Celebrity T&A in PETA Campaigns

The folks at PETA have launched a couple new media campaigns featuring Dita Von Teese pushing animal birth control for pets and Alicia Silverstone languidly peddling vegetarianism. The Silverstone spread - the text of which is all about me, me, me - strikes me as the sort of narcissism that makes vegetarianism shade so easily into unbearable moralism. I've never heard of Von Teese, but the message that we can and ought to subject animals to surgery in order to protect our own moralistic sensibilities strikes me as counterintuitive. At least we might have been given an argument? On top of those complaints, this use of celebrity and, especially, tits and ass, in what must be an effort to make the cause "sexy!" and "fabulous!" just reminds me of the shallowness of other recent attempts to be fashionably political. Naked women are just a means here, a means to sell something to an audience.

P.S.: (Added a short while later.) A helpful comment by Rachel Hawthorn prompts me to offer a clarification. On PETA.org we learn "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 1.6 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world" (stress added). This suggests that the PETA-folk conceptualize "ethical" in a rights-based way. My perplexity is about how performing pre-emptive surgery on an animal is compatible with its presumptive rights (to, say, bodily integrity or freedom from pain ... ). Here is more from PETA.org:
"Why Animal Rights?

Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?

* Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
* Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
* Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
* Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
* Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way"
The thrust of this list is that animals are not ours for the purposes mentioned. Why then is it our decision to intervene in animal lives for surgical purposes? It is not obvious that we have a right to perform surgery on any animal in order to prevent the possible or even likely future suffering of other animals.

So, even aside from the sexist advertising campaign, I don't find the underlying justification on offer here at all persuasive.

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Blogger rachel.hawthorn said...

the message that we can and ought to subject animals to surgery in order to protect our own moralistic sensibilities strikes me as counterintuitive

I'm not sure what's counterintuitive about this message. It is more than our moral sensibilities that are are determining that animals should be spayed or neutered. I've put some statistics below.

PETA has a long history of using the naked female body in ad campaigns, including tags such as "I'd rather be naked than wear fur" type of advertisements (unfortunately, I cannot place the exact source of this. There are some provocative ads on their site however, in addition to what you've shown.) I am not necessarily in agreement with all their tactics, but it does get attention on their cause, which is the ultimate goal of any activist group using public celebrities.

Here are some statistics:

1. Every day 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in this country while only 10,000 people are born. It's simple math - there just aren’t enough homes for all of these animals.

2. Every year over 6 million animals are euthanized in shelters for lack of available homes. If the number were "only" 7 million, that would mean 135,000 PER WEEK, or 20,000 pets euthanized EVERY 24 HOURS. 365 DAYS A YEAR!

3. An animal is euthanized in the U.S. every 2 seconds.

4.On average, 64% of all animals taken into shelters nationwide have to be euthanized for this reason.

5. The animals at animal control shelters are not "problem" animals. The animals available for adoption have been picked up as strays or taken from the owner for abuse, or neglect. They are truly in need of a loving home and are greatly appreciative for a second chance at life.

6. At least 50% of the overpopulation problem is non-neutered males. Females can't do it alone.

7. Purebreds account for 30% off all the animals in shelters. "Papers" don't mean an animal should be bred.

8. For every home you find for an animal that you have bred, a home is lost for a shelter animal.

9. Breeding to "see the miracle of birth" demands that you also "see the tragic results". Visit a shelter and watch a puppy being euthanized for every puppy your "miracle of birth" delivered.


28 September, 2007 14:39  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Thanks for your comment. I know some of the statistics. They are indeed sobering. But they do not appear in the Peta campaign and they are not relevant to the vegetarianism issue at all (since people typically don't eat pets, even if they don't protect them). I don't see how surgery is compatible with animal rights - as a particular way of justifying attention to their welfare.

I know the other canpaign you mention re: fur. But what does going naked have to do with being vegetarian? At least in the fur campaign you might make a connection. Here ...? PETA could use celebrities (which I find reasonably shallow as an approach) and still allow them to keep their clothes on.

28 September, 2007 15:28  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

PS: There is a difference between ethical and moral commitments and moralistic sensibilities. The former are outward looking and action oriented. the later are about the one professing the views and typically self-promoting.

28 September, 2007 15:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You smug pompous prick.

You dare to affect a moral superiority based on fomulaic Leftyism, and when challenged on two legitimate moral points you delete it:

1) The unneccessary cruelty of killing and eating animals

2) The economics of doing so, and how agricultural food is a massively more efficient way of using world resources and would this assist in economic inequalities and issues of povery/nutrition.

Instead of acknowledging that you whine about a bit of nudity like its a special case, when it isn't. Its being done for a reason, as it is for other subjects/campaigns.

11 October, 2007 12:17  

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