Animals and Abortion Part 1: How PETA gets it wrong

25 May

Crossposted at The Abortioneers.


Today, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning a new series called Animals and Abortion. I got together with Vegan Vagina from The Abortioneers and, with us both being passionate pro-choicers and passionate vegans, we have decided to do a series of collaboration posts regarding our pro-choice veganism. It may not seem so at first glance, but veganism and reproductive justice do have quite a few similarities. I was thrilled to come across another pro-choice vegan activist, and I am excited to explore the ties that veganism and reproductive justice have with one another along with Vegan Vagina.

Vegan Vagina is passionate about veganism, abortion, and running marathons. During the day she does public health research and at night she is a volunteer host for women who travel to her city for abortions. In other words, she is one amazing activist and I am thrilled to have her as a co-blogger on the Abortion Gang.

I am sure some of you might be wondering what kind of connections and intersections exist between animal welfare and reproductive rights movements? I think because I am so deeply involved in both of these issues the parallels are very apparent. One of the biggest examples that comes to mind is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and they will be the focus of our first blog in this series.

PETA is an animal welfare organization which has caused a stir in the feminist community more than once. They have been accused of everything from racism, to sexism, to fatphobia, to transphobia. It goes without saying that PETA is controversial. Today, we are going to address some of these issues in the form of a Q and A.


Q. PETA has been known forusing women’s nude or near-nude bodies to get their message across about the evils of fur. Do you ever feel like they are justified in their tactics? Is this a case of the ends justifying the means?

PCG: In PETA’s fight to get people thinking about animal welfare issues, one of their main “weapons” that they have used has been sex. Sadly, I think they’re missing the point. In many of their advertising campaigns, they have reduced women down to things as opposed to living, sentient being who deserve respect. PETA seems to forget that humans are animals, too. When you ignore human rights and human welfare, you are inevitably ignoring aspects of animal rights and welfare, as well. In short, no, I don’t believe that PETA is justified in doing this.

VV: No, I do not think they are ever justified in their tactics. Essentially, PETA uses sensationalism and a shock factor to get attention. They exploit women and reduce them to “meat”, which seems a bit hypocritical. I love animals and live a very intentional life in order to protect as many as I can, but there have to be more creative ways to bring attention to animal welfare than exploiting women and their bodies. The ad campaign using naked women’s bodies renders these women silent and voiceless, which puts them in the same situation as voiceless animals who are also exploited to turn a profit.

Q. PETA has a brief section on their website where they address abortion. Here is what they write:

PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals. There are people on both sides of the abortion issue in the animal rights movement, just as there are people on both sides of animal rights issues in the pro-life movement. And just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, neither does the animal rights movement have an official position on abortion.

What do you think about this statement?

PCG: I understand why PETA wouldn’t want to take a direct stance on abortion; it would alienate a good portion of their supporters. However, I do believe that it is important for vegans to recognize that, again, human rights are essential to animal rights and animal welfare. A huge part of veganism is about respecting sentient beings and their bodily autonomy. Vegans should respect that for all animals, and that means being pro-choice. Still, I do understand why PETA would not take an official stance on abortion.

VV: I find it interesting that this even comes up on their website. I am curious what prompted them to make an official stance on this, and I suspect it may be that anti- abortion groups tried to align themselves with PETA to show their support for all forms of life and then PETA needed to respond that they are neutral. Ok, so first off, PETA’s statement is annoying because they use the term “pro-life”. I also strongly agree with PCG that PETA claims to respect bodily autonomy of all sentient beings, yet they do not show this respect for women. I think their neutral stance is one more example of them trying to please as many as possible in order to achieve their end goal, yet in the process they have alienated many feminists.

Q. In response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination, PETA proposed these ads in Wichita, KS. What are your thoughts on this campaign?

PCG: The ads themselves are not so bad, in my opinion. The fact that they were a response to Dr. Tiller’s assassination, however, absolutely disgusts me. I feel as if they exploited such a tragic event in order to further their own cause. It was, at best, inappropriate and at worst, downright hateful.

VV: As a Jew I was thoroughly disgusted when they previously exploited the Holocaust in their ads. Well, just in case I thought PETA couldn’t piss me off any more, they did with their ads in response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. I want to know who thought up these ads and why they ever thought these would be appropriate. I keep stressing how they think their ends justify their means, but this was insensitive on so many levels. These sorts of radical ad campaigns give vegans and animal welfare organizations a bad name.

Q. Considering all of this, do you believe that feminist vegans (or just vegans in general) should withdraw support for PETA?

PCG: I do believe that we should withdraw support for PETA. PETA has, time and time again, promoted all kinds of bigotry without apology. I believe that we should show them that, if they’re okay with promoting bigotry, then we are okay with ditching them and supporting vegan organizations which do not do so.

VV: I am mixed on this. I know I was pretty negative about PETA in my answers, but there are some parts of their organization I respect and support. Personally, it was a PETA pamphlet that got me to switch from vegetarian to vegan almost two years ago. Unfortunately, they are one of the best-funded vegan organizations so they can dictate and control what gets out in the media about the movement. They also make the news a lot! In fact, they often create ads they know will not make it into actual media just so they can get news attention about an ad that was too radical/racy/offensive to be on TV.

For me, I don’t give them any donations and I don’t direct people to them if they are thinking of going vegan. I would love for them to exist but in a much more feminist and non-sensationalizing way, but maybe I’m just too much of an idealist.

Thanks for reading and please let us know your thoughts about our first co-blog! You can look forward to future posts from Vegan Vagina and ProChoiceGal on topics such as factory farm footage Vs. fetus posters, vegan birth control methods, and vegan sex toys! We would also love to hear your ideas for future posts.

 

7 Responses to “Animals and Abortion Part 1: How PETA gets it wrong”

  1. Dee May 25, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    As a great fan of this site, I have to say that I’ve never been so disappointed by a post on it until today.

    “They exploit women and reduce them to “meat”, which seems a bit hypocritical. I love animals and live a very intentional life in order to protect as many as I can, but there have to be more creative ways to bring attention to animal welfare than exploiting women and their bodies. The ad campaign using naked women’s bodies renders these women silent and voiceless, which puts them in the same situation as voiceless animals who are also exploited to turn a profit.”

    That’s the point! Animals should not be reduced to meat any more than women should. I agree with the sexualization bit, but I don’t think you’d be more amenable to presenting women butchered on the meat packets as animals are. If I were running the campaign, I’d feature pictures of women and men in pieces on those packets, because that’s what we’re doing to animals. But the part where you say that PETA’s making women voiceless is the whole point of the campaign. They shouldn’t be, and neither should animals.

    I just went to their website, and I can see that it’s primarily naked women on these ads, so like I said above, I agree with your complaints about the gender ratio (women to men on the pictures), as well as the fact that they shouldn’t have sexy looks on their faces after they’ve been put in meat packets, but the idea of helplessness and voicelessness in the campaign is one I fully support. I only wish more male celebrities would partake in it.

    This is not to say that I support PETA in everything they do. I work in a No-Kill shelter and I know first hand how the most prominent animal welfare orgs cover up the fact that they euthanize needlessly. I condemn PETA for that, and always bring it up whenever anyone asks me about the organization. But the campaigns cited above? With the possible exception of the Tiller campaign timing, I support the rest of them, even the Holocaust one, b/c while I do not like to invoke the Holocaust lightly or often, this is one of the few situations that truly matches its horror for me.

  2. Steph L May 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Seeing as Dr Tiller was mentioned here, I wanted to help spread the word about a Memorial for Dr Tiller being held in front of the White House this Saturday. Can you guys make a post or notice of this to help spread the news around?

    Facebook for the event: https://www.facebook.com/friends/edit/?sk=requests#!/event.php?eid=227299110618145

  3. Stegan May 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    So thrilled to see the intersection of abortion rights and veganism being tackled. I was a reproductive justice activist before I started on a path of being a vegan, and I definitely see the connections.

    As for PETA- in my personal experience, I find them to be the number one reason for not supporting AR causes cited by feminist folks who would otherwise be supportive. And given their high profile, it’s a big hurdle to overcome when talking to people who should otherwise be on my side. It’s maddening.

    The other problem, and someone on the Abortioneers version of this post mentioned it, is the similarity of direct action tactics used by antis and some AR groups. That similarity is why I find myself only peripherally supporting AR causes- I refuse to participate in most of their direct actions.

    So I agree that feminist vegans (though I would argue all vegans) shouldn’t support PETA, but I also think there is a point where you get stuck and it’s hard to support a lot of AR groups.

  4. Dee May 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    “The other problem, and someone on the Abortioneers version of this post mentioned it, is the similarity of direct action tactics used by antis and some AR groups.”

    I have no problem with this (incredibly unfair) comparison.

    1) The issue isn’t whether they (AR groups and antis) are using the same tactics. The issue is what they are defending with those tactics. One group is defending what is essentially tissue residing inside a fully sentient being. The other is defending fully sentient beings that are not residing inside anybody else.

    2) When antis put up posters of “abortions” they’re actually showing pictures of late term miscarriages and LYING about the what most abortions actually look like. When AR activists are posting pictures/videos of abused/butchered animals, this is what they ACTUALLY look like.

    This is not to say I support PETA (I don’t), but I support many AR organizations, and I find the comparison to antichoice incredibly ill thought out, facile and unfair.

  5. Roger Mathis June 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    I’d like to hear more arguments from pro-choice vegans. To me, killing non-human animals is very similar to getting abortions. In both situations you’re taking away the right to life for living things that are silent and have no chance to defend themselves.

  6. Steph L June 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    @Roger Mathis

    Did you read “My Pro Choice Veganism”?

    http://abortiongang.org/2010/12/my-pro-choice-veganism/

  7. jasper wilcox October 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    just a thought. in, at least, the ‘underground’ animal welfare community, there are a fringe of vegan/straight edgers who refer to themselves as ‘hardliners.’ hardliners pride themselves on being both anti-choice and vegan. many of the more well-known animal liberationists (walter bond and david agranoff for example) are (or were) very anti-choice. also in cases like the shac 7 (stop huntington animal cruelty) the prosecution states over and over again that the tactics employed by radical animal liberationists are eerily similar to those used by anti-choice terrorists. it was in attempting to research the crossover that i found this article. my question being – “are any militant animal liberation hardliners also involved in anti-choice terrorism?” it makes a lot of sense if you read the material about the hardliners from indianapolis.

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