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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

PETA and Skin

Do you love and respect animals? I do. Do you love pets. I do. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It is an animal rights group founded on the belief that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment. Since 1980, PETA has grown from a handful of volunteers to an international organization with more than 1,800,000 members and supporters.

The web site www.peta.org states, "Grassroots work is essential to the success of the animal rights movement, and PETA is committed to helping activists around the world organize to protect animal rights."

PETA launched its "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign with the help of the popular rock band The Go-Go's in 1991 to raise awareness about the millions of animals who are trapped, drowned, beaten, and electrocuted for their fur. Since then, thousands of compassionate people have bared their bodies for a variety of PETA campaigns to help animals in need.

And, on site, PETA reports, "Animals always need more lovely ladies and gorgeous guys who can draw attention to PETA's campaigns by dressing up as Lettuce Ladies and Broccoli Boys (in bikinis or swim trunks made of synthetic lettuce leaves!) and handing out veggie food at public events, by participating in our iconic 'Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur' protests, or by taking part in the many other eyebrow- and consciousness-raising events that we coordinate to promote animal rights."

My question is "Has PETA gone too far with the whole idea of using beautiful naked people to raise consciousness for the ethical treatment of animals?" Do, in fact, many of these ads raise the sexual and sensuality levels of readers at the expense of the real issue? In their own words, PETA certainly "draws attention," but what is the real focus of attention in their ad campaign? Is the campaign just another extension of "Barbie doll" appeal to draw in the masses with conceptions of perfect beauty? Or, are the ads just "Shock and Awe"? Look at a few ads and decide for yourself.



 




The central images are unmistakable: lovely naked women -- all nude, all sexy, all visions of modern beauty standards. The settings are evident: an Old Glory backdrop, an American classroom, and a religious sanctuary. The printed animal messages are common pleas. Yet, the theme of these ads is mixed with messages of patriotism, education, and Christianity. PETA makes no attempt to hide their use of symbols for ad populum (appeal to the people) and for ignoring the question (after all, hot models are the focus of attention).

In combination, these ads seem to say "all educated and beautiful naked Christian Americans are advocates for animal rights." The flag, the teacher's apple, and the cross are all arbitrary signs that have acquired powerful conventional significance. In two of the ads, no image of an animal is even featured.

No ugly humans will be found here. I find the sexy celebrity status visually appealing, but for what end? The reflection in the water, the school girl fantasy, the angel and the well-positioned crucifix -- something is telling me that the PETA ads are more about human biological, animalistic instinct than ethical treatment of animals. To boot, some subtle value statements seem to be intended.

No offense, but I just don't think some models will fit the PETA "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" standards. For example, I doubt very seriously if this young lady mistreats or eats animals, yet I don't see her in a PETA ad.



And, how about this news item from Derek Shore www.kfoxtv.com reporter (February 12, 2009) about the PETA gathering in downtown El Paso. Many people turned out to see what was going on; however, instead of finding anything animal-related, El Pasoans found two half-dressed women on a blow-up mattress, French kissing.

Beyond the shock value, PETA promised there was a message."This weekend is Valentine's Day, so it is a great time to get the point across that vegetarians have lower rates of impotence and this is also a great way to show off what a healthy vegetarian body looks like," said Ashley Byrne of PETA.

Vegetarians, Byrne said, have more stamina in the bedroom because they are healthier. It is a point that resonated with other local vegetarians."The point that they are trying to get across right now is about the whole love issue because I'm a lot healthier because before, I was overweight,” vegetarian Miguel Rodriguez said. “I am a better lover now."

Some people, however, didn't get the point. "Honestly I just want to slap those girls.” Patty Juarez said. “That’s disrespectful for my two kids, and I mean that’s not even right, and then them kissing like that.” (Derek Shore, www.kfoxtv.com)

And, Patty, I don't get it either. PETA's agenda must include rights for gay animals. Maybe they couldn't find two penguins or dogs that would perform on the mattress. Or maybe they find the mating rituals of animals just too graphic for the average vegetarian to handle. In any case, two half-clad women swapping spit in the middle of city square was an image PETA wanted to portray.

 
PETA in El Paso

And, for you vampire lovers, one of the stars of the Twilight Saga, Christian Serratos, would never wear anything dead. But, I thought vampires lived on human blood? Wouldn't that image prevent PETA from using Christian as a spokesperson? Evidently not, at least when the vampire rage means tremendous publicity. The undead for PETA? Is that blood at her feet?




Finally, I don't want you to think that PETA features solely women. Men are also a part of the "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign. And, who could make a better model than the fearless, idiotic stuntman of Jackass and Wildboyz fame -- Steve-O. You figure the message from this ad because I am at a loss. At least Steve-O is the closest human resembling a true animal that I have found in PETA's collection.


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