Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I didn’t think Peta was in the business of cutting off noses: or, why this ad doesn’t work and makes me want to throw Tofurkey.

Before I was a vegetarian, sometimes I would read an article about some scandal which PETA has created and want to eat meat just to piss them off. As an organisation based on the notion of kindness to animals it seems to have a less kind approach to people, in particular celebrities who just like a burger once in a while, or the soft fluffy comfort of slipping on a pair of ugg boots after a hard day’s work, celebrities who have a hard enough time as it is, doing their jobs, looking after their families despite their hectic schedules and dodging creeper fans and paparazzi. PETA aren’t too kind to fat people either.

In an October advertising campaign intended to be shown in airports Peta have promoted veganism by showing the body scan of a slim woman wearing a bra and panties which have the words “Be proud of your body scan: Go Vegan” placed over the top of them. Not very kind to those already humiliated by the idea of body scanners showing their junk to perfect strangers. PETA just thought they’d pop in to remind you that, oh yeah, remember how you hate your body?

Not only is the woman in her underwear, but only from the start of her thigh to just below her collar bone is shown in the image. So it is rather hard to tell how she feels about things. Is she happy about her choices regarding her diet? Does she eat a satisfying and healthy three meals a day? Does she even have a head?

Or, the more important questions that need to be asked: Does she have a dream house? With amazing dream friends? Her dream job? And an amazingly wonderful dream partner? Do these things come along with being vegan too? They totally do. Or at least that’s probably what they want you to think.

Yes, again with the ‘if I lose 5kg’ rule… But how can I help it when they’re playing on the same fears and anxieties women have about their bodies as perfume ads, fashion magazines, weight loss programs, countless make over style television shows, etc etc etc? If I lose a stone I’ll be happy and get asked out by that guy I like, or, if my nose was smaller I’d be happy and be promoted. (‘LIES!’ the author cries, throwing the books on her desk to the floor, ‘IT’S ALL LIES!’)

This doesn’t work in Peta’s favor, despite what whoever came up with campaign told them. Shaming someone into changing their eating habits generally tends to end in yoyo dieting, which works for most of the weight loss industry like so: the consumer loses weight while using the product, they stop using the product for some reason or another (stress, end of the specified dieting time period, significant life event,) they put the weight back on, they go back to the product which they had so much success with in the first place. Thus, every kilo back on is another kilo to lose, another weight lose shake to buy, another gym membership fee in the till. Any other weight loss fad and this approach is ideal, however, Peta doesn’t want a yoyo dieter, Peta wants veganism for life.

In addition, the shame which can be then tied to veganism after a failed attempt at weight loss through this eating choice could turn someone off veganism for life – and this is ultimately the last thing Peta wants to do.

Also, dangerously, veganism can be used as an excuse for an eating disorder. I’m not saying all vegans do, but I’ve seen it happen – skipping meals because there ‘isn’t any vegan alternatives available that I like’ or choosing the starter sized salad as a main course because ‘it’s the only vegan thing on the menu’.

(Similarly vegans can have EDs on the other end of the scale like compulsive eating. Vegan doesn’t mean you can’t eat unhealthy food, it just means you can’t eat unhealthy food which contain animal products.)

And worse for Peta, unhealthy vegans make sensible folks considering the change turn their tail and run.

Veganism can be a really healthy and kind choice of diet when done correctly. Personally I don’t have a anything against it, and definitely plan to try going vegan for a month sometime next year to see how I go. Being vegetarian is something I’m personally very proud of. I made the choice at a time when I was very happy with my body (despite it being even bigger (shock and horror) than it had been in years,) and my life, and made it entirely based on my desire to live a kinder, gentler life. That was almost three months ago. The reasoning behind my decision didn’t have anything to do with how I felt about my body, and I think this is why I’ve stuck with it longer than any exercise regime or health kick or diet I’ve ever been on – and boy, there have been a few.

Promoting Veganism as a diet will lead to it being treated like one – a diet which can be thrown out the window at a moment’s notice, or when the scales don’t show sufficient loss.

So yeah, in conclusion, Peta sometimes make me want to throw tofurkey at them in a Hulk-like rage as they often seem to be cutting off their nose to spite their face, as the old adage goes. But please, meat eaters, don’t judge us all based on their ridiculousness, and if you are considering making your diet a little more friendly to animals great and small, I definitely recommend getting your paws on a copy of Jonathon Safran Foer’s ‘Eating Animals’ and wish you the best of luck. We aren’t all wankers, I promise.

(disclaimer: I originally posted this on a blog I wrote late last year, in case someone recognises it, although I highly doubt that would happen.)

Image source: TinyGreenBubble

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