Get a Piece

What do you get when you cross sexy, meat-eschewing superstars with an attention hungry activist organization? PETA’s first ever “naked veggie testimonial PSA.”

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s new flesh-filled campaign features Alicia Silverstone saying very little (and wearing less). She hops out of a pool, purrs about the benefits of being a vegetarian, and stares seductively into the camera.

In a similar ad for “ABC” (Animal Birth Control) – burlesque star Dita Von Teese clicks down a hallway in a busty corset and high heels while discussing the joys and responsibility of owning pets and the evils of euthanasia.”

PETA is no stranger to sensational “literature.” With their famous “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign of years past and a long lineup of buxom spokesmen and women – including Pam Anderson of Baywatch fame – you’d think PETA’s goal for 2007 is to convince college frat boys to go vegetarian.

As an impressionable college freshman I was swayed by a PETA pamphlet, which (accurately) portrayed horrific scenes of industrial meat production. After flipping through the color pictures of chickens having their beaks seared off and shoved into cages and cows – bound and broken – lying in their own filth before being taken off to slaughter, I swore I would never eat meat, eggs, or milk again. While I’m no longer a vegan (I prefer to support those farmers who produce milk and eggs without torturing their animals rather than entirely eliminate dairy and eggs from my diet), those PETA images are permanently seared (no pun intended) into my brain. It’s powerful stuff.

Unfortunately – and I’m actually shocked that I need to make such an obvious point – objectifying women’s bodies to spread their message of animal welfare smacks of hypocrisy. The connection between mistreating animals and mistreating women is elucidated in books like Carol J. Adam’s book The Sexual Politics of Meat. By using sex to sell their ethics, PETA simply swaps one “piece of meat” for another.

Additionally, while the sexy tactics might garner immediate attention (all press is good press?), they could ultimately alienate their progressive members and open themselves up for easy dismissmal from critics. At this point in their organizational history, I’d expect PETA to move beyond cheap tricks.

See the new PETA ads here: Alicia and Dita.

–Leah Koenig