PETA fat-shames in “Save the Whales” campaign


I know I shouldn’t be surprised by PETA’s latest billboard campaign in Florida – after all, their brand of activism has proven to be sexist and racist time and time again – why not fat-shaming to boot? (Part of me hates posting this at all because it does just give PETA the attention that they want. But I just had to.)
From PETA’s press release on the billboard:

A new PETA billboard campaign that was just launched in Jacksonville reminds people who are struggling to lose weight — and who want to have enough energy to chase a beach ball — that going vegetarian can be an effective way to shed those extra pounds that keep them from looking good in a bikini. The ad shows a woman whose “blubber” is spilling over the sides of her swimsuit bottom…
Anyone wishing to achieve a hot “beach bod” is reminded that studies show that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters…
“Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. (Emphasis mine)

Seriously? This shit is just shameful. Consider this woman’s reaction after seeing the billboard:

I was planning on taking [my family] to the beach to enjoy the beautiful day when I saw a billboard that made me want to cry.
…We all sat there and stared at it for a minute and everyone in the car was silent. No one wanted to mention my weight. I laughed it off as usual, but it really had made me so embarrassed, so self conscious and so ashamed about my weight that I dropped off my family at the oceanfront and left to go home, making the excuse that I wasn’t feeling well.

I’m with Holly at Deceiver: PETA owes the residents of Jacksonville a serious apology.
Related posts: Sometimes there are no words
Quick Hit: PETA’s Ad Banned from the Super Bowl
PETA: Cause objectifying women never gets old
When you thought PETA couldn’t get worse.
PETA does it again
Same old shit from PETA

Join the Conversation

  • puckalish

    Can I just say that… um… PeTA offering an apology… um, yeah, real likely.
    Also, how fucking dense is PeTA? I mean, the 10-20 lb correlation is not necessarily anything more than a correlation. I mean, dang, I know nuff folks who’ve put on weight after going vegetarian and/or vegan, not that it’s even important… especially given that PeTA is, ostensibly, an animal rights group. Getting people to stop eating meat because of destructive self-image bullshit has absolutely nothing to do with animal liberation and everything to do with traumatizing people.
    I mean, do they even realize that they make it harder for right-minded people to struggle with and for other animals in good conscience? That their actions and media dominance poison the entire struggle? Are they really a front group for the American Meat Institute or some shit? Because they’re doing a great job of shifting the focus from any ethical argument against industrial meat production and toward a morally-bankrupt and offensive argument founded on paper-thin data.
    Ugh.

  • thecatenelson

    I f-ing hate PETA. As a feminist. As a human. I was a vegetarian for a total of 7 years (if you count the 2 that I occasionally ate fish…I don’t, others do) and even then, I wouldn’t EVER think of joining this joke of an organization. PETA gets nothing done. After the Ben & Jerry’s/breastmilk campaign, I was SO over them. That was the last straw, I think.
    Mind you, I weighed more as a vegetarian than I do as a meat-eater: it is what my body needs. And then, I DID eat properly as a veg. Not a bunch of pasta or anything. Complete proteins.
    Not like it should matter! PETA is only interested in the human body if it is fit for objectification.
    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been meaning to blog about PETA, and now I have an angry reason to do so!

  • ArtByMoretti

    Haha I’m a vegetarian (not because of PeTA- and I do NOT agree with their advertising or a lot of stuff they do).
    They’re a minority group and sadly took the wrong turn in trying to gain attention. I understand what its like to be a minority. I identify as not only a vegetarian but a lesbian and (like the rest of us here ) a feminist. Like the rest of us, I see the struggle my causes endure much too often. I understand their desperateness but this is not the way to go. Unfortunately PeTA took on the wrong attitude. They get “attacked” so often that the only way they feel like they can be noticed is if they “attack” back. It’s a culture war they’ve created and it can only get worse if they keep up these tactics. They’re fighting double standards with double standards and stereotypes with stereotypes. Hasn’t worked in the past, won’t work now. Not in this case.

  • pan

    ugh…as a vegetarian and feminist, this bothers me. Please know that many animal rights and welfare activists despise PETA.
    And besides, this just isn’t true. I’m not “thin” like their lettuce ladies. Even a healthy vegetarian diet doesn’t guarantee that you are going to be very thin.
    The writer of Veganomicon discusses that in her book. She talks about how vegetarians and vegans don’t have an automatic pass when it comes to weight issues. I appreciate honesty, not this kind of woman-hating, fat-hating bullshit.

  • meganaut524

    I am so so so angry about this one in particular. I am a fat woman and I am still amazed at how ok it is in our culture to spew such hatred toward fat people. It’s doubly frustrating because if there is any backlash, people will just make fun of the protestors even more than the billboard itself. I want to say something to PETA but like you mentioned in your post, this will just give them the attention they are looking for. I wish there was a way to really show them how destructive and hurtful these campaigns are without just adding fuel to the fire they are trying to start with this. I would be absolutely mortified if I were walking around Jacksonville and came across this sign.

  • Ori

    Ugh. Just when I think PETA can stoop no lower, they come out with an add campaign like this.
    Seriously, is PETA deliberately trying to alienate people? It sure seems like it!

  • DeafBrownTrash

    PETA is just so offensive. I really don’t have anything else to say. You’ve pretty much nailed it down, Jessica.
    I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe in animal rights and PETA only makes people WANT to get away from animal rights.
    fuck PETA.

  • Skippy

    I’ve defended PETA on many occasions, but for some reason, this particular ad crosses the line for me. I’m not completely sure why, it just does. Go figure.

  • Skippy

    I’d like to know how you can “believe” in animal rights and still consume their flesh. Yet, “belief” in animal rights kind of puts it in the same category as Santa Claus, something like that. I think you have to actually practice it, not believe it, per se.

  • hfs

    It always comes down to whose ox is being gored.

  • davenj

    Hammer meet head of the nail.
    If this ad “crosses the line” then what about all their previous ads? This is just one offense in a long line of offenses. The “Holocaust on your plate” wasn’t crossing the line? How about the “I’d rather go naked” campaigns that basically said “Look! Naked ladies!”. Or the street demonstrations where they put scantily clad women in cages?
    PETA’s been living across the line for years.

  • kahri

    No kidding. As it continues to make violent, hurtful, sexist and racist choices in its advertising, Peta DOES start to seem more and more like a front group… The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if they aren’t really pulling a PR campaign for the slaughterhouses and factory farms…
    I don’t eat animal products AND I don’t identify with Peta. I am so dismayed that some people associate all vegetarians and vegans with Peta… I’m sure I’m not the only veg who is disgusted by veg evangelism in all its forms…
    My motto tends to be along the lines of “don’t tell me what to eat and I won’t tell you what to eat either.”

  • puckalish

    Thanks for bringing up the Veganomicon… because it gives me the opportunity to mention the Post Punk Kitchen’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, in which I discovered a game-changing red velvet cupcake recipe (not to mention their “buttercream” – so simple, so good)…
    Also, I have to brag… I just friended Isa Moscowitz on facebook… super-star-struck.

  • lyndorr

    So now meat makes people fat? But I thought it was carbs. Or wait, I thought it was fat because why else would a lot of things be low-fat? Isn’t it something how fat and protein and carbs have all been said to make people fat? Without those, there’s nothing to give us energy.

  • veronikoala

    PETA has completely lost sight of their “values.” What do overweight women have to do with maltreatment of animals?

  • mandoir

    Belief in animal rights and eating meat aren’t mutually exclusive. I believe that carnivorous behavior is natural (as in, seen among other species in the wild all the time) and therefore not always inappropriate for humans to partake in. At the same time, I can believe that humans be engaged in protecting the lives and habitats of exotic animals, that humans can be involved in development, funding, and maintenance of domestic no-kill animal shelters, that we can advocate spaying and neutering, and that we can push for “ethical treatment” (to use PETA’s jargon) of farm animals that may eventually be consumed… among many, many other animal-related issues.
    Now, my purpose in saying this is not to try to change your particular opinion about eating meat. Rather, I’d just like to point out that your comment for me does come down to a difference in point of view – namely, whether or not it is natural and/or appropriate for humans to ever consume meat. Regardless of what position you take, I’d like to submit that consuming meat does not eliminate the possibility of one being an animal rights proponent in other areas.

  • alixana

    – and who want to have enough energy to chase a beach ball –
    Okay, if they really want to use selfish motivators to get people to go vegetarian, why not run with this part of their press release? Takling about having more energy is something that can target everyone, regardless of size, and it’s a positive goal instead of a shaming goal. I’m a small person, but the whole reason I run three times a week is because I want more energy and to be able to run longer and faster without feeling like I’m going to pass out. It’s almost like they try to be as offensive as possible.

  • quebeaum

    Wait, I thought I was fat ’cause I was a bad person or a rotten mother or something…

  • Lisa_G

    I see nothing offensive about the ad, being overweight isn’t healthy. It sends a good message about weight in America.

  • Shy Mox

    That is not animal rights, if it was a right animals would have the right not to be murdered and exploited. What you want to do is give welfare to animals we deem exotic or companion animals.

  • Skippy

    I don’t want to get too far into it today, but the assumption that the consumption of animal flesh as “natural” is problematic. Anything that can be construed as “natural” should be viewed skeptically.
    I agree with all of the other aspects of animal rights that you identify, but for me, reading and actually caring about animals inevitably leads to not eating them. That is the final stop. Actually, it is a lot easier to refuse eating meat as an animal rights issue than it is to go out and campaign for environmental issues, such as preservation of habitats, for example. You eat three times a day, sometimes more. Real impact starts on your plate and it is the easiest, perhaps most ethical way, to make a difference.

  • Skippy

    A Holocaust on your plate does not offend me because that is what industrial food production is: a horrible tragedy of unimaginable proportions.
    As for the other “sexist” ads by PETA, I don’t know, this one seems to enter some kind of weird, mundane, everyday life territory. Although I do agree in theory to what it says and the ideas behind it, I’m scratching my head more over this one because of its somewhat lack of sensationalism and sex appeal. Does that make sense?
    I get the whole sex sells idea and the objectification of women’s bodies thing that offends in other ads, but for this one in particular, I see absolutely no reason why they could not have included a fat male in the ad as well.

  • sara e

    There is a difference between being somewhat overweight and unhealthily obese. The ad shames anyone who isn’t PETA’s perfect, stick-thin image of beauty, not to mention that this is not the way people who -are- unhealthily obese should be motivated.
    Besides, the ad focuses not on health, but solely looks.

  • allytoall

    Yet another reason that PETA pisses me off. And first off, being vegetarian doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose weight or that you are inherently skinnier or healthier than someone that eats meat. I mean PETA makes everyone feel like shit anyways but this sucks especially. Ugh.

  • SarahMC

    You can’t hate people for their own good.

  • sugaredharpy

    Fat, feminism, and for many years I was a fat vegetarian.
    Not only is Peta ignorant and offensive, but just spout lies. Vegetarianism, hell, veganism never made me thin. Shaming and attacking women in particular is just disgusting.

  • thecatenelson

    Of course, yet another way I saw PETA exploiting: a gas-guzzling camper roaming the country (saw them at a gas station; it was not biofuel!). Perfectly okay for this organization to exploit the environment while they drive around shaming people about not eating meat! [shakes head] Their marketing is mind-boggling.
    BTW: I’ve discovered and responded much more positively to environmental/animal rights groups that educate, not exploit and shame. I can’t think of a single campaign that has been instructive in one way or another by PETA.

  • alixana

    A Holocaust on your plate does not offend me because that is what industrial food production is: a horrible tragedy of unimaginable proportions.
    Oh for fuck’s sake, did you really go there?

  • Pharaoh Katt

    Shaming? On Feministing? I can barely contain my shock.
    So what, now one can’t be an animal rights activist and still eat meat? What the fuck is that shit? What about those of us who literally can’t survive without meat? It’s not that uncommon you know, given that we’re omnivorous creatures. What about those of us who campaign to save the environment, who protest the killing of animals solely for fur, who oppose factory farming, who never consume the meat or produce of animals who are factory farmed or kept in battery cages?
    What about those campaigning to get pets fixed? Who keep their pets inside so they don’t destroy any native wildlife? You think you can pass judgement on someone just because they eat meat?
    Give me a fucking break!

  • Kimberly

    That stand quickly runs away into the realms of absurdity. Humans are animals too. The cow can get eaten by humans or wolves. Humans might (and, yes, should) kill it more humanely at least.
    I probably need to expand on the above few statements, and I want to touch on some other comments in the thread as well.
    Everything that exists is, by definition, natural. Not “natural.” That being said, natural shouldn’t, necessarily, by considered synomynous with “better.”
    Consider flower pollination by insects, or ants farming aphids. It is reasonable to view human/livestock relationships similarly. Humans benefit from eating cows, but the cows get protected from other predators, and parasites and are kept fed and watered, and healthy. They are also bred, and bred and bred.
    Evolutionarily speaking, the various plants and animals that have been domesticated are among the most successful species of their types (as measured in population, of course).

  • Pharaoh Katt

    Overweight is subjective, fat != unhealthy, vegetarianism/veganism does not automatically mean healthy (or thin).

  • alixana

    Your comment reminds me of how the surgeon general (I think? this story is a little fuzzy in my mind) said years after the “fat is bad for you” craze that in reality, any fat besides saturated fat is actually really good for you, but that the prevailing attitude was that explaning to the public about the different types of fat would be too confusing. So they just said “fat is bad” and people cut it all out of their diets. He said that you could drink olive oil straight and it wouldn’t harm you.

  • VT Idealist

    With PETA’s penchant for showing naked women, I wonder why they didn’t show a picture of an actual overweight woman, instead of the cartoony drawing. Not that it would make the billboard any better. I’ll join in the chorus of f*ck you, PETA.

  • Lucy Gillam

    Yes, because lord knows fat people never, ever, ever hear that from anyone. Thank God PETA is here to enlighten us.

  • GrowingViolet

    At this point, I think PeTA probably appreciates the free publicity from Feministing. Considering the amount of other offensive ad campaigns that get ignored or defended on the grounds of “potentially empowering decisions,” and the utter disinterest in education about animal and environmental causes, I’m getting really sick of it. Is the ad out of bounds? Yes. Is the hypocritical, unproductive, and privilege-laden grudge match with PeTA getting old? Yes. The ad is supposed to generate controversy and anger, and thereby attention. Feministing is helping.

  • Katjusha

    Vegetarian/vegan does not equal thin.
    Thin does not equal healthy.
    And PETA defend the rights of animals while rubbishing those of female humans. Delightful. They couldn’t be doing more to denigrate the cause of animal welfare if they tried.

  • Shy Mox

    Because something is “natural” doesn’t make it ethical. And no, the domesticated animals aren’t the most successful on the planet by virtue of population. We’ve bred and inbred so much that they have a plethora of health problems, the white breast turkey, the most common turkey raised for meat, cannot breed on its own. They get too fat to mate, they always have to be masturbated and artificially inseminated. Steers too have far less health problems than bulls, pigs in their old age can be upwards of a thousand pounds and struggle to carry their weight, and chickens fall over because their large breasts make it hard for them to keep balance. They are bred bred bred until they can’t breed anymore on their own and we have to do it for them. I’m sure a lot of them would rather be granted freedom then bred and bred and bred until they can’t breed anymore, until their bodies fail them and then they have their throats slit, all for human pleasure.

  • Shy Mox

    Thats welfare, not animal rights. Saying you’re for animal rights and eating meat doesn’t make sense, since you don’t think animals have rights, just that you should be somewhat nice to them before you exploit and kill them.

  • GrowingViolet

    PETA makes everyone feel like shit anyways
    Most people – not all, but most – in this society have at least some degree of choice about what they eat. Information about how that food is produced and where it’s coming from have been in the mainstream news for decades. If you have the option to eat even a McDonald’s salad (not perfect in its own right, of course) instead of an ethically far-worse bacon cheeseburger, or to cut back on some other expense to buy local free-range meat (still not perfect) instead of the cheapest factory-farmed, assembly-line mass-slaughtered, and you make the less ethical choice, you (in the general sense) know what you’re doing. And if you don’t fee bad about it, for the agony it causes animals and human beings alike, there’s something wrong.
    I recognize that some people don’t have realistic choices, which is a problem in and of itself. But most of Feministing’s regular readers, I infer from various discussions, do have them. And for people who do have the choice and choose to remain uninformed (which takes active effort, at this point) or choose not to care… Well, yes. They’re going to get their feelings hurt by people who do care. But their hurt feelings are not the problem in this situation.

  • alixana

    Well, yes. They’re going to get their feelings hurt by people who do care. But their hurt feelings are not the problem in this situation.
    Yeah, I’m sure that African-Americans who see PETA’s comparisons to lynching are just being selfish when their “feelings” are “hurt.” And us Jews, our reactions to PETA’s comparisons to the Holocaust aren’t the problems in this situation.
    Fuck that shit. What do you have to say about African-American or Jewish vegetarians? Oh, they’ve made the choice that’s pleasing to you and yet you still want to step on them. Nice.

  • Pharaoh Katt

    Well excuse me for needing meat to survive. I guess I’ll just go die now, I’m sure the animals would appreciate it.

  • llevinso

    What about when PETA members dressed up in KKK garb? That wasn’t crossing the line in your opinion?
    I mean, I hesitate to mention a time when PETA has NOT crossed the line.

  • lyndorr

    I’ve read only trans fats are bad and saturated fats might be okay. It does make sense that our body wouldn’t respond well to a fat that has been created by humans (except for the few natural ones). I wonder if fat (the molecule AND the appearance of fat)=bad will ever stop being common “knowledge”.

  • llevinso

    I’m a vegetarian and I completely understand and agree with your overall point mandoir.
    I am soooo sick of vegetarians and vegans trying to shove their beliefs down other people’s throats and shame them for eating meat. At the same time, I’m soooo sick of meat eaters trying to make fun of me for being a vegetarian or rubbing the fact that they love to eat meat in my face. Why can’t we educate each other (like I think you’ve nicely done in your post, and I’ve seen many vegetarians do on Feministing before) without basically giving one another the finger? Without basically shouting “I’m better than you!” while we do it?
    Or if we cannot extend this simple courtesy towards one another just leave each other alone. Sheesh!

  • monkeyhaterobot

    I agree. I am getting really tired of seeing PeTA’s campaigns on Feministing.
    Yes, PeTA is horrible and has no limits because their entire philosophy is built on ‘the end justifies the means’. At any cost they will continue to “shock” (aka offend) in order to get people to pay attention to them. And pay attention we have.

  • Kimberly

    So successful means what exactly? They’re happiest? That can’t even be applied to most organisms.
    Evolutionarily speaking success is successful breeding, and a greater population. More specifically successful genes have more copies. And the successful ones are the various growth genes. I’d recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins for more on this idea.
    As for now requiring being bred by humans, numerous flowering plants require very specific pollinators in order to reproduce.
    There’s little humans do that’s original.

  • Shy Mox

    Very few people need it to survive, and not to mention the health benefits of being vegan. Really, give us at least the respect to define our movement, as a feminist I’m sure you’re familiar with the frustrations of people not taking your activism seriously.

  • pan

    actually, not to split hairs, but your approach would be an animal welfare approach. Animal rights is based more on abolition of use of animals in any way shape or form.
    Even though I am a vegetarian, most vegans would probably think of me as being a proponent of animal welfare rather than rights because I do consume animal products and utilize animal products. animal rights is at least partially about the concern for the rights of animals not to be used in any way for human entertainment, consumption or work.

  • pan

    no, you aren’t an animal rights activist. you are an animal welfarist, and that’s fine.
    animal rights has a specific meaning, which people on this thread don’t seem to understand. this comes out a a particular philosophy and sensibility, it’s not a colloquial term you can throw about just because you like animals and want better treatment for them. certainly, those who advocate for animal rights often advocate for better animal welfare, as they know that it is highly unlikely that our society will stop using animals for anything any time soon. They would probably be very happy that you want to alleviate the suffering of animals, but please know that that doesn’t make you a proponent of animal rights.
    this is not about shaming, this is about the correct usage of a word.
    this is from wikipedia:
    “Animal rights, also referred to as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings.[2] Advocates approach the issue from different philosophical positions but agree that animals should be viewed as legal persons and members of the moral community, not property, and that they should not be used as food, clothing, research subjects, or entertainment.[3]”
    It’s very specific, as you can see.

  • MLF

    I think you are confusing animal rights with animal welfare (as PETA often does as well). Animal Rights is more about the abolition of animal exploitations – which means no farms, no vivisection labs, no domesticated animals, no circus, no zoos (that would be the ideal anyway).
    Also – I get really irritated when people try to justify eating meat because other animals do it. Other animals rape, they eat their own babies, they kill babies from others out of the same species to further their own blood line. Animals do A LOT of things that human beings wouldn’t tolerate (at least, not the better of us) in our own cultures. Thus – because lions eat meat, is not a good enough reason for humans to do it.
    There are reasons people eat meat – and none of them have to do with the fact that other animals eat it. There are class reasons, there are geographical reasons (inuit populations for example), and MOST of the time – taste.
    I don’t believe people can eat meat or any animal products and technically be for animal rights (animal welfare, yes). If you want to know what animal rights are REALLY about (and a good cratique about PETA’s hatred towards women) you should read some stuff by Gary Francione – http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/