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

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151 Comments

  1. pan
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    sorry, I just want to be really clear on this.
    you cannot believe in animal rights and also eat meat. they are mutually exclusive. please see this definition. and there is enough misinformation about vegetarianism out there! we don’t need more!
    I’m putting this definition in a second time because people seem to be using their own definition of animal rights, when it actually has a very specific meaning, and calls for something very different than a welfare approach. advocating for animal rights is actually quite a radical approach.
    this is what animal rights 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]”

  2. Heina
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    The publicity they garner for themselves hasn’t made anyone go veggie or vegan, though. I’ve heard some people make that argument — that complaining about them is doing just what they want in terms of getting attention. True, but what kind of attention is it? I have yet to hear of someone going “babes in lettuce bikinis — time to go veggie!” or “ugh, I’m fat and have bad sex — time to go vegan!” Mostly, what I hear is “lol, PETA is stupid, time for a cheeseburger” or “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals, time to barbecue!”
    I question what PETA wants to gain. Shock publicity is not going to make for a substantial gain in the number of people going veggie or vegan.

  3. Pharaoh Katt
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the clarification. You’re right, I believe in animal welfare. I was unaware of the distinction, thanks for clearing it up.
    The definition difference is not shaming, but Skippy’s comments were. I object to shaming anyone just because they eat meat, especially when you don’t know surrounding circumstance.

  4. SarahES
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I am curious…how do you gauge “needing” meat?

  5. Pharaoh Katt
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    My body has trouble absorbing iron. The amount of iron in green vegetables does not remotely compare to the iron in red meat, and the iron in read meat is easier for the human body to absorb. If I don’t eat red meat I get severe anaemia.
    I also have problems with my metabolism, which cause me to lose weight far too quickly, and I’m often badly underweight.
    I have tried vegetarianism before, and yes, I researched and replaced the meat in my diet carefully, but both times I’ve tried it I had doctors tell me I needed to start eating meat again because I was becoming underweight, malnourished and anaemic.

  6. SarahES
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for answering. I am a vegetarian (not preachy or pushy by any means, also anti-PETA) and often have people say “oh I could NEVER stop eating meat, I need my meat!” But how you said it made it sound like, yes you indeed did need meat for your health, not just like people who say it to me to try to irritate me when they find out I am vegetarian. So I was curious as to what that meant, thank you for your honesty! Sorry you have people on here deciding to shame rather than educate, vegans/vegetarians that do that really drive me nuts. Sends the whole animal liberation thing backwards in my opinion

  7. MLF
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Sure but do bees use selective breeding? I mean – there is a HUGE difference between what bees do and what humans do to other animals. For example – we pick the most docile and the least likely to survive in the wild of animals to breed. Meaning – the cows that actually try to fight out of their position are quickly shot and killed, whereas the cows that are more willing to accept their fate are bred (it isn’t EXACTLY this way but it’s just one example of selective breeding). Another thing humans do (Hubbard Farms does this) – they try to selectively breed species of chickens that will lay more eggs, more frequently for human consumption.
    Where do you see other animals in nature f’ing around with genes like this?

  8. Pharaoh Katt
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this :)
    And for what it’s worth, I honestly don’t think badly of vegans/vegetarians. I need meat for my health, but I’ve cut down to the minimum possible and I try to only eat free range.
    It really bugs me when people say shit like “You’re a vegetarian? Do you hate it when people eat meat in front of you?” as if vegetarians are some sort of freak-show (I’ve seen it happen -_-). Honestly, I got enough negative comments from my dad when I was a vegetarian to last me a lifetime.
    Still, not every meat-eater is like that, and I hope to educate the ones who are.

  9. MLF
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m tired of my opinions about eating meat (my HONEST opinions) being misconstrued as judgements or an attempt to shame other people or push my beliefs on them. As a vegan – I am constantly having meat pushed on me – every other commercial, at every family/friend gathering, anytime I’m at a restaurant – I’m forced to endure people putting stuff that HORRIFIES me into their mouths.
    I honestly think eating meat is evil. That is my opinion and I think that meat eaters and vegans will get along easier if meat eaters stop getting defensive about my opinion. Certainly – if meat eaters have a right to talk about (constantly) how tasty animals are as food – than I have a right to tell them that I think it’s hideous without being accused of trying to force my beliefs on them.

  10. davenj
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    The Holocaust was genocide. It wasn’t a tragedy, it was a concerted effort to eliminate humans of certain ethnic groups and the disabled. It was not about expedience. It was not about using the human corpses as anything tangible. The goal was to kill humans.
    Killing animals is a means to an end. Killing humans in the Holocaust was the end.
    If your view is so distorted as to lump those two things together then you’re not going to understand why people think you’re crossing a line when you’re clearly crossing it.

  11. davenj
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Dontcha get it? Overweight people ARE animals! Wakka wakka.
    In their attempt to meet their goal PETA tends to treat people like animals. Beautiful people are valuable for their skin, and fat people’s emotions are merely something to be consumed toward an end.

  12. Skippy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Your statement is not correct.

  13. Skippy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe you’re comparing the selective breeding of domestic animals by humans to the kinds of selectivity that occur in nature. Spend five minutes listening to a pug snort and you’ll hear the sounds of humano-centric breeding gone positively haywire.

  14. davenj
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    This. Anybody with some knowledge of marketing knows that shock saturation can actually turn a valid, marketable point into a fringe idea if it gets overused or used incorrectly.
    So PETA gets press. So what? If all their press is how crazy and insensitive they are it’s actually going to hurt them, not help.
    The more we call out their marketing the less effective it gets.

  15. idiolect
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m generally not pushy about vegetarianism, but I don’t understand what about your problem necessitates meat (instead of, say, a vegetarian diet with iron supplements)?

  16. Skippy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Are all holocausts genocide? I don’t think they are. I think you’re referring to The Holocaust, which specifically means what occurred during WWII. But the term implies mass slaughter, which occurs on a daily basis to the animals that are simply the “means” to your “end.” What are those means, exactly? Health, taste, appetite? In the face of a wealth of alternatives, your “means” is unethical.

  17. Skippy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I support your arguments, but I would go to the original source rather than quoting wikipedia.

  18. ms_grey
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    So agree. Every time a Peta ad gets posted it’s just the same old arguments/comments. It’s getting to the point where it kinda seems like it’s just something to post on a slow day to get some outrage.
    Not to be so negative on the posts or anything, I love my Feministing!

  19. Skippy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I went there, and I am a Jew.

  20. idiolect
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    THIS. SO MANY TIMES THIS. Right the fuck on. Thank you for phrasing this in such a pointed way, it’s appropriate not just here but in any instance when people are smugly framing their hate as “constructive criticism.”

  21. davenj
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Huh?
    There was one Holocaust. It’s a term that refers to one thing. Therefore there can’t be “all Holocausts”.
    Holocaust itself means burnt offering, not mass slaughter.
    Taste is not means. It’s an end. The end of factory farming is human sustenance and satisfaction of physical desires. The slaughter is the means to this satisfaction, not the end.
    Conversely the slaughter of the Holocaust was the end itself. There was no goal other than the killing, i.e. cremating the bodies.
    Therefore making a comparison to animal slaughter and genocide is inane and insensitive. The goal of factory farming isn’t to kill every cow or chicken on the planet and then destroy their remains. It’s a shitty comparison that acts like the lives of animals slaughtered for food are the same as humans killed to satisfy racist bloodlust.

  22. voluptuouspanic
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this. I am in complete agreement. Every single time something about PETA makes it onto Feministing, there is absolutely no constructive dialogue. It devolves into who can shame and Other the most.

  23. idiolect
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I have been a vegetarian for 10+ years, I can’t remember the last time I even ate anything “fast food” (besides the occasional pizza slice, I suppose), I don’t own a car and usually get around by walking or biking, I live in a small apartment and keep my energy usage low, I go to local farmers’ markets and all that jazz, and I wear a size 16 most of the time.
    Just sayin’.

  24. Hypatia
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m just wondering, if PETA really did want to be completly stupid and promote themselves with the idea that vegetarian=thin, why didn’t they show a fat man? Or why not a fat woman AND a fat man? After all, don’t they want to get more PEOPLE to support them, not just more women?
    Maybe they just have a simple strategy–sexy naked women ads to appeal to men, and fat, embarassed women ads to appeal to women. Pathetic.
    Or maybe they think women are easier to recruit into animal welfare activism-there is already a stereotype out there about that! (See “Puppies aren’t really that adorable”, http://community.feministing.com/2009/07/puppies-arent-really-that-ador.html)

  25. Ista
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh, well, if you’re a Jew you get a pass. Using the Holocaust as a metaphor is only okay then.

  26. Lily A
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh, come on. It’s one thing to say, “maybe a lot of Americans should consider a healthier vegetarian diet as an alternative to consuming so much unhealthy industrial meat” and quite another thing to say “fat people are whales!!!!”

  27. GrowingViolet
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I understood “always making everyone” at as referring to guilt-based tactics overall. If I misunderstood that, then I apologize. If I did understand the general thrust of the initial discussion correctly, I stand by my statement.

  28. GrowingViolet
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    PETA tends to treat people like animals
    From an animal-rights perspective, this is actually the point, though. The idea is that if likening people to animals (which is what we ARE, after all) offends someone, that someone needs to rethink his/her attitude toward animals.

  29. pan
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m using wikipedia for its simplicity and speed. Those who want to know more can search for it themselves. I’m a grad student. I know how to cite things and how evil wikipedia is in general, but it is useful for quick things like this.
    Please don’t lecture me about what I cite. If you know of better citations and have more time to add to what I have said or to correct what I have said, please feel free to reply and do so.

  30. Lily A
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Ah, but you see… obviously they’re not actually trying to turn anyone vegetarian or vegan, because if that was their true goal, they would have figured out years ago that their absurd ad campaigns were just alienating sympathetic people, and providing everyone else with fodder for jokes.
    When a non-profit organization keeps doing something so ineffective, the only conclusion I can draw is that they have wealthy donors (private or corporate), and the staff of the organization is basically doing what the donors want to keep getting their paycheck.

  31. davenj
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    So we’re going to achieve animal rights by treating people like animals?
    Sorry, not really seeing it. And even if that did work as a tactic it would be ethically wrong.

  32. Shannon
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I am a veg. So according to your idea of what it takes to believe in animal rights, I am right on.
    But I did want to bring to everyone’s attention, that it is possible to believe that animals can be treated humanely, even if you consume them. For example, one can do the research to find out where you can buy animal products that were taken from animals in a humane way (ie: eggs that are truely free-range, or cage free).
    While doing the research, I would not be surprised if you take the step to go veg! But, I do know some that are unable to take that step, but still make the commitment to only consume animals/products that were not caged or mistreated, prior to slaughter etc.

  33. GrowingViolet
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    PETA is only interested in the human body if it is fit for objectification.
    Too many feminists are only interested in the animal body if it is fit for experimentation and slaughter. That, for me, is the main problem in most of these discussions.

  34. llevinso
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Why do you have to call meat eaters “evil?” Why can’t you just present your opinions without naming-calling? You can say you don’t believe in it for moral reasons without getting into name-calling. This goes for people on both sides. You call them evil and guess what? They’re not going to listen anymore to anything you have to say. Maybe you have some valid points but it no longer matters because they’re not listening.
    And realize the amount of privilege that comes from being able to live a vegan life. It’s not really nice to call someone who’s only “crime” is not being as privileged as you “evil.”

  35. synergy
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    No, there have been many holocausts and there are still ongoing holocausts. The problem is that many people choose to think of only one, the one involving European people.

  36. Lily A
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Right on. Because as a Jewish vegetarian, it totally doesn’t bother me when other Jews state that an attempt to torture and murder my relatives and eliminate our culture and all of our people from the face of the earth is morally equivalent to factory farming of chickens to feed people.
    (internet sarcasm disclaimer)
    And sorry, I really didn’t want to even address this one, but I couldn’t ignore it coming from a Jewish person. I respect that we Jews have a wide diversity of opinion, and that respect for animals is a tenet of Jewish faith and teaching… and I also am pretty well aware of how cruel and disgusting industrial animal production is… but really?? If you believe that animals are morally equivalent to people and that killing an animal is morally equivalent to killing a person, then I can’t really argue with you on that one, it’s just a different way of looking at the world. But if you don’t believe that, then how can you possibly believe that it’s not insulting and trivializing our people to compare us to factory farm animals??

  37. pepper
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    One has nothing to do with the other. There is no excuse for PETA’s actions. But feminists don’t believe in animal rights is not a valid argument for this billboard. PETA could make a organizational decision to stop objectifying women to shock people into thinking about animal rights. They instead run campaign after campaign of this trash. Who is going to go veg*n because of that billboard? The only message that board carries is you are a fat ass woman. Notice the board is target toward women. Men have the highest prevalence of obesity in the country. Why make the board lash out at women?

  38. Louche
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    This person didn’t call meat-eaters “evil.” They called meat-EATING evil. That’s their opinion. Granted, I wouldn’t say that myself as I think most people highly dislike opinions bluntly opposing things they feel completely entitled to and will take it personally. That’s exactly the problem – people make meat-eating a private/personal rather than a public/societal issue – thus eliding the problem. Also, being vegan is no more of a privilege than is eating meat. Eating meat is privilege over other animals. Any time someone tries to tell me being vegan is a privilege, I will throw it right back at them. Being human is a privilege. Suggesting you are less privileged simply because you eat meat or other animal products is an incredible generality at best and a meaningless excuse at worst. Most of the people within my economic/social privilege range are as far away from veganism as could be.

  39. llevinso
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    NO.
    There was ONE Holocaust. There have been and still are many genocides occurring in the world.

  40. llevinso
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Calling meat eating evil is the same as calling those that engage in the act evil. I really fail to see much difference.
    And the privilege is that in terms or money and education. Veganism is not taught in most crappily funded public schools (or in the well-funded private schools for that matter!). It also isn’t easily afforded by many parents that can barely afford to put food on the table as it is. Or have to work 3 jobs and barely have the time and energy to go SEARCHING for a store that carries vegan-friendly alternatives. In lower-income neighborhoods places like that simply are not available. So yes, it is a privilege to be able to afford to eat this way. And it is a privilege to have even learned about healthy vegan alternatives.
    But this is a conversation that has been had over and over and over again on these boards and is not relevant to the OP. So I’m done.

  41. MLF
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t call meat eaters evil – I said the ACT of eating meat is evil. Isn’t there a difference? And besides – it IS my honest opinion. Most of the time – I don’t give people my honest opinion and I just bite my tongue, precisely because people misconstrue my opinion on the subject of meat eating, as a judgement on them. I think that we all judge others to a degree – on things that others do that we disagree with…It doesn’t mean we disapprove of that persons entire being. This is how it is possible for me to be in a relationship with a meat eater… He doesn’t try and accuse me of hating him, simply because I hate that he eats meat.
    For example – I’m sure many feminists think that it’s evil to protest abortion clinics… Does that mean that you judge someone’s entire character based on one evil thing that they do?
    Do you think you are better than someone protesting an abortion clinic? Or do you simply just disagree with their decision to protest abortion?

  42. Ista
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    (I hope you know I was being sarcastic, because I was.)

  43. Peepers
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Making moral judgments about what other people put into their bodies is not a feminist act.

  44. Lily A
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    There have been and continue to be many genocides. When most people say “The Holocaust,” they are referring to the murder of Jews (and sometimes also referring to the simultaneous murder of gypsies, queer folk, disabled people, certain religious people, and political prisoners) in Europe in the 1930s-40s.
    When people use the word “holocaust” as a lower-case noun without without “the,” they usually mean a vast destructive act (for example, it was used this way during the cold war to talk about the possibility of nuclear war). But I’ve never heard anyone refer to another genocide as “a holocaust” or “the Holocaust.”

  45. Lily A
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Yes, certainly! The “right on” was to you, and the rest of my response should have been to Skippy. Sorry for any confusion.

  46. Kimberly
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    With a quick search, (a single google, without access to things like PubMed etc) I found a citation for Baker and Hurd (1968) that suggests insects exerting selective pressure on plants, and not just the other way around. Pollinators generally would probably gravitate to the best food source, thus selecting for plants that produce the most of whatever they’re feeding on.

  47. alixana
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Hate the sin but love the sinner, eh? Geez, we haven’t heard THAT one before. How very unique and non-judgmental.

  48. Louche
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    It’s insulting and trivializing to animals to say that comparing humans to animals is inherently insulting and trivializing (it can be, but this is not often not the case at all). I don’t use the metaphor because I prefer not to use absent referents even when I am completely aware of the absent one, because I don’t want to get into the added argument and because I think it will only make people react just as you’re reacting, which isn’t really adding anything to the discussion but rather side-tracking it.

  49. Anacas
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Iron supplements aren’t as readily absorbed as iron from food. If someone already has a problem absorbing iron, iron supplements aren’t going to be nearly as helpful as eating foods with a very high iron content. Bodies are more complicated than just be vegetarian, add iron, everything will be fine–my mother has a genetic type of anemia, and no matter how many high-iron veggies she eats and iron supplements she takes, she can’t get healthy iron levels without red meat.

  50. Peepers
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I’ll just take her word for it since she lives in her body and I do not.

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