PETA Signs “Octomom” for Ad on Spaying, Proving They Have No Shame.

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I very much support the end of discrimination in the United States based most specifically on class, race, gender and sexual orientation. That doesn’t mean that when met with the reality of other causes, I would throw those causes under the bus, to prove my point or make political inroads. I recognize the need to work collaboratively and through coalition in the world of social justice. I also support the ethical treatment of animals, but I can not support an organization that is so willing to humiliate, exotify and make fetish of marginalized communities in the service of creating a noise machine that, frankly, doesn’t change people’s minds about going vegan, vegetarian or to support any of their initiatives. Someone needs to send PETA a memo that being loud isn’t the same thing as being effective.
So I suppose for an organization that is very comfortable being sexist, racist, fat-phobic and classist, it is no big shocker that PETA struck a deal with “octomom,” for $5000 for her to put up an ad on her front lawn about spaying and neutering your pet.

The offer is intended to call attention to the dog and cat overpopulation crisis, PETA spokesman Amanda Schinke said.
“Every year, 6 to 8 million animals enter animal shelters, and roughly half of them are euthanized because of a lack of good homes,” she said.
The unmarried Suleman already had six children when she gave birth to
octuplets in January 2009. All 14 were conceived through in vitro
fertilization.

“Octomom,” doesn’t always make the best media choices, I will say that, but she is also clearly a troubled person and needs help. She is also a product of our voyeuristic culture that loves to watch people fail, fuck up and then judge their choices and their lives. She was the butt of a lot of jokes and judgments last year. Which is just ripe picking ground for PETA’s marketing campaigns.
What’s really interesting is that for all their shockery, PETA themselves euthanized 2,301 pets last year alone. Any reason for that?
If PETA really wants to make change, they need to learn a lesson from the failures of “War on Drugs,” and abstinence-only campaigns. Campaigns of personal accountability don’t work without structural change and support. You can shame people all you want, but that is rarely going to get them to listen to you. This clear oversight in their ground game makes me think that they don’t care about their cause one bit, they just want to create a celebrity driven noise machine, because they can. And I can absolutely see how they appeal to people that have no idea how to create social change and love animals. I mean, we are talking cute furry animalz!!!
UPDATE: Check out some not-PETA vegan blogs
Sistah Vegan
Vegans Against PETA
Vegans of Color
Another vegan noise machine is possible!

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22 Comments

  1. Brianna G
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Suleman agreed to this. As long as the state still considers her capable of signing a contract, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, compared to PETA’s normal fare, this is positively tame– they got her consent to refer to her and made sure she was okay with it, it doesn’t feature naked women, and honestly, it doesn’t even really make fun of Suleman, except to use a term that some people use derogatorily, but which Suleman seems to have embraced. It does not attack people who eat meat or milk products, in fact, the campaign is a common, widely accepted one used by the SPCA. What’s more, it’s not even a national ad– it’s a sign on Suleman’s front yard.
    Yes, she is poor, and if they wanted to have her pose naked or feature her in an ad campaign that was clearly intended to mock her, I might think this was exploitative, but simply using her fame to get out the very important message that cats produce huge litters and we don’t want that of our cats isn’t that bad.
    If they did this without her consent, were not reimbursing her for it, etc, I would be offended. I AM offended by the porn offers– that seems exploitative in the extreme, though thankfully Suleman seems confident enough to reject offers she is uncomfortable with. But considering Suleman cannot work, I hardly think it fair to tell her she ALSO should not use her fame to make money, particularly if she’s found a way that doesn’t involve parading her children about on TV like other families with lots of kids. Or are we supposed to believe that she can only make money if the state gives it to her, and everything she might actively do is exploitative?
    Kudos to PETA for coming up with a simple, relatively unoffensive ad campaign that provides help to a family in need. Maybe if we encourage them to do these ads, they’ll stop with the half-naked girls wrapped in plastic.

  2. ak33yu
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    (Nadya Suleman trademarked the name “Octomom”, so I tend to use that because hey, it’s shorter.)
    Man, I hate me some PETA.
    This ad is stupid.
    1. Cats naturally reproduce in litters. Cats have 8 nipples, therefore there’s nothing wrong with cats having 8 kittens.
    2. Yes, I am a firm believer in spaying and neutering pets (my ideal number of kittens produced by your average house cat is zero), but since Octomom relied on ART to conceive, sterilization didn’t even enter into the picture,
    This ad is cruel.
    1. Acknowledged, Octomom has done everything she can to trade on her ‘fame’. Fine. Preying on a woman who is in danger of losing her home and therefore her children? And offering a pittance, besides? Come on.
    2. What the hell did her kids ever do to PETA that they feel free to portray them in such a negative light? The entire point of spaying and neutering is to control the population of stray animals (yay!) and prevent unwanted litters (yay, also!), therefore…they’re implying that Octomom’s kids are an unwanted litter? Way to go, assholes.
    3. ON HER LAWN? So…the kids have to see it every day? So…total strangers will be able to easily find her house? This is a family that has received threats and been the target of vandalism already. A sign on her lawn? How does this NOT endanger her family?
    Clearly, Octomom herself bears responsibility for *accepting* the deal, but how can PETA go into a bargain like this in good faith? Every interview that Ms. Suleman has given has indicated that she has some serious emotional and psychological issues. Is it ethical to enter into a deal (especially one that harms children) with someone who has demonstrated poor decision making skills and is likely has some mental health challenges?
    Totally unrelated to Octomom:
    1. PETA should be served a giant plate of STFU for equating HOMs (high order multiples) as ‘litters’.
    2. Plenty of HOMs are spontaneously conceived. The incidence of spontaneous non-identical multiple births is linked to ethnicity (Google it–fascinating stuff), so as a ‘bonus’, PETA is also being racially insensitive.
    Way to go, PETA. Stay classy.

  3. Posted March 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a vegetarian for five years now and in my wild rebellious high school days I was really into PETA. (In Texas it’s kind of fun to protest The Ringling Bros. with a shirt that says, “Whips and Chains Belong in the Bedroom: Not the Circus.) Since then I’ve definitely disowned PETA because I recognized their tactics are off-putting and their advertisements are sexist and racist. I’ve also given up vegetarian evangelicalism (eVEGelicalism? hahaha!)
    Anyway, PETA’s problematic but I wouldn’t say they were ineffective. They’re disgustingly gruesome and in your face (which might not be pleasant but it is a reality) but those tactics are what convinced me to be a vegetarian as a teenager and I know a lot of people who have similar stories. I don’t think the strategies are as effective on people 18+ but PETA’s always kind of tried a get-em-when-they’re-young philosophy. So, I think there are a lot of people out there who PETA converted as teenagers and who defected when they realized PETA’s kind of insane.
    As for the “octomom” ad- I don’t find it terribly offensive. She consented to it and PETA paid her. She’s a grown woman fully capable of making her own publicity choices. It’s kind of paternalistic to try to protect her from big, bad PETA when she gave her permission.

  4. allegra
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I find this especially repellant because of the recent news that Suleman’s home was going to be foreclosed, so they were also taking open advantage of her money troubles. (And, really, what fucking family with 14 kids ISN’T going to have money troubles?)
    But, re: PETA euthanizing animals, I think people need to start being real that euthanization is, in most circumstances, the most humane thing to do. Animals are animals. Animals are not people, and taking care of the mass overpopulation of “pet” animals, dogs and cats, that we have in this country eats up massive financial resources. There just is no sense in keeping some of these extra animals alive. Again, they are not people. There is simply not something morally better for an animal about being alive than being dead. One can still take issue with *how* they’re killed, and pain reduction, but euthanasia is simply not some evil in itself.
    A few years ago, I had a cat put down after he stopped eating and I found out from a blood test that he had feline leukemia. My mother just mourned and chided me about it for days. “Cats sometimes live through that. Couldn’t you just have tried some meds? Couldn’t you have done this or and done that?” Yes, I could have, but I simply *did not have the time or money*. Instead, I had him put down and took two new shelter cats. Yes, you get emotionally attached to a pet. I cried. I was miserable and pissed off. But I think people like lose touch with reality. Like at the point that they’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on medications for a dying animal for simply sentimental reasons. And animals don’t deserve to suffer when they’re ill just because their owner is too attached to know when to call it quits in the natural cycle of things.
    So. You know. Let’s be real. As much as it’s “part of the family,” and as much as we anthropomorphize our pets, it’s an animal.

  5. allegra
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Uh, yeah, but just the label “Octomom” is itself degrading, objectifying, and dehumanizing (as are so many idiotic media labels). Just because she “consents” to it doesn’t change the fact. One of my misogynist (ex)-friends once remarked that this is a label that could accurately be applied to most female welfare recipients. It’s not coincidental that he liked the word so much; it’s fucking dehumanizing.

  6. Comrade Kevin
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Some people are just lost. You can’t talk to PETA members just like you can’t talk to anti-choice protesters. Their minds are made up.
    We can oppose them and call them on their shit, but they’re not going to get it because they don’t really want to get it.

  7. Cola
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Allegra, I once had to have a six week old kitten put down. Just like you I know it was the right thing to do (He was one of our fosters, we were going to keep him in spite of the fact that he couldn’t use his back legs, but it turned out he couldn’t eliminate and by the time we realised something was wrong, it had destroyed his insides), but I’ll never, ever forgive myself for it. =(
    Anyway, this is one veg against PETA. I mean, the argument that because she agreed to it that makes it all okay is strangely similar to the arguments I hear when PETA covers women in blood and lays them out in bikinis on the sidewalk all day. “Oh, well, the women wanted to do it!” Women do really gross, demeaning porn electively all the time. Does that make it okay? It’s still using women’s bodies, experiences, and lives like they’re disposable while also sending the message that PETA has no use for you unless you look good in a bikini.

  8. dustxandxlight
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m not entirely sure why we’re not assigning *any* ‘blame’ (for lack of a better word) to Suleman. What she’s doing is making a spectacle of herself and of her life at the expense of her children.

  9. ak33yu
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    “As much as it’s “part of the family,” and as much as we anthropomorphize our pets, it’s an animal.”
    Yes, it is an animal, but PETA’s has always seemed to come out against killing any animal, so euthanizing “surplus” animals seems like a particularly non-humane thing to do. They’ve got enough money to run ads like this and maintain their enormous PR arm, but not to pay for a little more cat food? I call bullshit.
    Euthanasia of sick or dying animals is an entirely separate issue.

  10. ak33yu
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    They’re comparing her children to unwanted animals. This is hardly victimless.

  11. ak33yu
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Just because she hasn’t been declared legally incompetent doesn’t mean she is capable of making good choices.
    Taking advantage of someone who has a history of emotional and psychological disturbances and appears unable to make good choices, while not illegal, is still kind of a dick move.

  12. Lisa
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I think another awesome ani-PETA vegan blogger is Gary Francione, who also identifies as a feminist. I found his blog early along in my transition to veganism. He has written about PETA and sexism quite a bit. Especially in this blog post he wrote, titled “Sexism and Misogyny in the Movement”.
    http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/sexism-and-misogyny-in-the-movement/
    I have to warn you, there’s a video ad at that link by a Dutch animal rights organization that picked up on PETA’s brand of activism and it is very triggering. It’s basically a woman stripping, then getting beaten and stabbed (as far as I saw). As a domestic violence survivor, it was painful for me to watch and I had a panic attack and couldn’t finish it. The fact that they even thought that it was okay to film something like that is reason enough that if vegans respect women, they should not support PETA or any organizations that use the same kind of advertising to get noticed.
    This most recent thing with Octomom is about as embarrassing and pathetic as that time they told Ben and Jerry’s to switch from cow’s milk to breastmilk. Thanks PETA, for making me have to assure the people that know I am vegan that I am not “one of those PETA assholes.”

  13. ak33yu
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Eh, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Clearly she shoulders some of the responsibility, but her children are innocent in this situation.
    Arguing that Suleman is exploiting her children certainly has legs, but it doesn’t give PETA a free pass to exploit them further and equate them with unwanted animals. That’s just beyond the pale.
    Also, there’s this:
    “Ethical” is right in the PETA name. They spend their time (what little time isn’t taken up by painting naked women and issuing inflammatory press releases) arguing against things that are LEGAL, but that they feel are UNETHICAL.
    What they’re doing now may be LEGAL, but since they entered into a contract with a woman who seems to have some unresolved issues concerning mental illness and they are exploiting her children, I would argue that it is UNETHICAL, which makes them, for lack of a fancier term, really bad people.

  14. PamelaVee
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I stopped donating to Peta for the other, *more* sexist campaign reasons, which I view as taking food and shelter from animals because of wasted money. Aside from that, their euthanasia rate is way too high and I do not at all support breed bans (the city-wide bannings of supposedly “aggressive” dogs, which does nothing but punish good dog “parents” and good dogs, while doing jack shit to eliminate the human-caused abuse that produces “aggressive” dogs).
    I wish they weren’t so ridiculous (BTW, that Ben and Jerry’s thing was ONLY for attention. The fact that it was brought up means the campaign worked). Their (valid) mission and their hard work for animals would get my support, if all these (this?) shenanigans went away.
    They really do have comprehensive information on animal issues and they are doing a disservice to themselves and to vegans/animal activists like myself by continuing these offensive ads. Sad because their info helped me become vegetarian and vegan.
    I usually ignore them nowadays.

  15. uberhausfrau
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    i cant get too upset about this ad because my little neighbourhood is overrun with intact animals and their offspring. in fact, im actually thinking of getting a neighbour’s cat fixed for her, even though we are pretty broke right now. this cat just had 9 kittens and had 6 last season. and she keeps saying “i need to get her fixed/i had such a hard time finding homes for her last litter.” for fuck sake. get her fixed or quit letting her out to be bum rushed by the multitudes of intact males hanging around because you are feeding the strays/ferals!!!

  16. allegra
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Well, while I see your point, taking care of animals requires much more than “more cat food.” And advertising and outreach have become major expenses for many organizations doing humanitarian and non-profit work, from universities to Planned Parenthood, so I’m not sure what kind of judgment I can make on that. I fully agree their ad campaigns are offensive and stupid and a waste of money, and that they’re hypocrites if they do in fact condemn other organizations for putting down animals. But, I mean, really. Shelter animals live in cages in noisy rooms, in close quarters where they can pick up illnesses, and most of them do not get half of the care or attention that they need. What, when you get down to it, is the intrinsic moral good in this? I just can’t fault PETA in general for putting down animals. They’re not skinning them alive or something, or dropping them in boiling water, like some of our factory farms. At least they put them down humanely (I hope, and assume).

  17. Phenicks
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    If she’s competent enough to be declared fit to raise 14 children, she’s competent enough to consent (no scare quotes) to this ad.
    She went into this with NO WAY to possibly financially care for thse children, her fame and the charity of others is all she has right now because she is unable to work. Her choice, no matter how much anyone else doesnt like it, they arent the one responsible for keeping a roof over 14 childrens’ heads with foreclosure looming.

  18. Yazatas
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    ‘Because of the high number of unwanted companion animals and the lack of good homes, sometimes the most humane thing that a shelter worker can do is give an animal a peaceful release from a world in which dogs and cats are often considered “surplus” and unwanted.’
    http://www.peta2.com/TAKECHARGE/t_factsheet_euthanasia.asp
    PETA is, in fact, pro euthanasia. As long as it is done humanely. Paying for more catfood is not the issue. PETA considers the warehousing of unwanted animals to be inhumane. Akin to a lifelong prison sentence with no chance for parole, when the inmate hasn’t even done anything wrong. It’s not a matter of just feeding them. They should have loving homes. In this, if not in their PR methods, I agree with PETA.

  19. PDXHopeful
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Look… I’ve had to make the choice to have a suffering pet put down. Hard as it was I’m at peace with the fact that, for her, it was the most humane option.
    There is a distinction though between that and putting down a healthy, behaviorally sound animal because its parents’ owners were unwilling to have a simple, often subsidized for low-income people, surgery done. If people CHOOSE to contribute to give them a chance, I fail to see a problem with that. It’s their time/money.

  20. MLEmac28
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I always find it ironic that PETA is for the forced sterilization of animals, while claiming they should have the same rights as humans from the other side of their mouth.
    I’m all for campaigns to spay and neuter pets, as the number of strays who die on the street is horrendous. I also eat meat….

  21. makomk
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    What’s more, it’s not even a national ad– it’s a sign on Suleman’s front yard.

    Of course it’s national – the fact they’ve only put the ad up in one place misses the point. The entire purpose of this kind of campaign is that the press pick up on it and reproduce your ad in their stories, providing nation-wide advertising for the cost of an ad at one location.

  22. Anony-mouse
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    All I can think about when I see this is 1) I hate PETA and 2) That Sandman story about the cat whose kittens where killed because they weren’t pure bred.

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