PETA activist distracts from substantive debate

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Dear Editor: On May 30, 2014 the CBC reported on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) activist Amy Balcome, who was participating in a protest in Vancouver ahead of the EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival.

While protests are an ordinary and highly encouraged part of democracy, Ms. Balcome decided to resort to the more attention-grabbing idea of having a large cardboard sheet shaped like a plate on the ground, with vegetables partially covering the plate, while Ms. Balcome laid almost completely naked on the plate covered in barbecue sauce.

According to PETA vice-president of communications Lisa Lange, the point of the protest was to “get people thinking about where their food comes from.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an American non-profit founded in 1980 and is the biggest animal rights organization in the world. PETA is known for its use of provocative campaigns, often featuring partially nude women in an attempt to grab the public’s attention through the use of publicity stunts.

Most notably amongst these campaigns, PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads which have featured numerous celebrities, including former actress Pamela Anderson in 2003.

In a 2003 interview with The New Yorker, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk described the organization’s use of sexuality to gain public attention through notoriety by stating: “we are complete press sluts … It is our obligation. We would be worthless if we were just polite and didn't make any waves” (The New Yorker, April 4, 2003).

While Balcome is only noted to have participated in the May 30 protest, her participation in the protest is one of a long list of examples of PETA taking advantage of hyper-sexuality in order to advance their organization’s interests and gain media attention.

The implied message from PETA is that a woman must treat herself like a sexual object in order to have her opinion heard or to gain attention. This patriarchal message is an insult to all women who seek to exercise their right to contribute to the public discourse.

Pamela Anderson, the former Baywatch star who has been active in PETA since the late 1990s, mostly notably on their anti-fur campaigns, also posed nearly naked in a bikini for a PETA ad promoting vegetarianism in 2010 that was banned in Montreal on grounds that the ad was sexist.

More recently, Anderson participated in another PETA publicity stunt when she and Simpsons’ co-creator Sam Simon visited Newfoundland and Labrador in December 2013 and offered sealers a collective, oversized million-dollar cheque to leave the seal hunt.

According to the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government, the seal hunt is worth approximately $55 million to Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, with sealers stating the income made from sealing constitutes up to 25-35 per cent of their yearly income.

PETA’s 2013 stunt is another example of how the organization will do whatever is necessary to gain media attention, including the exploitation of hyper-sexuality in their ads and protests.

I call on all Canadians to send a strong message to PETA that their tactics are not acceptable by not supporting the organization.

Kirk Quilty, Corner Brook

Organizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Dear Editor, CBC New Yorker

Geographic location: Vancouver, Newfoundland and Labrador, Montreal Corner Brook

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  • Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
    June 11, 2014 - 14:26

    Great letter, thank you. The fur industry is an important part of Canada's economy and employs tens of thousands of people, usually small businesses. PETA's shelter kill rates, their sexist campaigns, and attacks on small businesses (you don't see them protesting Safeway, do you?) are abominable and fortunately more and more people are starting to see them for what they are - an underhand organization whose agenda is column inches and not animal welfare.