PETA Doesn’t Get a Trump Card

Cover for PETA and Donald Trump post

TW: Discussions of rape, sexual assault, and violence against women.

Although I distanced myself from PETA years ago, and have made that obvious in numerous ways (one of the best being the totes I made for the last tour), I find myself posting about them once again to try and illustrate just why I can’t ignore their actions.

In their latest campaign, PETA is trying hard to be current by referencing a recently leaked tape of Donald Trump, but they’re once again showing themselves to be in the dark ages by ignoring the implications of what Trump said. People are upset with Trump, and rightfully so. In fact, even members of the party he is representing in the upcoming election are publicly opposing him.

And what does PETA add to the conversation? A criticism of the promotion of rape culture and the refusal to properly apologize? No. They simply repurpose his statement to promote the adoption of kittens. Not only that, their responses to criticism of the campaign show that they refuse to acknowledge any possible mistake. Although this is par for the course for the organization who has been brought to task for numerous campaigns before, the clear copy and paste responses some folks are receiving online is even a failure at the social media management level.

Basically, it comes across as if PETA cares only about the possibility that someone might adopt a cat, not the possibility that someone may be triggered by their use of such an offensive comment. Again, this single-minded focus on animals is nothing new for PETA, but the continued approval of the mainstream vegan community for this view never fails to amaze me.

PETA Injustice Image

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women in the United States will be raped at some point in their lives, compared to one in 71 men. Nearly one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime. 81 percent of women report “significant short-term or long-term impacts”, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, from being sexually assaulted.
– Tess Owen, Trump tapes prompt thousands of women to tweet about their sexual assaults

Despite the fact that, statistically, people are choosing to ignore the lived experiences of numerous friends, family members, coworkers, and others who have experienced some form of sexual assault, folks refuse to criticize PETA for their latest stunt thanks to all the things they’ve done for animals. Although it’s hard to deny that PETA has been influential in convincing many people to drop meat, these good deeds in no way give them the right to be ignorant or supportive of other terrible things.

Giving the largest animal rights organization in the world a free pass to be sexist, racist, and outright ignorant because it handed out thousands of veg starter kits is no different than refusing to acknowledge the terrible things done by celebrities such as Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Johnny Depp simply because they’ve given the world hours of entertainment.

Here’s an important fact: Johnny Depp could be a “nice guy” otherwise and still be an abusive husband. Nice people do terrible things, and sometimes they even feel guilty about them, and they still do them again.
– Amelia Ayrelan Iuvino, Unbelievable: Amber Heard and the Cult of the Accused

Just because you appreciate the work someone does in one regard doesn’t mean you can’t have an issue with something else they do. People and organizations are complicated, and viewing them through a single lens helps no one, including those without a voice.

PETA Affect Image

The truth is, celebrities can do better. PETA can do better. We can do better.

In fact, many of us are already doing just that, and demanding it from those we support. In terms of the magazine, I like to think that T.O.F.U. has promoted a connected (intersectional) approach in regard to many issues, but one of the more appropriate ones for this post would be the issue focused on sexism. If you’re wondering why folks are upset with many PETA campaigns, there are a number of pieces that help to explain in that issue.

Along with the magazine, some folks who promote and discuss the need for intersectionality are:

Food Empowerment Project
The Sistah Vegan Project
xclusivx fanzine
Project Intersect

I also post plenty of important issues, both related to veganism and also to an intersectional approach to activism on Pinterest and tumblr.

Note: Both animal images were taken from PETA’s website, which offers them as part of their efforts to encourage people to “never be silent”. Although I know PETA intended them to be used to promote animal rights, I feel as if Martin Luther King Jr. would appreciate a broader application. Ironically enough, the use of his quotes and equating the fate of animals today to slavery on the related page only helps to further illustrate PETA’s refusal to consider an intersectional approach to its activism. If you wish to know more about why the intersection of veganism and race is often problematic, please see this post.

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