Fowl play: A Peta protester poses provocatively as meat (Getty)
Do you love vegetables? So do I, but not in the style of "Veggie Love", Peta's latest campaign to shock people with animal cruelty in order to promote a vegan diet. Last month the animal liberation charity, notorious for its use of naked women in advertising, released a video to be screened during the US Super Bowl, depicting bikini-clad models fondling phallic vegetables while cavorting around in a sexualised fashion.
The advertisement, which would have cost $3 million to be screened, was rejected by NBC, the American TV network. In response, Peta released another, even more risqué, 30-second video for the Super Bowl — an event that even Obama celebrates with bratwurst and cheeseburgers. It shows a stream of models entering a casting agency wearing nothing but their sexiest lingerie, and then they are asked by the director to "Pick a vegetable and show us how much you love it."
Founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk, a British activist, and fellow animal rights advocate Alex Pacheco, Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is the largest animal rights organisation in the world, with more than two million members and supporters. Its HQ is in Virginia, US, with offices in London, Rome and Mumbai.
Its goal is "total animal liberation," meaning the complete elimination from the human diet of meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and honey. It campaigns for the global eradication of zoos, aquariums and circuses; a ban on the wearing or production of wool, leather, fur and silk; and a total prohibition of hunting and fishing. Peta is against any medical experimentation on animals, including that for cancer and Aids. Newkirk has said that, "Even if animal research resulted in a cure for Aids, we would be against it."
I spoke to a small number of former volunteers, active members and employees. All mentioned the "cult-like" style in which Peta operates. "If you're not radical enough you don't stay there long," a 25-year-old former activist told me. "There is no room in Peta for those who are not 100 per cent committed and fanatical."
In its favour, Peta can claim to have enjoyed success in bringing animal cruelty to the attention of the mainstream, exposing genuine atrocities within the fur trade, factory farming, medical experimentation and fast-food outlets. "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" is a recognised mantra for the anti-fur brigade.
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