“Save the whales.”
On its own, it seems like an admirable goal, a call to action, a plea to help animals on the brink of extinction.
But when those words are accompanied by an overweight woman in a bikini, as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has most recently done, it morphs into a hateful, body-shaming slam. The billboard was recently erected in Jacksonville, Florida. When asked is the ad is sexist or ridicules overweight people, senior PETA campaigner Ashley Byrne said, "Our goal is help overweight Jacksonville residents--the best way to do that is to go vegetarian. We're not trying to insult anyone. [....] Vegetarians look and feel better than meat eaters. This is a life-saving message."
“Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach," adds PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "PETA has a free 'Vegetarian Starter Kit' for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.”
I’m not going to deny the fact that going vegetarian can help people improve their health--lots of research bears this out. And sure, if you’re eating fewer cheeseburgers and bacon-potato burritos, you’ll probably lose some weight. But going veg does not guarantee you’ll become skinny--in fact, there are plenty of overweight vegetarians (too much mac-n-cheese or PB & J can do that)--and eating meat does not mean you’ll grow obese and keel over from heart disease. I eat chicken, fish, ham and the occasional steak and I am neither heavy, nor artery-clogged. From what PETA’s Byrne said, it seems PETA would prefer a nation of heavy vegetarians than fit carnivores. Their goal is to stop meat-eating, and they’re trying to veil it by couching it within a pseudo-health message. Hence the shock tactics they continuously employ. (In fact, I debated even blogging about this because it’s just giving them even more free publicity.)
I’d imagine this kind of ad makes true, kind-hearted vegetarians feel rather ashamed to be affiliated with such an organization. I do not think most non-meat eaters believe their meat-eating counterparts are fat pigs who deserve to be publicly mocked.
There’s a good discussion taking place on the iVillage discussion boards here.
What do you think?