Do PETA’s Ends justify their Means?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 27, 2009
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peta sex sells

Sex Sells…Ahimsa.

Sex! Violence! Why PETA chose obnoxious tactics for their feel-good causes.

Do PETA’s ends justify their means? Compassion through objectification, celebrity & violence.

PETA may be jerky but if you’re nice about vegetarianism no one pays attention. They made a decision to inject sexiness, obnoxiousness, and celebrity into the conversation. And it’s been effective—changing the policies of big chains like KFC and McDonald’s and Burger King.

As someone who writes nice, polite, thoughtful blogs about controversial subjects, and sees those blogs get scant attention, I can’t blame them for their tactics. We’ve posted on PETA many times before. Here and here and here and here and here and here and (deep breath) heeeeere and here and here and here. And every time we do, we get complaints that they’re mean.

Once in awhile, I post something with sexiness or meanness in a title, and I always see it get 10x the traffic as a nice thoughtful blog I do about a complex subject like…Silk Soy going “natural,” or TOMS Shoes making their wares in un-certified third world factories. Instead of screaming bloody murder or hypocrisy, I look at the issues and give folks a chance to improve. But when I do say, Naked Branson or Naked Yoga or whatever, the key is to keep the info in the writeup real, and grounded, even if the title or photo isn’t.

It’s a speedy, crazy world, and you have to go big sometimes to get attention and make change.

*Ironically, however, my biggest break of all time, my defense of Whole Foods against the calls for Boycotts following CEO John Mackey’s Wall Street Journal editorial against Obama’s Healthcare plan, was in the thoughtful vein. That article got picked up by the New York Times, Atlantic, and lived on the home page of Huffington Post for four days, garnering 500 plus comments.

Bonus, via The Onion:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


15 Responses to “Do PETA’s Ends justify their Means?”

  1. Jono says:

    PETA raises awareness for PETA, not for the causes they champion. People remember the stunts, not the reason behind them.

    PETA overshadows the issues they are trying to help, and gives critics good excuses to ignore and dismiss the issues.

  2. Mister Khampa says:

    Jono makes a good point. Here in Vermont there is a naked cyclist event once a year — I don't remember what it's for (global warming?) only that I saw four or five young naked men and women riding bikes in downtown Montpelier on weekend morning. I wonder how parents with six-yr old daughters out for a nice morning downtown felt about the guy with his testicles flapping the breeze.

  3. David Lewis says:

    Stupid. They're revolting. To whom is this symbolism supposed to appeal? It looks like an especially nasty fetish.
    If they want to change the culture, why not simply report what it means to be a carnivore, i.e., an animal killer? Why not simply show people how revolting eating meat really is?

  4. David Lewis says:

    It also is worthwhile noting that this stunt appears to have drawn a mob of perhaps a half-dozen, all male.

  5. […] post at elephantjournal yesterday has got me thinking. The post is short and to the point, ultimately summed up in the […]

  6. warn says:

    I wonder where these PETA people live?

    In homes made from cut down forest? That displace and kill all future generations of animals.

    What do they eat?

    Veggies grown in a plowed up field? That killed and displaced all future generations of animals.

  7. helen says:

    these images depict violence against women, and peta are, presumably, using them to shock,(violence against women -bad) .
    However, in the larger world, these images reflect pornographic themes accepted and enjoyed(!) by a proportion of society and the assumption that peta hopes the vewier will make, is lost.

  8. darla says:

    hee hee hilarious! didn't anyone watch the video??

  9. Deb says:

    It's amazing that you managed to turn an article about PETA's tactics into an article about yourself. All in less than two paragraphs! Well done!

  10. Aurora says:

    this is great:)

  11. Yes, they get attention, just as people who burn flags and and spit on soldiers get (WAY) more attention than your standard nice, civilized peace activists–and just look at how much good those people have done for the peace movement.

  12. Jay W
    Your question assumes that PETA's "ends" are positive, when their biggest accomplishment has been to make most Americans (a concept that might be confusing to people who live in Boulder) think people who care about animal welfare are misanthropic jerks.

    Yes, they get attention, just like burning flags and spitting on soldiers get (WAY) more attention than the more gentle behavior of most peace activists–and just look at how much good those tactics have done for the peace movement.

    Renee T
    I think people should eat meat if they want to……I just think they should have to kill it themselves. As for PETA I think they mostly make vegetarians look like jerks.

    Waylon Lewis
    Great point, Jay.

    I'm talking however about the accomplishments with KFC, Mickey D's…real accomplishments that directly changes the brief lives of thousands upon thousands of sentient beings, and the health of us.

  13. Thanks, Anonymous. I think if you managed to read on, you'd find that this post isn't about us, or me, but it is however personal. What do you think? What do I think? What do we think? Perhaps you prefer omniscient, unbiased journalism? That's fine.

    But that's not elephant, for better and for worse.

  14. I never liked PETA's tactics and completely gave up on trying to see the good in their message after the shameful testimony they gave in favor of putting down all of the dogs rescued from Vick's Bad Newz Kennels. As a pit bull-owning vegetarian, they disgust me. I was won over to the meat-free and, bully-breed owning dark side by logic and experience, not by shock and awe.