We Sell Body Parts
Let me say what I feel is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s (PETA) greatest contribution to the animal rights movement: Meet Your Meat. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard tell me that they went vegetarian or vegan because of this video.
No matter how hard I try, though, it is virtually impossible for me to get past how PETA perpetuates the objectification of women.
Their most recent endeavor can be seen at their website – their annual State of the Union Undress. How catchy! In the video, a woman removes her clothing while dictating all the amazing work PETA has done in the previous year. She does this until she is completely nude. This year, PETA requested the woman be “African American or mixed race”…you know, to look like the President and stuff.
I have not watched the video, so I can’t say with certainty if I would remember anything the woman said or the amazing feats PETA performed last year. The whole stripping off your clothes bit is perhaps a smidgen distracting to most.
PETA is known for this stuff, I know. But it’s frustrating, nonetheless. PETA uses the bodies of women to sell a product. Sex sells. There is nothing wrong with loving your body. There is nothing immoral about nudity. Sex can make for a wonderful, powerful connection between people. So I’m not coming from an angle of “prudishness” (which is what PETA often accuses its naysayers of being, weird). I’m not coming from a perspective of denying women (or anyone) the right to dress how they want.
I’m coming from the perspective that if you want to advocate liberation for nonhuman animals, perhaps you should avoid exploiting human females. That many of these women are conned into their own self-exploitation is heart-breaking and sad.
For me, I think of the billions of farmed animals in the United States alone. On dairy farms, nine million cows will be artificially inseminated this year. They are, in essence, raped – denied the right to mate with a bull of their choice. They are denied motherhood, their babies stripped from them the day of birth. Their sole worth is in their bodies’ excretions, their milk. On egg farms, 400 million hens languish in cages or crammed into sheds. Their value is in their eggs, leeching calcium and life from them every day. On chicken farms, 9.3 billion birds – male and female – will be raised and slaughtered this year. Their value is in their body parts, their legs, thighs, and backs. They are sold by the pound. Producers will look at the 33 million cattle being fattened for slaughter and compartmentalize them into choice cuts, select body parts.
The list of horrifying things we do to nonhuman animals is long. How can we possibly change behavior, encourage compassion, suggest veganism when organizations within this movement perpetuate the notion that female humans are body parts? They are breasts and butts and thighs and smooth stomachs. They are, according to PETA, not fat or male or transgender or pimpled or seemingly flawed. They are young, nubile, firm, appealing based on nothing more than their flesh. Why do they care about nonhumans? Why do they want to help farmed animals or fur-bearing animals? What are their interests, their loves, desires, hopes and aspirations? What are their failures, mistakes?
We don’t ever know.
I want people to care about cattle and goats because they are socially fascinating, emotionally driven creatures. I want people to care about foxes and mink because they can suffer. I want people to care about turkeys and chickens because they sing songs, trill and cluck out a language. I want people to care about nonhuman animals because they are unique individuals with personalities, sentience, emotions, intelligence. I don’t feel people can care about the suffering and exploitation of nonhuman animals when an “animal rights” organization objectifies and exploits the bodies of human females.
Photo by: EssG