On Wednesday, animal rights organization PETA released a new ad seemingly depicting women sharing their experiences with sexual assault.
"One man held me down ... " says one woman, " ... while another man touched me," adds another. They go on to recount feelings of fear, confusion, guilt and worthlessness. "They've called me a 'bitch,'" says another woman, while another still remembers getting pregnant as the result of what sounds like an extremely violent rape.
But at the end of the video, there's a jarring twist. The teary-eyed women aren't talking about rape at all, but animal breeding.
"I am you," a woman says, holding up a photo of a cow, "only different."
The women go on to explain the plight of the billions of animals in the meat, egg and dairy industries, most of which, they say, are the result "forced artificial insemination." And in case the comparison weren't clear enough, PETA takes it one step further, stating in the video, "Almost all of them are the result of rape."
In a statement emailed to Mic, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk had the following to say about the ad:
We are talking about rape: It is rape when someone sticks their hand into a vagina or rectum without permission. That's the dictionary definition of rape. We believe that everyone should see the reality of dairy, meat, and egg production and then, unless they're ethically blind, they will be appalled. Who can honestly complain about the sexual abuse of women if they accept the sexual abuse of other females who happen not to be human but have the same vulnerability to pain? Who can fill their mouth full of steak, bacon, or turkey when they realize that mother cows are routinely sexually abused and that their calves—their beloved offspring—are taken from them shortly after birth? Any woman (or man!) with a heart should scream bloody murder on behalf of the animals who can't scream it themselves.
This is hardly the first time PETA has been criticized for exploiting women to further its own agenda. The organization has used nude or near-nude female models in campaigns to protest bullfighting, Kentucky Fried Chicken and leather — all causes which, PETA seems to believe, are far more pressing than the objectification of women.
In June, the organization made that stance abundantly clear when, in honor of the inaugural United State of Women Summit, it tweeted out a quote from Newkirk who compared the oppression of women to that of chickens.
"Discrimination is discrimination, and it's wrong, whether you're a woman or a chicken," she said at the time. Newkirk, by the way, was nowhere to be found on the summit's guest list, according to Jezebel.
And its not just women who are casualties in PETA's supposed war for the "ethical." The group has been slammed more than once for making dubious racially-charged clams to further its cause, like in 1998, when representatives called cow's milk "racist," citing "'tens of millions' African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans cannot properly absorb milk products into their bloodstream," according to Live Stock Weekly. In 2015, the group even backed white supremacist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and gave him props for putting prisoners on a vegetarian diet, even though he was doing it to cut costs, not save animal lives.
Activist Feminista Jones wondered if Peta's latest ad might be the tipping point for feminists. Black people, she said in a tweet, have long ago condemned PETA for the organization's racist messages.
In response to these accusations of racism, Newkirk wrote to Mic:
Regarding the latter part of your story: Don't dare call us racists. Ever. PETA is anti-racism, and we are also anti-speciesm, anti-gay bashing, anti-sexism, against all discrimination, not just that which you relate to most. And as a woman I'm against rape across the board, and against black slavery, child slavery, and the enslavement of all the animal races, too.
Peta's latest ad might be considered especially appalling as it arrives at the tail end of a presidential election with sexual assault at the fore. Americans listened to a dozen women testify to the same experiences the women recount in the PETA video: being held down, being treated as objects and feeling degraded.
For PETA to appropriate the language of survivors' experiences and use it for animal rights, is as irresponsible as it is tasteless.
Nov. 4, 2016, 8:22 a.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.