Dear PETA: Give Up Your Tasteless Ad Campaigns

This Thanksgiving, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization launched a pro-vegan campaign that is drawing media attention and criticism.

The nonprofit organization that champions animal rights and a vegan diet recently launched a billboard campaign with an image of a dog’s face on a turkey’s body with a message directed to children: “Kids: If you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a turkey?” This latest campaign, which is designed to scare young, impressionable kids into adapting a vegan diet, provides yet another example of PETA’s ludicrous media stunts that do little to promote its mission.

Although some of these campaigns can bring tremendous amounts of media attention, something that non-profit activist organizations need to survive, the provocative and offensive nature behind many of these PETA campaigns make people unsympathetic to the organization and its cause.

PETA, of course, firmly embraces the notion that “any publicity is good publicity.” They are very skilled at using provocative ads, as well as celebrities and popular culture, to gain media attention. From the steamy “Veggie Love” ads banned by the network during the Superbowl, to the recent “tongue-in-cheek” attack on tanooki fur-suited video game hero Mario, PETA has never shied away from any sort of criticism or attention. One of PETA’s founders, Ingrid Newkirk even admitted that is the organization’s obligation to be “press sluts."

Some of these provocative and offensive campaigns, however, can do more harm than good in terms of promoting its core mission. These media stunts, such as criticizing a video game for promoting fur coats or President Barack Obama for swatting a fly, trivialize animal rights.

PETA’s targeting of children through what is essentially a scare tactic is not only distasteful, but also counterproductive in achieving its goals. The public backlash against these kinds of campaigns negates whatever effect they may have in scaring children into becoming vegetarians. PETA’s past comic books titled “Your Mommy Kills Animals” and “Your Daddy Kills Animals” show a lunatic-faced woman and man mercilessly stabbing a rabbit and gutting a fish. Images of a dog on a dinner table or parents killing animals can traumatize young children, and are simply outlandish materials that gain PETA unnecessary criticism.

Organizations like PETA especially need to be mindful of avoiding a negative image because to advocate for animal rights, people need to care about helpless and voiceless animals. The organization cannot force people to care about something outside of their daily lives. Thus, their crass advertising campaigns only further draw people’s attention away from real cases of animal cruelty and laboratory testing.

PETA should be trying to draw public sympathy for their missions. When people are put off by the actions of the messenger, they would be less inclined to listen to the message. For the sake of animal rights, it is time for PETA to stop its smug, attention-seeking ways and focus on winning people’s hearts for its cause.

Photo Credit: Arturo de Albornoz

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Yoonho Ji

Yoonho is a recent graduate from University of California, San Diego, with a BA in International Studies: Political Science/History. As an undergraduate, he interned at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and he is now working as an assistant at a law firm in Los Angeles.

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