Veganism can be a hard sell. It doesn't inspire many glossy articles in magazines. You don't see CW starlets plastered next to headlines like "Super Foods To Help You Stay Regular." When it comes to nutrition, even publications focused on health, fitness, and beauty like Self and Allure typically just rotate an arsenal of puff pieces about carb cutting and low calorie mixed drinks.
Aside from the occasional celebrity endorsement of a meat-free lifestyle, you only find extensive information on the various schools of veg if you delve into blogs, brands, and nonprofits devoted to the cause. While well-intentioned, these resources are often fanatical about veganism and beyond. If you don't want to incorporate yoga into every aspect of your life, don't have time to make all of your own cleaning supplies, and really don't know how you feel about oil pulling or drinking a liter of lukewarm water first thing every morning, they can be alienating.
This isn't veganism's fault; it's just not very sexy, especially in the time of foodies and artisan everything, to talk about will power and deprivation. But this means that the pressure is on us to represent our choices in the best way possible — something this year's marketing did little to help.
The offender most responsible for giving vegans a bad rap is PETA — an organization that's meant to promote the ethical treatment of animals, but often makes us question their ethics as human beings instead. PETA doesn't speak for all vegans, and it's marketing isn't doing the cause any favors. Let's take a look at its worst recent campaigns — and hope that they've learned their lesson for next year.
This ad would be in poor taste featuring any spokesperson, but PETA especially missed the mark by putting 16-year-old singer-songwriter Samia Najimy Finnerty (daughter of the vacuum-riding priestess herself, Kathy Najimy) alongside the headline. First of all, the vegan community would do well to stop food shaming their sister wives, the vegetarian community. But moreover, I'd prefer my vegan ads without a side of promoting teen promiscuity, thanks.
How shall I compare thee to being terrible, let me count the ways. First thing's first, violence against women isn't fodder for a tongue and cheek advertising campaign. It's easy to see that PETA is trying to appeal to the men folk here, but the way this ad deals with women is hugely problematic. This young woman is pantsless, battered, and begging for more. How that should be made relevant to veganism — a health choice — even makes Father Irony roll his eyes.
What's off-putting about this campaign is the fact that PETA keeps strict requirements concerning who is and is not eligible to pose in the ads. What's even worse is the way PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk is trying to use the campaign to exploit the recent announcement by Plan-B makers that the emergency contraceptive might not be effective in women over 165 pounds. She cleverly named her idea "Plan V," and said she hopes the images, "will encourage women to adopt a healthy vegan diet in order to lose weight and take control of their reproductive rights." I'm not even going to go there.
This ad is so repulsive it had to be banned from the Super Bowl. It's especially good at illustrating PETA's misdirected obsession with using sex to promote veganism. The basic premise for the campaign doesn't even make sense: How do women having udders convey that drinking cow's milk is wrong? Perhaps if there were cows in place of women the idea would be more clear, but who am I to pitch advertising ideas.
PETA, if you're going to take a break from shoving lady parts in our faces to go the science-route instead, you might want to, you know, consult science. All animals actually don't have the same body parts. I mean, I would love a duck bill or bear claws, but unfortunately I don't have those things because I'm not a duck or a bear. The in-your-face image of a person laying on a fake barbecue all day painted to look like dead meat is just the kind of thing that makes nonvegans want to go eat a steak, and say to hell with you guys.