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Vegans Against PETA
This is a blog for animal rights activists who are concerned about the misogynist, racist, homophobic and transphobic tactics used by PETA.   
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Blasphemy, beauty and animal rights
I am a traitor to the animal rights cause, I admit it. Last week I was at the doctor to have my ears flushed out, and decided while I was at it that I am sick and goddamn tired of my face being constantly covered in pimples when I'm in my late twenties. So, I asked my doctor what could be done, hoping to be put on some type of low dose birth control. But due to the side effects of birth control and my history of reacting severely to oral medications, she put me on two topical bacteria-killing gels. Now, I try to avoid conventional Western medications at all cost, but I am really at the end of my rope with this acne business. So without a second thought I marched myself down to the pharmacy, had my prescriptions filled and started using them. Three days later I was already like a new woman. Only my forehead has persisted in looking like it belongs to a fourteen-year-old, and I haven't even had much drying. There's only one problem, which I thought of a few days later.

Both these products, being prescription-only, are tested on animals.

There, I've said it. And don't worry, I've berated myself enough for it so you won't have to. But you know, there's a good reason why I was desperate enough to get medication for something that is abso-fucking-lutely not a threat to my immediate physical health. Because, even though my brother has pretty much the same type and severity of acne as I do, I get constantly reproached and ridiculed for it, far more than he ever has. I've also heard men in the animal rights movement say that such-and-such a woman isn't a good representative of veganism or vegetarianism because she's fat, or has acne, or is ugly in some other way.

The problem is, so much of the animal rights movement, thanks mostly to PETA, has built itself around the idea that vegans, particularly vegan women, are hot (or, as I and my favorite bloggers like to say, "hawt"). They try to convince people that being vegan will automatically make you hot if you're a woman, and if you're a dude you'll suddenly have all these hot women flocking to you. Never mind that PETA and other animal rights groups have amassed enough videos of genuine animal torture in slaughterhouses to cover a large town, and never mind that people who go veg for moral reasons, such as myself, are probably a hell of a lot more likely to stick with it. I first went vegetarian when I was 12, never having heard any of this hooey about sex-ay vegetarians. I mean, how many human rights movements have told people things like, "Supporting South African liberation will make you sexy!" or "Going on freedom rides to Mississippi will give you giant tits and clear skin!" No, hell no. And you know why? They didn't have to. They built a case that was strong enough for people to give a shit, and they didn't actively alienate members of their cause.

Now, if you're a whiny little PETA sycophant, you're probably all, "but but but that's DIFFERENT! What you eat CAN affect how you look!" Well, sure, if you starve yourself you might start to look really, well, starved, and if you don't get enough, say, vitamin C, you'll probably get scurvy, which has physical manifestations as do other deficiencies. But unless you're really, really deficient in certain vitamins, what you eat is not going to have a whole hell of a lot of bearing on how you look aside from the fact that you won't have those physical deficiency manifestations that I talked about. Now, for SOME people certain foods may cause acne or what have you, but when you get down to it, genetics are really the determining factor. After all, what else would explain why both my parents had acne, despite having reasonably different diets during adolescence, and why my brother and I, despite having totally opposite
diets, have pretty much identical acne? And what does this emphasis on looks mean for us vegans who don't measure up, for vegans who are fat or have acne or, like me, have thin hair (and yes, I've also had people suggest I have thin hair because of some dietary deficiency)?

What does it mean for us? It means we're a failure. Yes, you read that right, and no, I'm not exaggerating. Because I don't believe in giving assholes traffic, I'm not going to post a link to this asshat who calls himself a doctor, but let's just see one outcome of the Vegan Obsession With Hawtness:

Fat vegans, however, have failed one important animal: themselves. Furthermore, their audiences of meat-eaters and animal-abusers may be so distracted by their appearance that they cannot hear the vital issues of animal rights and the environment; resulting in an unacknowledged setback for a fat vegan’s hard work for change.
Yup, that's right, fatties! You are singlehandedly bringing down the movement! God, what were you thinking by going vegan, anyways? You wanna make the rest of us look like fools? Why don't you just take your fat self to a corner and not talk to us, as we are obviously far too good for you simply by having been born with higher metabolisms. (Since a discussion of why food is really not all that linked to weight, and why fatness is not in fact unhealthy is beyond the scope of this post, I shall direct any doubters to this brilliant post at one of my favorite blogs.)

Oh yeah, and even if food were linked to fatness, wouldn't fat vegans actually be doing more than the rest of us to help keep great vegan restaurants and co-ops in business? How much sense does it make to have a movement whose success is based largely on convincing businesses to offer a certain kind of food, yet in order to be worthy of that movement we have to starve ourselves?

So now we have a fat vegan who's been told she's an embarrassment to the movement and a failure. But no matter how little she eats, she's never going to be as thin as PETA says women should be. Hell, most thin women aren't as thin as PETA says women should be. What's a girl to do?

Enter ephedrine, a well-known weight loss drug. But does it work? And what are the side effects? Well, let's see. Here it is! A study showing that ephedrine increases ventricular arrhythmias in conscious dogs after myocardial infarction.

But wait, dogs? Conscious dogs? We're talking a vegan here!

But if she doesn't get thin, she's a failure and doesn't deserve to represent us. Just like I'm a failure if I don't get clear skin and represent properly, regardless of what it's doing to my body or animals.

Yet if PETA ever wanted to berate me for my use of acne medications, they don't have a leg to stand on. Because Pamela Anderson, their favorite spokesobject, has implants. Actually, she's gotten them twice. She had them once, removed them, and later changed her mind and had larger ones put in. What do we know about breast implants? Here's a smattering from Google:

Prior to approving the Trilucent breast implants, researchers conducted animal studies; injecting the filler material into rabbits with no toxic or allergic reaction.

And this:

The animal studies do not, however, establish the connection with certainty, particularly since they were designed to intentionally stimulate an antibody response by mixing a known antigen with the silicone.

Here's my personal favorite:

Wistar rats underwent submammary implantation with either smooth or textured silicone gel implants and were administrated 200 mg/kg of PFD daily. The control group received saline. The animals were killed at 8 weeks. The capsular tissue of both implants was removed for histologic and molecular analyses.

Aren't we all better people now that we know what it took for PETA's darling to get breast implants?

Hey, speaking of PETA's spokesobjects, have you ever noticed how young they all are, or at least how young they look? Not a line on any of their faces, bless their hearts! Could it be the result of creams or a great skin care routine? Not bloody likely. If you want great results for young, wrinkle-free skin, you gotta go with Botox. But if you've been in animal rights circles for a while, you probably know all about the creepy, barbaric experiments that have gone into getting Botox ready for human trials -- tests that have to be re-done before shipping each batch of Botox because the stuff is so dangerous.

From the Humane Society of the United States:

Imagine that you are one of the animals unfortunate enough to be used in assessing the potency of new batches of Botox® Cosmetic. A popular anti-wrinkle treatment, Botox Cosmetic's active ingredient—Botulinum toxin—is one of the most poisonous of known substances.

First, the toxic substance or the full product is injected into your stomach. Then, as it courses through your bloodstream, the toxin causes nausea and then brings on a wave of muscle paralysis that spreads throughout your body. Finally, over the course of the three-to-four day test, you suffocate to death.

Welcome to the ugly world of testing the most common cosmetic procedure in the United States—testing that uses a method known as "LD50" which leaves at least 50% of its animal subjects—mice—dead. A recent development in HSUS's campaign to end Botox testing on animals has the potential to change the look of that world, and to help protect mice from this gruesome death. (HSUS website) There are also YouTube videos.

I've looked for updates on this, and it doesn't look like Allergan has budged -- and given FDA regulations, it's questionable whether they actually could. I don't say that to apologize for what they do, because it's reprehensible, but I point it out to highlight the fact that when we as a society have such absurd expectations of women's beauty that medical procedures are the only way to measure up, it's necessary to point out that those medical interventions cannot, by law, happen without animal testing first. (See number three.) They can't even get to tests on humans without animal tests, let alone get to final FDA approval.

And this isn't all. Tooth whiteners, contact lenses (ever seen a PETA model with glasses?) most of the more affordable cosmetics, all test on animals. Sure, you can buy cosmetics that aren't tested on animals, but they usually cost more, and consider that in the UK, where it's illegal to test cosmetics on animals, at least one company was found to still be testing on animals.
Mind you, this is in a country where there are actual legal consequences for testing on animals, not the United States where your only punishment is ZOMG THE WRATH OF PETA. (Okay, and the wrath of the rest of us vegans.) I also simply love the fact that PETA's "Fur trim is unattractive ad," which mocks women who don't meticulously shave their pubes, was put out around the same time PETA was in a huge fight with Gillette over their animal testing policies. Got hypocrisy, PETA?

Now, I know another argument would be that the FDA shouldn't require animal testing and we should have alternatives. Obviously that's true, but we don't have alternatives right now so until we do, women can't live up to PETA's standards without engaging in some form of animal abuse. (And I would argue that even then, they shouldn't have to.) Furthermore, contrary to the views of many, though not all, animal rights environmentalist folks, entirely plant-based makeup and other beauty enhancements are simply never going to have the effectiveness of chemicals and invasive procedures. Many of my comrades are very defensive about this, seeing it as a claim that plants and other natural remedies are a failure. But I'm an environmentalist too, and rather than seeing it as a failure of plants, we should see it as a failure of impossible beauty standards. Because if plants are such an utter failure at making women look a certain way, that simply means that it's not natural to expect women to look the way we're expected to. This defensiveness about plants as great beauty aids does none of us any good, especially when there are so many genuinely great, effective things about plants that we could be focusing on.

The take-home message? The cult of beauty is simply not compatible with animal rights or environmentalism. If you, as an animal rights organization, are intentionally and knowingly furthering fascist beauty standards through your use of ads, you are doing worse than nothing for animal rights. You are encouraging people to engage in practices that require the torture of animals. You are encouraging women to spend money on animal torture. You are encouraging mindless consumerism and destruction of the planet through unnecessary packaging and toxins that we wash off our faces or excrete into sewer systems. You are encouraging your own models to use animal torture to enhance the so-called beauty that you demand of them. You are encouraging women to hate themselves. You are alienating vegans who don't fit your fascist beauty standards and who have no interest in engaging in animal torture to achieve your standards. In short, you have lost. the. plot.

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posted by The Venerable Vegan Empress @ 6:35 PM  
  • At March 13, 2009 at 11:44 AM, Blogger Llencelyn said…

    Here via the Shakesville blogaround. Fantastic post. I have nothing to add, as you've covered it all!

  • At March 13, 2009 at 2:00 PM, Blogger Anne said…

    Great post. Like many at Shakesville, I am an anti-PETA vegetarian. I appreciate the information about cruel animal testing of various prescription cosmetic procedures.
    I find animal testing to be a hard question, especially since I am a scientist and my colleagues conduct experiments on mice and rats. I've never commented here before so I don't know much about your philosophy towards testing.

  • At March 13, 2009 at 3:20 PM, Blogger The Venerable Vegan Empress said…

    I know, Anne -- I work in research as well, though obviously not anything involving animals, but some people who I interact with peripherally conduct animal testing. As you might guess, I'm against it, but look at the vice president of PETA -- she uses insulin! I think it's easy for us to say we hate animal testing until we need some type of medication that has used it, or is sourced from animals. Right now I'm hoping that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research will help reduce and eventually eliminate it. The FDA has also been talking about the need to reduce animal testing, which is promising, but I think you and I both know the speed at which they work....

    And hi, Llencelyn! I've seen your comments before at Shakesville. As soon as I get a blogroll up and running, that's the first blog I'm adding!

  • At March 23, 2009 at 6:36 AM, Blogger Sabayon said…

    Thank you for this! I used to be a vegetarian and am going to take it up again soon, but one of the difficult things was always having to defend myself against the fat hate. I can't tell you how many times I had the following conversation over the fifth bowl of guacamole at the Vegan potluck (and what's that about anyway): "so when did you become veg*n?" me, the fat veggie:"a few years ago" random guy at vegan potluck: really *look of shock and disbelief*. I clearly had no business being publicly vegetarian if I was still such a fatty mc fat fat after all this time.
    I also love this:
    "rather than seeing it as a failure of plants, we should see it as a failure of impossible beauty standards. Because if plants are such an utter failure at making women look a certain way, that simply means that it's not natural to expect women to look the way we're expected to."
    I have nothing to add expect to say, yes, exactly! We've created a beauty standard that, like the standard American diet, is unsustainable without going to unnatural lengths to manipulate either your body, in the case of the beauty standard or the planet, in the case of the SAD. In both cases the current standard is ultimately unsustainable.

  • At March 23, 2009 at 2:50 PM, Blogger The Venerable Vegan Empress said…

    Sabayon! Hi! I know, I really wish the animal rights community would be more open about addressing their issues with fatphobia, but if you even mention that veg*ism isn't, like, the best weight loss solution ever, they get all defensive or even freak out. I mean, damn, if it were, everybody in this shallow-ass weight-obsessed country would be vegetarian or vegan! It's not our fault they're building an entire movement on a totally false promise.

    With that said, though, I should mention that the animal rights group I'm a part of in my community is really against those kinds of tactics. They focus mostly on animal cruelty and on how yummy vegan food is. So there is hope, although not nearly as much as there should be, grrr.

    Also, holy crap, I want to go to the potlucks you go to! Five bowls of guacamole?!? I'd eat the first four and lob the last one at any dudes who gave you shit!

  • At March 25, 2009 at 1:58 AM, Blogger Sabayon said…

    Lately more radical/progressive AR communities are definitely dealing with their fatphobia and talking more about healthiness than weight loss. The problem is that most of our culture views those as the same thing. I think it's a really misguided tactic to attach such a big lifestyle change like veganism to a diet because people associate diets with deprivation so anyone coming to lose weight will leave as soon as they do, or more likely as soon as the "diet" fails.

    Also, five bowls of guacamole at a potluck would be better if it wasn't 90% of the potluck, along with some pasta thing, a suspicious looking tofu bake (tofu can be good, but not un-pressed, un-marinated and tossed in with pasta, amy's mushroom soup), and a can of corn, and chips, but that was college.


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Name: The Venerable Vegan Empress
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If you have any ideas for an article here or would like to write a post, I'd love that! I work full time, volunteer and take classes at my city's university, so I don't work on this project nearly as often as I'd like. Just send me a comment with your contact info -- I approve all comments before posting, so if you include info that you don't want published let me know and I won't publish your comment.
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