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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.   
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Read it and puke
Into my inbox this morning has dribbled a vile little bit of word vomit, courtesy of PETA's aforementioned Holocaust on Your Plate campaign. It's from PETA's blog, and apparently even though they apologized for the ad in 2005, they're not sorry for it anymore and are willing to spend tons of donor money to appeal a ruling banning the campaign in Germany:

Back in 2004, PETA launched our Holocaust on Your Plate (HOYP) traveling display, which juxtaposes images of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms with images of humans in Nazi concentration camps. The display was inspired by a passage from Nobel-prize–winning Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer's book, The Letter Writer: "In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka." This struck a chord with one of our Jewish staffers, who proposed the idea of creating a display that he hoped would encourage people to consider that the same mindset that allows the routine and systematic murder of animals also allows the routine and systematic murder of human beings.

The HOYP display—which was also funded by a Jewish PETA member—traveled all over the U.S., where it sparked a tremendous amount of debate and discussion about both animal rights and human rights issues. Then across the pond, PETA Germany took the idea and ran with it. And that's where the trouble began. Yesterday, Germany's high court banned PETA Germany’s Holocaust display, stating that it would have made "the fate of the victims of the Holocaust appear banal and trivial."

This ruling left the staffers of our German affiliate scratching their heads, because the display only renders the humans' suffering "banal and trivial" if the animals' suffering is considered banal and trivial. Which is the whole point of the display …

Anyway, PETA Germany is, of course, appealing the ruling, and it is confident that free speech will win out in the end.

So what do you think, PETA Files readers? Did the campaign go too far? Was the German high court justified in banning it—or should free speech have reigned supreme?

Hey, I think we've almost got racist bingo!

Anyhow, it's pretty goddamn sick that PETA uses the old canard of "a person of this group said it, so we as a non-Jewish American-based organization with no understanding of Jewish or German culture are perfectly justified in using this group's misery to our own bullying ends!" Second, I don't really give a shit that the staffer who liked this stupid idea was Jewish, and neither do most people in the Jewish community. He is one person who likes this fucked idea compared with millions of Jews who are outraged and hurt by it. Also, as my Ingrid Newkirk post discusses and the anti-racist bingo card mentions, plenty of people are completely willing to sell out their oppressed group for temporary power from the dominant group. After all, would any sane person ever go to Clarence Thomas or Michael Steele for enlightened commentary on racial issues? (And one has to wonder what PETA means by "Jewish" with regards to their staffer. Do they mean a practicing Jew, or somebody who's like one-sixteenth Jewish and only goes to temple once in a while as a way of "connecting" with their Jewish heritage?) And why does PETA go on about how Matt Prescott, the self-hating Jewish guy who ran this campaign, had relatives who died in the Holocaust? I mean, so do a lot of Jewish people, and Anti-Defamation League National director Abraham H. Foxman is a Holocaust survivor and has roundly denounced PETA's display. And Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who was shown without his permission in one of the pictures, also denounced PETA's campaign (emphasis is mine, and the article is from Google's cache as it doesn't show up on the paper's main site anymore):

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was unaware until a visit to California this week that his photograph was being used in an animal-rights campaign that compares livestock awaiting slaughter to victims of Nazi concentration camps in World War II.

During an interview before a speech this week, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner was asked by a reporter to review a portion of the campaign, which has been labeled "The Holocaust on Your Plate."

In the advertisement, which Wiesel hadn't seen before, he recognized himself.

"They even have my picture here," Wiesel said as he looked at the ad. "They shouldn't do that."

The photo was of emaciated Jewish men on bunks in the Nazi death camp Buchenwald, where Wiesel and his father were taken and where Wiesel's father died before the camp was liberated in 1945 by allied troops. Wiesel, now 74, pointed to the upper right corner of the photo, to the recognizable dark eyebrows, to confirm it was him.

That image is juxtaposed against a picture of chickens in cages in the national campaign launched last week by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.


Wiesel said that the PETA campaign exemplifies perhaps his greatest disappointment in life.

"I am not afraid of forgetfulness," he said. "I am afraid of banalization, of trivialization and this is part of it."

You know PETA has stooped low when they are perhaps the greatest disappointment in a Holocaust survivor's life.

Similarly, just because Jewish scholar Isaac Bashevis Singer once compared meat-eating to Nazism does not mean that he would have wanted his words used in this way coupled with such images and used by a non-Jewish group that doesn't give two craps about Jews or the Holocaust. Conveniently, Singer died in 1991, before PETA ever started the Holocaust on Your Plate campaign, so he's not around to say whether he would have wanted his work co-opted like this. Interesting that PETA didn't find the work of a living Jewish author to use in their campaign, even though Judaism has a relatively strong tradition of vegetarianism -- one can only presume that they knew it would have been extremely unlikely they would have found a Jewish scholar willing to go along with such an idea. In fact, PETA even used deceit and lies to get the photos of Holocaust victims because they knew the Holocaust Museum wouldn't release the pictures if they knew what they were for:

PETA had purchased the photo rights from the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, which issued a cease and desist order against the organization last year, saying in a letter to PETA that its "exploitation of these materials [is] a gross perversion of our mission," and noting that the photo rights were "obtained deceitfully from the museum."

Wow, PETA. Way to show respect for the Jewish community there. Readers may also have noticed in the article about Matt Prescott that PETA promoted the same Holocaust-and-animals comparison at the beginning of the Palestinian intifada in Israel in 2000. So, all I can say to PETA and their hideous, triggering, beyond insensitive antics is "lech lehizdayen!" And if you don't know what that means without a dictionary, PETA staffers, then you don't know enough about Jewish culture to be running ads that co-opt the most traumatic chapter in Jewish history.
posted by The Venerable Vegan Empress @ 2:41 PM  
  • At March 31, 2009 at 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey, did you hear about PETA suing a primate sanctuary run by Friends of Animals? It's pretty ridiculous. I have a great email about it I can forward to you, or could copy and paste here, but it's long! What's your email address?

  • At April 3, 2009 at 4:58 PM, Blogger Marla said…

    I have to say that this is something I actually support PETA doing, though not at all in the manner in which it is done (as per the usual). While these tragedies throughout history are unique and specific, the Holocaust does have certain undeniable parallels to animal agriculture: non-humans are singled out because of their "otherness"; they are sequestered in miserable, shockingly squalid conditions; they are transported to their deaths. The whole thing is both treated as business-as-usual and concealed from view. While I think that such overly simplified parallels create a vastly dumbed-down, stultifying version of both tragedies (and for this reason alone would not support), I think it's fairly brave for them, rather than one of their usual shock-value, mindless campaigns. And, hey, at least there are no naked B-list actresses or damn Lettuce Ladies! Anyway, I am with you on most of what you've written on your lovely blog but I have to respectfully disagree (with qualifiers) here.

  • At April 3, 2009 at 7:24 PM, Blogger The Venerable Vegan Empress said…

    Marla, I don't think it's necessarily a bad analogy, because, as you say, animals are tortured in much the same way that people in concentration camps and other similar situations are/were treated.

    But (and maybe this is preaching to the choir since you've just said you don't like how they did it) just because similarities exist doesn't mean it's okay to do it like this, because, as I've said before, PETA is trying to win this argument by brute force, by using a still very much oppressed group as human cannonballs in their argument. I thought about bringing this up in the original post but didn't because I know it's something that tends to attract abusive trolls to a blog, but I'm a rape survivor, and to me this is not all that different from showing pictures of women being raped and comparing them side-by-side with how cows are treated in factory farms. (In fact, I once failed a Dutch World War II literature class because it reminded me too much of my experiences with rape, so disturbing are the similarities between the two.) And, worse yet, because this ad ran prominently in Germany, where there are still Holocaust survivors, it makes me imagine what it would be like to be walking down the street and suddenly see a picture of myself when I was being raped, trying to convince people to go vegan. Or, for the younger generations, imagine turning a corner and seeing a picture of your mother being raped. It's not that great a stretch, seeing as how Eli Wiesel was in one of the ads without his knowledge. Even if there are similarities, it doesn't mean it was the right thing to do. And the fact that PETA lied to get those pictures from the Holocaust museum tells me that they know very well how hurtful this would be to the Jewish community, and the fact that they refused to stop when the museum asked them to tells me just how much respect they have for Jewish people. (Which is also a shame for PETA since Jewish people are more receptive to animal rights and vegetarianism than many other major religions.)

    I'm still also incredibly puzzled at why PETA apologized before (and quite genuinely, it seemed) but now they're defending their decision. It's just another one of their many inconsistencies, I guess.

  • At April 4, 2009 at 12:41 AM, Blogger Marla said…

    I agree with your second paragraph: as usual, PETA is totally, perhaps willfully, tone-deaf, attacking people with their imagery whether it is hurtful or not, whether it is productive or not. They exist in their own self-contained little bubble and do what they want to as an organization regardless of how this approach effects the larger community. You know that kid you didn't want to play with as a child because she would change the rules of the game you were playing, hit you with her toys, act rude? That's PETA. So I totally agree with you on that and always did. And forcing people to re-experience trauma is very in keeping with their approach, rather than using fresh, original and smart methods for evoking compassion. And, again, I am opposed in theory and practice to picking-and-choosing among tragedies like it's some big buffet at their fingertips. Ick. I just think, as I said, that the parallels they (and others) have made to the Holocaust are difficult to not acknowledge.

    Thanks for what you do!

  • At April 4, 2009 at 9:51 AM, Blogger The Venerable Vegan Empress said…

    You know that kid you didn't want to play with as a child because she would change the rules of the game you were playing, hit you with her toys, act rude? That's PETA.

    LOL! Holy crap, we need to make this the official Webster's dictionary definition of PETA! I don't think I've ever heard a more apt description of them.

    And, again, I am opposed in theory and practice to picking-and-choosing among tragedies like it's some big buffet at their fingertips.

    Girl, you are on a roll with the PETA descriptions, you know that? Geez, now I want to learn Photoshop so I can make an illustration of PETA at the Tragedy Buffet, licking their blood-covered fingers and picking out the tragedies most convenient for their use. (But then I suppose people would get really sick of seeing it, as it would probably have to feature in about half the posts here...)

    Anyhow, thanks again for commenting!


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Name: The Venerable Vegan Empress
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