PETA, Still Consistent in Being Idiots

@SfriedScientist brought to my attention on twitter PETA’s new campaign, saying PETA is “now only concerned with the ethical treatment of *some* animals, vilifies sharks”. Indeed, their new campaign is wrong on so many levels. The ad in question is below:

The backstory makes it incredibly insensitive and horrific as well, as Toni Whitt explains:

A man who was reportedly bitten by a 9-foot bull shark while fishing off of the coast of Anna Maria Island on Saturday is now the target of a vicious outdoor advertising campaign on bus benches and billboards in and around Manatee County.

As the friends who helped save his life were interviewed on national television and C.J. Wickersham was recovering after getting 700 to 800 stitches in his leg at Bayfront Medical Center, PETA was completing the design of its anti-fishing campaign featuring a shark swimming with a bloody human leg in its mouth.

Officials with PETA said the campaign was prompted by reports that Wickersham was bitten by a shark while spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Anna Maria Island. The message behind the outdoor advertising campaign is meant to be that the deadliest killers in the water aren’t sharks — they’re humans.

The ad shows what PETA describes as “a human drumstick” hanging out of a shark’s mouth next to the words “Payback Is Hell. Go Vegan.”

I understand what PETA does and how it thinks using shock value will change people’s minds. But, it won’t. At least, not in the numbers that matter to anything. I’m certainly not one to disparage the “every person can make a difference” crowd, I believe we should all do our part to solve problems. But PETA has created a non-problem to suit its purposes and seems the most able at creating divisive ads that almost appear designed to backfire.

Remember when PETA used to be about improved conditions for animals in shelters and laboratories? They somehow morphed into an aggressive vegan action group. I spent 18 years as a vegetarian, a few of those as a vegan. I’ve never been a PETA supporter, although I was tricked by their outreach in high school as an organization that helps get shelter animals adopted. That clearly isn’t the case. PETA, as an organization, puts more energy into its stunts and shenanigans than real behind-the-scenes, mission-driven work to improve life for captive animals. Many of its 130K + supporters might be unaware of how little difference they probably make. This is just my opinion, though.

But the real whammer for this ad is that is vilifies and plays our existing fears of shark as evil, man-eating, ocean-fun killers. This makes it harder for those people who work tirelessly in shark conservation to ACTUALLY save animals lives and educate people about the dangers of eating unsafe meat, unsustainable harvesting and an unfounded perpetuation of a damaging stereotype. One where people like this “shark hunter” can be glorified for killing over 100,000 sharks since beginning just after Jaws hit the silver screen, while bragging “[i]t is the large scale commercial line fishermen in Florida and worldwide who do the damage, not a recreational lone fisherman like me.” Indeed…

PETA’s actions are thoughtlessly in direct opposition to people who are on-the-ground, doing the dirty work of compromising and dealing with stakeholders in shark fisheries and tourism. The people who are making great progress in policy changes, conservation challenges and addressing the industry. Additionally, PETA’s actions negate its own mission to encourage animal rights. That is, animals that they pre-approve of and fit a certain narrative that they can rustle celebrities behind.

23 Replies to “PETA, Still Consistent in Being Idiots”

  1. Was there ever a time when PETA wasn’t run by manipulative jerks? When ever I have money to give, I send some to the ASPCA. The closest I ever get to PETA is to deliver a walk-by mocking at Christmas.

    Outside the department store:

    PETA person, “Animals should not be worn?”

    Me, “No, they should be eaten.”

  2. Facepalm. All this time spent living by the “any publicity is good publicity” philosophy has blinded PETA to the fact that no one takes them seriously anymore.

  3. “I understand what PETA does and how it thinks using shock value will change people’s minds. But, it won’t.”

    I don’t think you do understand what PETA does. They don’t think shock value will change people’s minds. They think shock value will move the goalposts of acceptable discussion; they give room for mainstream groups like the Humane Society to work. If you think this strategy is poorly thought out, I invite you to consider the many electoral success of republican politicians. PETA is the Rush Limbaugh of the animal rights movement. People say Limbaugh is an idiot too, but he merely points at the scoreboard.

  4. Of course, for the long game to work, moderate (non-crazy) conservation/animal welfare minded-folks have to then publicly distance themselves from the fringe, otherwise the fringe is all we have.

  5. Go Peta! Do you people realize how many sharks and maimed and killed for their fins and that the eventual loss of this species will impact the entire ecosystem? Go Peta!

  6. @Southern Fried Scientist,

    Once again learning from the success of Republicans in pushing the Overton Window to the right so skillfully, moderate humane organizations should not too seriously criticize their ice-breaking mechanism.

  7. Oh, dear…as a shark lover, I find that very dismaying. I have always been a fan of PETA, but just to a certain degree. While I concur with most of their aims, I do think that their members frequently undermine their own cause by making themselves look like crazy, irrational fools to everyone else. Many of them tend to go to extremes and remove the focus from where it really ought to be. They don’t appear to realize that aiming for baby steps is a better bet overall. (Accept individual victories, watch people begin to naturally embrace more and more of the group’s ideals as you work calmly towards a better world, and see if you can’t gradually create a more humane and generally peaceful future for animals AND human society…given how interconnected everything in nature is.)

    Yes, it’s imperative that we try to save as many animals as possible, as quickly as possible, and that those in desperate need don’t have time to wait for “eventual” help…but PETA’s apparent wish to practically overthrow the world and replace it with a 100% “cruelty-free” one overnight leads them to some strategies that do their image much more harm than good. That not only doesn’t help any animals, but goes further and damages their cause.
    We can do it, but it requires a bit better planning.

    I believe that the cruelty they protest is infinitely more outrageous than anything they’ve ever done to fight against it, and that people NEED to be confronted (in a serious, logical, sensible manner) with truth, no matter how horrifying, in order to inspire popular determination to defeat evil.
    BUT, then again…you hear so many horror stories of PETA actually “killing animals” and basically making a mockery of the very serious movement they simultaneously claim to champion.

    *sigh* Unfortunately, I imagine that that particular, ill-thought-out ad will wind up having more of a negative effect for us animal rights supporters than a positive one. It’s a strong message, yes, but did they really think that it would work on anyone who isn’t already sympathetic to the group? They seem to be having the opposite of the desired effect again. One step forward, two steps back?

  8. People who are passionate about animals rights need to ditch PETA all together and donate/volunteer/work for other charities which are on the ground, local and effectively dealing with problems that do not vilify stakeholders.

  9. i am a member of p.e.t.a. well kind of my peta stands for people eating tasty animals i understand what peta is trying to do but they go about it so wrong nice for a animal rights group to make sharks villains (again) they coupd be the worst thing to happen to sharks since jaws in my area they go after deer hunters do these idiots do any research at all? we have no natural predators where i live peta bought all of the deer permits and stopped hunting for a season good job i own a 40 acre farm and got to watch deer starving to death and dying of disease because they were living in groups that were way to large i hunt for two reasons i like the meat and i would rather shoot an animal than watch it starve to death i love animals when i dont have a gun i have a camera they should have to see the results of their actions many of us hunters/fisherman dont hunt out of malice we do it for the greater good of our species (deer do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage a year + deaths due to accidents)we do it for the animals we are not cold killers i cant and wont watch herds of deer starve to death again thats far more cruel than a bullet

  10. Let’s face it, even if sharks don’t eat a lot of humans, they are vicious predators in the eyes of smaller fish! Thanks to yet ANOTHER great moment in stupidity from Pathetic Egotistical Tyrants for Animals, there is one noteworthy subset of the human population that swimming giants such as sharks and whales would gladly eat in one bite: peta dweebs!
    People Eating Tasty Animals: Ruining everything to do with animal rights since 1980

  11. Heh, go vegan, try dipping your feet in the water again and see if the shark won’t “Payback” when he “Detects” you’re vegan.

    PETA is becoming stupid by the second and the more I look at their rants, the more brain cells I loose.

  12. I often encounter individuals with a PETA-mindset! What boggles my mind is that they spend most of their lives cohabiting with humans wanting favors and assistance from their fellow man, but when they have to choose between the life of a child and an animal, the animal receives the benefit!
    We should ban these people any human company or man-made amenities and force them to live with the animals they so adore. They won’t live long, and good riddance IMO!

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