PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – have been around for a long time, now. And their latest no-meat propaganda campaign goes farther than anything they’ve done before. But I don’t think this ‘in your face’ attempt to raise awareness of PETA’s principles will be have any big effect on Meat eaters…
Okay. The new billboard campaign doesn’t legally qualify as libel or slander. The big signs, posted right next to Fast Food outlets in a number of U.S. cities, don’t mention the chains by name. I’m sure they ran the idea past a whole army of lawyers before they rolled it out. But the association, in the minds of those who drive or walk past, is unavoidable.
PETA had tried a lot of things in the past, to promote their stand that humans should not eat Meat. It’s the ‘Animals are People, too’ principle, and they have become very adept at putting their message across. They bought radio and TV ads. They bought print advertising space. They organized public protests. They sold t-shirts emblazoned with their message. But all that did was trigger a wave of carnivore backlash, in the form of shirts with messages such as: ‘PETA – People for Eating of Tasty Animals’, and ‘PETV – People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables’. The ridicule generated by the t-shirt campaign may have done the organization more harm than good, in the end.
Will the billboards be any more successful than previous PETA tactics?
I don’t think so.
The vast majority of humans on the Earth today eat Meat, just like their ancestors did for tens of thousands of years before them. Most humans have evolved, within their cultures, to eat Meat, and their bodies are attuned to consuming and processing animal protein, to extract the nutrients they need to survive and thrive. No amount of advertising or soft pressure – like the billboards – will change that.
PETA and other animal rights organizations exploit a disconnect that all Meat eaters live with: Some animals, like pets, are like family. Others, raised on farms in herds, are for eating. It’s easy for Meat eaters who aren’t living on a farm to justify the dichotomy to themselves. But what about farmers? They traditionally put their children through an indoctrination process in which the young are taught to view farm animals are product or produce.
Nowhere is this more institutionalized than in the ‘fall fair’ process, where kids are encouraged to hand-raise calves, or swine or goats or sheep all summer, and then forced to watch them auctioned off to people who will fatten them up for slaughter. The kids are often traumatized by the experience. But most of them eventually espouse the theory that there are working animals and eating animals in this world, and there is a definite boundary between the two. And farmers know it is essential to put their children through this ‘right of passage’ if the farms are to keep supplying society’s craving for Meat.
(By the way… Farm people I’ve know justify their pets by classing them as ‘working’ animals: Cats catch rats and dogs herd the cattle, or sheep. Of course, that’s merely a justification, not usually a fact, on modern farms.)
As farmers persist in their tradition of indoctrinating their children in the idea that ‘some animals are just naturally meant for eating’, PETA and its sister organizations can go on as long as they want to, and try whatever techniques they choose to convince the consumer population otherwise. Consumers have resisted the suggestion that ‘no animals are just naturally for eating’ for millennia. PETA’s appeal hasn’t worked up to now, and I don’t think it will work in the future.
Push back or ignore?
As we’ve seen in the past, with their t-shirt campaign, PETA’s latest propaganda effort will probably just run its course without making any great impact on the thinking of Meat eaters. There may even be push-back from the Fast Food chains. How they push and how hard will depend on how threatened they feel by PETA’s billboard campaign. I predict the chains will just ignore PETA as they have in the past. And Meat eaters have already started ridiculing the PETA campaign, trolling the organization’s Twitter account…
Bottom line: Sorry, PETA. You’re preaching to the choir.
~ Maggie J.