Tuesday, July 21, 2009

PETA: Eating animals - OUT! Objectifying women - IN!

My sister received this invitation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) last week. It invited her to a veggie dog lunch hosted by two Playboy "playmates" clad in lettuce bikinis.

Sadly PETA has a long tradition of objectifying women to promote their message and I feel that PETA's campaigns do more to contribute to body image issues among women and normalizing their objectification for the population and other advertisers, than actually promoting such things as vegetarianism.

I think the message PETA's trying to convey is that vegetarianism is sexy, and if you feel that nearly nude playmates and porn stars epitomize both sex and health then maybe they are doing a good job. Judge for yourselves. Head over to their youtube channel and you can watch plenty of videos with scantily clad young women in their "sexy celebrity videos" section which also include endorsements from porn stars and another with women in bikinis making out. Interestingly, of the 25 "sexy celebrity videos" only three involved men and of those, only one was scantily clad (Dennis Rodman).

PETA, I'm not buying it and frankly I can't imagine that the best way to promote the ethical treatment of animals is to objectify women.

I decided to write to Ashley Byrne from PETA to hear what they had to say for themselves.

Perhaps not surprisingly I have yet to hear back from her.

Here's my letter and right below it is a video from the event my sister was invited to. Watch the video and let me know if you think that those women in lettuce bikinis did anything for the promotion of PETA's cause.

Dear Ashley,

My name is Yoni Freedhoff and I’m a physician in Canada with a special interest in nutrition and obesity. I’m also a blogger and currently I’m writing a piece about your recent event held at the Rayburn House Office Building and the advertisement featuring a lettuce clad Playboy Playmate and of course a meet and greet with Playboy’s Playmate of the Year.

My concern of course is how events and advertisements like these serve to objectify women and in turn contribute to disordered body image in the population. Did you know that studies in the United States have shown that almost half of girls aged 6-8 want to be thinner (1), that stigmatization based on weight and looks can begin as early as the age of 3 (2) and that body image distress is one of the strongest predictors of developing an eating disorder (3)?

Frankly I find PETA’s use of objectified women in their campaigns to be surprising given your mandate and I’m wondering if you might have a comment regarding why the ethical treatment of women is seemingly not of consequence to you?


Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute
575 West Hunt Club, Suite 100
Ottawa ON K2G5W5

1. Dohnt, H., Tiggerman M. (2006) Body image concerns in young girls: The role of peers and media prior to adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35(2):141-151
2. Cramer, P., Steinwert, T. (1998) Thin is good, fat is bad: How early does it begin? J App Dev Psychol. 19: 429–451
3. Striegel-Moore RH., Bulik CM. (2007) Risk Factors for Eating Disorders. Am Psychol. Apr;62(3):181-98.

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  1. Excellent article!!

    I look forward to hearing what PETA has to say, if anything.

  2. Anonymous12:36 pm

    I would posit that the true aim of extremist "pro-animal" organizations such as PETA is the removal of humankind from the earth. After all, it is humans who confine animals as pets, who mess with their breeding (ranging from dog-fancier associations to agricultral-animal husbandry to strains developed as human analogues for medical testing), hunt them, use their skins for warmth, and eat them as food.

    (These extremists seem to forget that many feral animals are natural predators and kill other animals, that it is only by human protectionism that some of the hunted species survive, and that it is through active and conscientious hunting and fishing that the health, strength, and overall viability of wild animals are maintained and improved.)

    I submit that the public perception is that human males are more psychologically and culturally likely to objectify animals (pets, food, coats) than are human females, and that many human males (and male-dominated human cultures) routinely objectify human females. It seems to me that PETA is using our aesthetic and procreative sensitivities to tell us we are no better than other animals -- and indeed significantly worse than those animals -- and therefore, we should willingly cede our place on earth.

  3. I think someone might have recognized you from your psyc rotation. WTF???

  4. Anonymous3:16 pm

    Well that's okay, right? I mean, if you want to lose weight to the point of skeletonism to please the men, all-veggie is the way to do it right? :p