Why is PETA Making Fun of Fat Women?


Photo via the Frisky

To rile up a publicity storm, of course. Okay, so PETA's never been subtle. The group's president has postmortem plans to barbeque her own body to make a point about vegetarianism, after all. But their latest stunt has people steaming--and this time it's not from the conservatives that the group seems to love offending so. No, most of the ire is coming from feminists and progressive health groups who are outraged at PETA's latest ad. The ad in question? A billboard featuring an overweight, bikini-clad woman with large text that reads: "Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian."Offensive? Effective? Ridiculous? Everyone seems to have a different opinion on the billboard--no doubt one of PETA's chief aims. But referring to overweight women as 'whales' is pretty rude, no matter who you ask.

PETA touts the billboard as the following in a press release (via the Huffington Post):

A new PETA billboard campaign that was just launched in Jacksonville reminds people who are struggling to lose weight -- and who want to have enough energy to chase a beach ball -- that going vegetarian can be an effective way to shed those extra pounds that keep them from looking good in a bikini.

"Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "PETA has a free 'Vegetarian Starter Kit' for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.

Doesn't exactly strike you as sympathetic, does it?

Leading feminists and health groups have spoken out against the ad. Here are a couple of the voices, via HuffPo:

-Jessica at Feministing blasts the billboard as "fat-shaming" and that "PETA owes the residents of Jacksonville a serious apology."

-Holly at Deceiver states, "This is exactly what you would expect [from PETA] -- no empathy for humans whatsoever, just a lot of B.S. about how vegetarianism will make fat people just a little bit less of a blight on humanity."

Evidently, however, PETA (unsurprisingly) feels that any of the outrage will simply succeed in drawing more attention to the issue:
When asked to comment on the charges that the ad is sexist and mocking of overweight people, Ashley Byrne, a senior campaigner for PETA stated, "Our goal is help overweight Jacksonville residents - the best way to do that is to go vegetarian. We're not trying to insult anyone. Vegetarians look and feel better than meat eaters. This is a life-saving message."

When asked specifically if the billboard shames overweight people, Byrne stated, "If the billboard is shocking, hopefully it will gets people's attention, and help them improve quality of life for themselves and their families.... it's designed to help people."

This certainly isn't the first time PETA's faced charges of exploiting women--but opponents are claiming this ad is exploitative in a much different way than featuring scantly clad (or entirely nude) women to draw attention to animal rights issues. So whaddaya think? Good PR tactic for drawing attention to the benefits of vegetarianism? Or shameful ploy that discourages overweight women?

More on PETA
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