Emma Heins

Hello everyone! Thanks for reading this week, and I hope you all are staying safe and staying home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Whether you are at an off-campus apartment or back home, it is important that you are doing your part as a Volunteer, following ‘shelter in place’ guidelines and only leaving your home when absolutely necessary (groceries, medications, etc.), regardless of whether your city has issued one.

It is on all of us to help flatten the curve and protect the people in our global society that are more vulnerable, like older adults and immunocompromised people. Please stay up to date with current US information and policies here.

But I already wrote about COVID-19 a few weeks ago, and it can often seem overwhelming considering it’s almost everything people are talking about. So I want to provide a brief distraction for you all.

I’ve decided to talk about something that most, if not all people can get on board with, which is that PETA is the absolute worst and should dissolve as an organization.

Yes, you read that right. PETA, short for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is a non-profit organization that is known for their outspoken and outlandish media campaigns, and in the year 2020, I believe it should just go away.

I have a growing list of grievances with PETA and their dubious marketing tactics, and I am certainly not alone in this. Just a quick Google search involving any combination of the words “PETA,” “bad” and “not credible” will bring you thousands of hits on the unethical and ineffective series of media campaigns that a PETA is tangled up in.

Given the scope of the claims thrown at this non-profit, I cannot begin to touch all of them, and I quite frankly don’t know if some of them are true or if people have chosen to fight fire with fire when trying to take down these internet lies.

My first issue with PETA is the tactics they use to convey their message.

A fair amount of their campaigns are loosely tied with wider environmentalist movements like having people go vegetarian or vegan, using less animal products and reducing overall carbon footprints. Having worked in various aspects of environmental conservation work for a few years now, I’ve found that the most effective way to get people to listen to and work with you is to give them positive reasons for why they would benefit from doing things your way.

PETA on the other hand has taken the opposite tactic and decided that they are going to just scream at people and call them evil in hopes that they’ll suddenly listen to them.

They’ve effectively shattered their credibility, and their reluctance to switch to a marketing method that has shown any success at all really makes me question their motives in the first place — do they actually want to enact any change or just stir up drama? They’ve decided over and over again that they’d rather use shock tactics to attract attention than credible, fact-based campaigns.

The second of many issues I have with PETA is an ad campaign that they ran in 2014 that claimed that autism was caused by drinking cow’s milk in an effort to stop dairy production and help the cows.

This is so wrong on so many levels, the first being that it’s just false. There are two studies that could support this claim, but they were performed in the 1990s/2000s. They’re riddled with bias and their combined sample size is less than 60. To think that someone thought of this idea and it got through all of the levels of production necessary to release an ad like that without someone realizing how terrible of an it idea it is, is still baffling to me.

This ad campaign also seeks to villainize people with autism by using it as a scare tactic to prevent people from drinking cow milk. The general public has a lot of unfounded and ableist fears about people with autism, and PETA is actively playing into that and using it for their own goals at the expense of the autistic community.

PETA reared its tone-deaf head again this year during the Super Bowl, when it released an ad on Twitter that depicted animals of all kinds kneeling while the national anthem played. At the end it says all living beings deserve respect, and it closes with “#EndSpeciesism.” This received widespread backlash as it is clearly co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement and equating respecting animals like fish and squirrels with respecting black people.

Again, PETA, you have clearly missed the mark and have managed to get no one on your side.

I am barely even scratching the surface with PETA and their wrongdoings, but if you are bored and quarantined, I encourage you to look them up and see for yourself why they’re such a poorly run organization.

My call to action in this piece is simply to not give them the attention they are looking for. Like an angry middle schooler, don’t give them the attention online of sharing their tweets and ads — even if the commentary around it is negative. Our best-case scenario is that if we all just ignore them for long enough, they will eventually just go away.

Stay safe Vols, and stay inside.

Emma Heins is a senior majoring in environmental studies. She can be reached at eheins@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

UT Sponsored Content