Saturday, March 8, 2008

naked chicks + media = vegans!

Wow, Macleans magazine definitely got more interesting a few years back when the management changed. I used to find it boring as hell, but now I quite often find myself impressed with the stories and topics they present.

The most recent issue has a story called Go Veg! Get Girls! which critiques the increasing use of sex as an advertising tool to get people (or mainly men) to go vegetarian. For a number of examples of this type of advertising, and for some good commentary on this topic, check out this post on another Ontario veggie's blog.

Basically, you have the Vegan Vixens, who go on the Howard Stern show to flash their breasts and get a couple seconds of "go vegan" airtime, and you have stars like Alicia Silverstone and Eva Mendes and Pamela Anderson who perform in "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" type of ads, and you even have a Vegan Strip Club in Portland which lures men in to the club with girls, and tries to surprise the men with the realization, halfway through the evening, that they'd been eating vegan food for a couple of hours and that it was actually good!

Now, whether or not all this advertising works, whether or not it swells the ranks of vegetarians, is beside the point to feminists like Carol J Adams, who wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat. The above mentioned Social Cripple blog argues this point much better than I ever could, but as far as I understand it, you are doing vegetarianism no favours when you dangle naked women in front of men, like the carrot at the end of a stick, to get them to go veggie. In exchange for a few converts to the cause, you demean women. This, Adams would say, is not worth it.

Now, I don't disagree, but I would like to expand on this PETA argument: "unlike our opposition, the wealthy meat industry, PETA has to rely on getting free advertising through media coverage of our campaigns and demonstrations. Experience has taught us that provocative and controversial campaigns make all the difference."

Have you ever seen an ad for vegan issues on your local public transit? Ever seen an ad saying "Buy meat from a factory farm - support the torture of animals!" in your local newspaper? Were you surprised when they wouldn't even play this advertisement at the superbowl? The mainstream media will NOT take money from animal rights groups and run their advertising, because they're too afraid of pissing off most of their viewers/readers. And so, PETA will say that they have to be sensational in order to get any media coverage at all.

And so, in response to the "you're objectifying women" argument, PETA will say "more men bought a veggie dog today, and therefore less money went to the torture industry."

Now, another article in Macleans this week kind of demonstrates the above point. Local Schmocal by Pamela Cutherbert discusses how ethical the much touted local food movement really is, when the 100 mile apples you're eating are bathed seven or eight times with chemicals, and your pork came from a local factory farm.

Cutherbert mentions the group Homegrown Ontario, which is an an alliance of Ontario Pork, the Ontario Veal Association and the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency. These guys, obviously, are trying to convince people in Ontario to buy meat raised in the same province. In a paragraph which kind of asks the reader "do you really want to support these guys?", Cuthbert writes that the 3000 pig farms in Ontario work as follows:
the typical pig farm in Ontario has roughly 6000 sows each year, where each animal is fed on a ration of genetically modified soybean and corn that is enhanced with antibiotics and growth horomones, to a mature weight of about 250 pounds in six months. They are raised entirely indoors with an allowance in group pens of eight square feet per animal.

My point in quoting this is that the incredibly tame, neutral language of the above paragraph is the most that a writer can get away with in a mainstream news publication (for American readers who don't know what Macleans is, it is Canada's version of Time magazine).
If you read that paragraph with no background in animal rights issues, you'd probably glaze right over it without realizing what it is actually saying. You don't realize that getting a pig to 250 pounds in six months means force feeding it a diet that it's body can't actually handle, and therefore, to enable the pig to survive, you also have to force feed it antibiotics, which is promoting the rise of anti-biotic resistant viruses like the avian flus and mad cows that have been in the news. The paragraph also doesn't mention the severe problems of manure lagoons and tail docking etc.

So, I guess, the question is this, if your hands are tied, and a group can't advertise in, or voice it's opinion in the mainstream media, is okay to get coverage by being sensationalistic?


klompengirl said...

Even you are using toned down language in your argument... are these folks really just being "sensationalistic" or are they being discriminatory, oppressive, and/or sexist?

Many people think that if women are voluntarily participating in these strategies, then it's not sexist. I don't agree.

What these strategies do, in my opinion, is:
1)buy into and condone an already flawed (discriminatory) version of society in which women and animals are seen as products to be consumed by men
2)hold up one form of oppression (specism) as more important than another (sexism)

Tuco said...

Okay. I'm starting to get a better handle on this.
It is especially not helpful if vegans believe that their position occupies the moral high ground, but then they're willing to dabble in highly questionable moral waters in order to further their cause.

Merci Klompen!

Eclecta said...

I think it's laughable to even HOPE that the flash of some woman's body parts (no matter how spectacular) could somehow lure a meat-loving man into vegetarianism. Sure, they might eat some mock-meat while ogling some woman's breasts, but it's ludicrous to believe that this is going to change the average guy's long-term food choices.

I think it's true that women DO influence men's dietary choices ... once in a relationship. So I would argue that the best way to influence men to at least eat less meat is to appeal to their women, especially through their concern for their partners' health, and for the long-term viability of their children's environment. Maybe that's sexist too. :)

selsine said...

Heh, I was going to respond to your post, but I see that Klopmen already did it for me. I've had problems with PETA for a long long time. To me it's a whole package, you've gotta be against oppression everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Deer hunter
All this talk has made me hungery!!I think I'll have another raw burger.