Monday, February 9, 2009

trivialize white supremacy by comparing its victims to abused animals

[partially cross-posted at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish]

I have a lot of sympathy for the general point that PETA is trying to make in its intentionally "controversial" campaigns. Their acronym stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and I generally agree that human animals should stop habitually and heartlessly abusing other animals.

However, PETA's penchant for stunts that are shockingly sexist, and often shockingly stupid, has often made me wonder if they're secretly funded by the beef industry.

Their latest stunt has me wondering again. Here's a photo of PETA supporters Caleb Wheeldon and Andrea McIntyre handing out leaflets outside a dog show in Madison Square Garden today. Notice what they're wearing.

That outfit is what it looks like--a Ku Klux Klan robe. No, undoubtedly not the real thing, since PETA members never get anywhere near Klan members. These animal-rights advocates are dressed this way because they're accusing members of the Westminster Kennel Club of abusing show dogs, by trying to breed them into a "master race."

As the Associated Press reports,

Crowds gawked at a table set up outside Madison Square Garden on Monday afternoon, where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was protesting the start of the Westminster Kennel Club show. PETA contends that the American Kennel Club promotes pure-breeding of dogs that is harmful to their health.

“Welcome AKC Members,” read a banner hanging from the table — with AKC crossed out and KKK written above it. Two PETA protesters dressed as Ku Klux Klan members, while other volunteers handed out brochures that read: “The KKK and the AKC: BFF?”

“Obviously it’s an uncomfortable comparison,” PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said.

But the AKC is trying to create a “master race,” he added. “It’s a very apt comparison.”

No, actually, it's not a very apt comparison. As I said, I have some sympathy for PETA's cause, and there's even some cleverness to this attention-getting stunt. However, any points in PETA's favor are grossly outweighed by the stupidity of trivializing the threat that the KKK has represented to non-white people, and black people especially, by comparing that threat to animal abuse.

While the point about show dogs is that they're being abused in order to create a favored, but congenitally unhealthy and in some cases freakish "master race," the parallel abuse alluded to by the mock Klan robes is that suffered at the hands (and rifles and ropes) of the KKK by its victims. Thus the implicit, boneheaded comparison that PETA makes here is that of KKK victims, primarily black people, to dogs.

You'd think PETA's event planners would've learned from the outrage provoked by some of their earlier, similarly racist campaigns. In 2005, disgusted civil rights groups and other protesters forced PETA to cancel one entitled "Are Animals the New Slaves?" According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this campaign featured a "12-panel display juxtaposing such images as noosed black men hanging from trees with photos of slaughtered cows . . . "

Then there was their "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign, which juxtaposed photos of penned and slaughtered Holocaust victims with animals processed in the corporate meat industry. For that one, PETA pulled the "Whipping Out Your Best Friends" maneuver, by claiming that the campaign was "funded by a Jewish philanthropist." This supporter supposedly agreed that "the victimization of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others characterized as 'life unworthy of life' during the Holocaust parallels the way that modern society justifies the abuse and slaughter of animals." If one of those victims says our questionable methods are justified, why then, they are! Right? Right?!

PETA surely know ahead of time that these specious parallels are going to piss off a lot of people. Indeed, that's clearly their purpose, as they repeatedly hail their own campaigns as "controversial," and thus attention-getting. There's no publicity like bad publicity, their thinking seems to go.

But I wonder--aside from these racist campaigns being wrong because they're racist, aren't they also counterproductive? Don't they turn off as any many or more people to PETA's cause as they attract to it?

If so, PETA people must be oblivious to how they keep shooting their organization in its foot. Another source of their oblivion is, undoubtedly, their overwhelming whiteness (unnamed Jewish donors notwithstanding). Indeed, as Tim Wise writes, these sorts of animal-loving extremists could be labeled "animal whites," not only in terms of their race, but also in terms of their habitual racial insularity:

That PETA can't understand what it means for a black person to be compared to an animal, given a history of having been thought of in exactly those terms, isn't the least bit shocking. After all, the movement is perhaps the whitest of all progressive or radical movements on the planet, for reasons owing to the privilege one must possess in order to focus on animal rights as opposed to, say, surviving oneself from institutional oppression.

Perhaps if animal liberationists weren't so thoroughly white and middle-class, and so removed from the harsh realities of both the class system and white supremacy, they would be able to find more sympathy from the folks of color who rightly castigate them . . .

Here's the rest of the brief AP story on this latest PETA farce. What do you think of PETA's appropriation of racially charged, white supremacist imagery?

David Frei, spokesman for Westminster and TV host of coverage on USA Network, said: “I can’t speak for everyone, but the vast majority of the people exhibiting and handling and showing at Westminster are more interested in the health of dogs than anything else.”

“We want to produce the next generation of healthy and happy dogs,” he said, “not just for the show ring but for the couches at home.”

Most passers-by seemed more puzzled than offended, though those who didn’t stop walked away thinking they really had seen the KKK. The most common reaction was to pull out a cell phone and start snapping photos.

Police monitored the situation from nearby, but the scene was mostly calm. One shouting match broke out during the hour-long protest.

Earlier, a man strode away yelling, “That’s disgusting! I’m going to buy more fur!”

Fatima Walden, who spotted the protest during a shopping trip, called the KKK imagery inappropriate no matter what the message.

“They could have used something else as an example,” she said. “You should be considerate to everybody.”


  1. i love animals more than i probably should and it makes me sick knowing that there are abused animals out there. however, i do agree that PETA is a counterproductive group. their obvious racism and sexism is quite disgusting and i find it difficult to want to support them. i'm all for animal rights, but not if it trivializes the struggles and rights of humans.

  2. Oh, jesus fucking christ, PETA. I know more people that hate them than sympathize with them. Makes me wanna eat some bacon...

  3. I haven't been as aware of PETA's use of racially insensitive campaign (I had heard of all those campaigns individually but hadn't put them together in my head), but I've certainly been aware of their casual use of sexism and the sexual objectification of women to make their point. (See: "I'd rather go naked than wear fur"; having a pregnant naked woman in cage standing in for cows; the recent rejected Super Bowl ad with women pleasuring themselves with vegetables; numerous awkward comparisons where women=meat or women=men's prize for not eating meat.) Their excuse for this is often that they have women in their organization's leadership, so clearly nothing they do could be sexist or capitalize on sexism, right? *roll eyes*

  4. I have to agree that PETA's use of horrific imagery, both sexist and racist, is self-serving and basically lazy. However, by saying that a human being's suffering is worse than an animal's suffering you are putting a value judgement and comparison on suffering. Both are sentient beings, both have the capacity to suffer and feel pain. PETA is a disgusting organization that uses shock value to get it's point across. But I think that a person can be saddened and angered by both human and animal suffering and not be a racist.

  5. PETA is like many other white organizations a fraud. They aren't what they claim to be.

  6. -- headdesk --

    It's long past time for PETA to be put out of business, and for other animal-right groups to stop trying to sweep PETA's shit under the rug, call PETA out, and dissociate themselves from PETA.

    It'd be cool if the SPLC classified PETA as a hate group.

  7. Does PETA have ANY POC working with them?

  8. don't forget that PETA paid for our border wall with Mexico by buying *ADVERTISING SPACE* ON that wall. Their message? "If La Migra don't get you, the cheeseburgers will!" (in english and spanish)

    I just wonder at what meeting these campaigns seemed like good ideas...

  9. PETA is not the only animal welfare organization out there. I am so sick of people declaring their abandonment of the animal welfare cause because of PETA's shenanigans. It's not the animals' fault PETA sucks. And I don't see what's so funny about "threatening" to eat bacon to somehow stick it to them. Har har, we'll show them! hurting animals. Use some logic and put your money where your mouths are: local rescue groups and organizations that aren't affiliated with PETA.

  10. They're also incredibly ableist.

  11. I support animal rights, but I will NEVER support PETA or give them any money. I have more respect for organizations like Humane Society and ASPCA, who aren't as pathetic and desperate like PETA.

    Fuck PETA.

  12. And I thought their suggestion that Vick have a brain scan before returning to the NFL was ridiculous.

    And I am sick of their trivialization of racist and sexist violence. I'm all about treating animals with some sense of kindness, but they aren't human. But if PETA wants to keep making that point, let them pick white men to compare the animals to.

    And their displays aren't just counterproductive because some people are offended. Their also counterproductive because some people aren't offended. Duh!

  13. Me too! Down with PETA animals!

  14. The problem is that PETA doesn't approach these issues from an anti-speciesist framework of understanding the need to end ALL oppression. They seem to subscribe to the idea of hierarchies of oppression and use those randomly-determined rankings to suit their protest needs at the time. It's a shame people get so angry at PETA that they reject animal liberation.

  15. "Thus the implicit, boneheaded comparison that PETA makes here is that of KKK victims, primarily black people, to dogs."

    Um, no. I think you've got the wrong end of the stick by looking at 'victims' rather than what the organizations want to achieve.

    It's the AKC and the KKK which place particular value on breed/racial purity. PETA is highlighting this by making the unflattering comparison.

    At most you could say that they're implicitly comparing AKC's disapproval of mixed-breed dogs to the KKK's disapproval of mixed-race humans, except PETA's underlying assumption is that being mixed-breed is not wrong, just as being mixed race is not wrong.

  16. "While the point about show dogs is that they're being abused in order to create a favored, but congenitally unhealthy and in some cases freakish "master race," the parallel abuse alluded to by the mock Klan robes is that suffered at the hands (and rifles and ropes) of the KKK by its victims. Thus the implicit, boneheaded comparison that PETA makes here is that of KKK victims, primarily black people, to dogs."

    since the KKK's master race was whites, and the dog breeders are trying to create a master race of dogs by enforcing purity of bloodlines, isn't peta comparing whites and not blacks to the pure bred dogs with this stunt? more broadly, they are trying to draw a parallel between the thinking of the dog breeders and the thinking of the KKK, suggesting they both have an unhealthy preoccupation with racial purity - a preoccupation which leads to suffering.

  17. PETA is the NAMBLA of the animal rights movement.

    The primary effect of their stunts -- making their intellectual allies look foolish -- leads me to wonder if PETA isn't some postmodern prank perpetrated by the meat, fur, ranching, horse-racing, fishing, dog-breeding industries.

    While "any publicity" may be "good" for PETA, it's bad for anyone who agrees with them.

  18. For the person who wants to support the Humane Society - please put your money to either your local no kill shelters (PETA actually euthanizes 90% of the animals they rescue) or the ASPCA and not to the Human Society as the current head of that group feels the same way that PETA does and there is a rumor that he gets money from them. PETA doesn't want any domesticated animals and frequently turns dogs loose.

    Those of us who have AKC dogs want to preserve the breed, especially the old ones and to that end try to be very careful in breeding. It's the people who purposely mix breeds that need to be watch as they are truly just in it for the money and have no concerns about any breed's potential genetic anamolies.

  19. "At most you could say that they're implicitly comparing AKC's disapproval of mixed-breed dogs to the KKK's disapproval of mixed-race humans, except PETA's underlying assumption is that being mixed-breed is not wrong, just as being mixed race is not wrong."

    Jon, think about what you just said. If the AKC is the KKK, then who're the dogs? And I don't think it's just the mixed-breed thing. I think they're also making a point about the thinking that one group is superior to another.

  20. PETA compares pet ownership to slavery and this might be their root why they think it is correct to compare animal suffering to human suffering.
    While I personally also believe that any breeding and selling of animals should be outlawed, I find the bigotry of many so-called animal-rights organizations disgusting.
    When the infos are correct, Peta puts many dogs to death.
    Peta abuses the pain of animals for their own sick desire to be in the center of attention. They don't deserve a single Cent in donations.

  21. PETA is racist, culturally insensitive, and exploitive of lesbian fetishism. Plain and simple. Anytime that you trivialize historical atrocities such as the African and Jewish holocausts, you've already lost most people. Nobody wants to be reduced to animals. Again.

    They really think that "by any means necessary" is applicable across the board.

    A few years ago, there was a PETA demonstration in Herald Square (NYC) where 2 White women were in bathing suits, laid out on a bean bag, and making out. That was a part of their "Vegans do it better" campaign. There was a picture of them in a newspaper. Also in the pic were a bunch of giddy guys taking pics with their camera phones. I'm sure that they walked away from that demonstration wanting to take on the vegan diet and animal rights causes.

  22. jw said...
    PETA compares pet ownership to slavery

    *SMH* Those d-bags are out of their damned minds. I used to work down the street from a dog daycare center and there are plenty of dog grooming parlors. There's a family in my building that puts clothes on their dog. Leona Helmsley left her dog, not her grandson, but her dog a $12 mil fortune.

    PETA must not have had any formal education to irresponsibly make a correlation between chattel slavery and pet ownership.

    I watched that HBO PETA doc and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for 2 reasons: 1.) I will never, ever wear fur

    2.) Ingrid Newkirk is a narcissist that badly wants to be martyred.

    Also, PETA's been inconsistent over the years.

    My friend (an animal lover) bought a PETA-approved leather jacket from Wilsons back in '99.

    PETA is only in favor of pet ownership if your animal is spayed/neutered and if your animal has an animal companion. They favor the latter because animals get lonely and sad when their owners are away.

    They favor fur if the animal is euthanized or had died of natural causes. When PETA ambushed Beyonce a while back, they mentioned euthanizing as an alternative to the usual practice in fur farming.

  23. PETA is certainly racist/sexist/etc, but I think it's important to question the (speciesist) idea that comparing human and animal suffering degrades human suffering. I'm definitely not saying the two kinds of suffering are the same, just arguing against a hierarchy of oppression.

  24. victim of white supremacyAugust 28, 2009 at 6:00 AM

    they could have been racist. it seems animals do get treated better than some persons - especially black people here in the US. Mike Vick loses millions of dollars due to incarceration, fallen investments etc, White people who killed at least 11 black males in Katrina New Orleans aftermath, and have bragged about it on camera have not been prosecuted.See post Racist use of violence in Katrina on site.


  25. Ok, so comparing the holocaust and slavery to the treatment of animals is way out of line. The author is correct in that. But he, and the rest of you, are stupid if you think them dressing up like the KKK is comparing blacks to dogs. They are saying that breeding dogs in a pure genetic lineage is the same as the KKK in that they wanted a pure genetic WHITE lineage. During slavery, blacks WERE bred for specific qualities but that had nothing to do with keep the lines pure. All they wanted were big, strong, dumb, workers. The comparison the only between white KKK wanting pure lines in their blood just as the AKC wants pure lines in their dog breeds.

  26. Are you a vegan, Macon D?

    Personally, I think this campaign was right on the money and the comparison is completely justified. I'd say the same if they were comparing it to abused white people.

    The point is that abuse is the same no matter what species (or race) the victim is.

  27. But they weren't comparing them to white people, were they?


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