Sloan: PETA’s lacking ethics

Animal rights should be on everyone’s radar. The cruelty of the meat and milk industries, for example, can be truly shocking, and the effects of their practices on human health and the environment should not be overlooked.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is one of many organizations that works to spread awareness of these inhumane acts. But to PETA, ethical treatment of animals seems to have taken unnecessary precedence over the ethical treatment of humans.

If you search Google Images for “PETA ad,” you will find that a surprising number of your results are pictures of fully or half-naked women. Some resemble advertisements you might see in women’s magazines for beauty products. Others are more akin to something you would find in Playboy. What naked women have to do with the humane treatment of animals is not immediately apparent.

An ad that PETA tried to run during the 2009 Super Bowl, called “Veggie Love,” makes things a little clearer. It shows various scenes of women stripping down to lingerie in order to perform lewd acts on vegetables. If you watch the ad (available at you will see that PETA’s main claim is that vegetarians make better lovers. Clicking a few more links on the PETA Web site reveals that this assertion is based on the claim that vegetarianism reduces erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. And yet there are no men in the advertisement.

The claims about the sexual health benefits of vegetarianism are supported by the wonderfully vague phrase “studies show.” The Web site (which is run by PETA) cites a statistic that says that 90 percent of cases of erectile dysfunction have physical (rather than psychological) causes, but the site shares no actual studies showing that being a vegetarian is a good solution to this problem. Rather, it seems PETA is basing this assertion on the fact that eating a healthier diet can prevent some conditions that may cause erectile dysfunction. PETA uses language that suggests that eating meat is the direct cause of impotence, but the organization gives no evidence that this is the case. Strike one against PETA’s “Veggie Love” campaign is that it deliberately misleads in order to serve an agenda.

The second problem has to do with the effects of sexual objectification of women. It is old news that presenting women as nothing more than sexual objects is problematic, but it is still a relevant issue, since these attitudes can lead to violence. Bob Herbert, a columnist for the New York Times, argued in his Aug. 8 column (“Women at Risk,” New York Times) that acts of violence against women are often rooted in the anger the perpetrators feel after experiencing sexual rejection. This anger arises because these men view women as sexual objects and can’t understand how a sexual object could reject them. Many of PETA’s advertisements — including one with Pamela Anderson that is currently featured on the organization’s Web site — promote this view of women.

A third problem is that this and other advertisements by PETA buy into a culture of unrealistic sexual expectations for men. There is a social expectation that men should become aroused at any opportunity and be able to engage in sexual contact for extraordinary lengths of time before ejaculating. This is, in fact, rarely the case. Failure to achieve an erection can be the result of stress or of consuming even a small amount of alcohol, among other things. Moreover, it isn’t common for sex to last more than seven minutes, and intercourse lasting anywhere from one to 15 minutes is considered normal. PETA’s advertisements play on the insecurity and confusion many men may feel about these subjects and use them to further an entirely separate agenda.

It is unfortunate that an organization primarily concerned with ethics should resort to advertising techniques that manipulate, mislead, objectify and exploit in order to get attention. It seems irresponsible to become so concerned about the well-being of animals as to completely disregard the well-being of humans.

Another example of this attitude is embodied in Ian Smith’s recent letter to the News on PETA’s behalf (“Letter: Animals deserve our respect,” Sept. 11), in which he urged Yale to stop all research involving animal subjects. Not only did the author fail to address why he believed that the measures Yale takes to prevent unnecessary cruelty are inadequate, but he ignored the fact that this research is done in order to advance fields such as medicine and psychology. Abandoning this research altogether would mean abandoning an opportunity to effect enormous good for millions of people through better understanding and treatment of medical and psychiatric illnesses. Is the freedom of lab animals more important than that?

Such questions are not easy to answer. The way our society chooses to treat animals is not insignificant, and wanting to take steps to reduce unnecessary pain for other creatures is a worthy cause. But PETA’s advertising practices are unethical, and their blatant ignoring of the complexity of certain issues is irresponsible.

It would be better for us, as a society, to move toward the improved well-being of all life. Treating this complex, multifaceted issue in such a dichotomous way can only impede this progress.

Emma Sloan is a senior in Branford College.


  • IanErikSmith

    Writer Emma Sloan asks why I think “the measures Yale takes to prevent unnecessary cruelty are inadequate”.

    The measures that Yale takes are not aimed at preventing cruelty, minimizing suffering, or reducing the number of deaths; they are aimed at being in compliance with the law so that they can continue with business as usual without bureaucratic interruption. It is a grave fallacy to conclude that compliance with the law entails the prevention of cruelty. The law is one thing and morality is quite another; that these domains may exhibit some overlap should not lead to the conclusion that they are the same.

    The vast majority of animals confined to laboratories receive absolutely no protection under the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law governing animal experiments. Species such as rats, mice, birds, and reptiles are specifically excluded from receiving any protection under this law; thus making it quite easy to be in compliance when working with individuals belonging to these species. Imagine a law that purported to protect children but included loopholes so large that upwards of 90 percent of children actually received no protection from the law.

    Furthermore, when cats, dogs, primates, and other species that are supposed to be protected under the Animal Welfare Act are used in experiments the protection afforded to these individuals is meager. The Animal Welfare Act is a law that allows animals to be severely confined, denied food and water, poisoned, burned, mutilated, and killed so long as the experimenter presents a reason why such things are important for his or her experiment. There is no harm that is too cruel or too callous or too painful to be done to an animal in a laboratory. There is no single type of action or experiment that is prohibited.

    For more information please visit

  • Serena

    The pictures that PETA uses to call attention to vital isssues, yes they are sometimes outrageous but do achieve their aim. There are plenty alternative methods to use in labs these days but many scientists are set in archaic methods which translates in unspeakable treatment of sentient beings.

  • anonymous

    The Onion was completely on target about PETA, and when a parody site is so right…

  • MonkeyMan

    I think the following Onion piece is even better:

  • james

    Animal rights is an oxymoron. Animals are animals and rights are all human. Words such as respect, war, defense and rights all apply to human on human interaction, not human on animal. If humans were not meant to eat animals, animals would not eat humans, and animals would not eat animals. Humans kill thier food first and give thanks. Animals do neither. They also prey on children and kill for sport. Animal rights is chaotic and does not withstand critical thinking. Such rediculous ways of thinking should not be used to change some two million years of close human and animal interaction. Love thy neighbor applies to humans, not the neighbor’s dog.

  • Dr. Ken

    I commend Emma on her well written article. She has exposed an organization that promotes the priorities on the value and importance of life (human and animal)in a perverse order. I have devoted my career to animal research and production for food purposes. Her second sentence is a blanket statement on meat and milk production and its impact on the environment is similar to the tactics used by PETA – broad generalities with no evidence to support. I urge Emma to contact the Department of Animal Science at Cornell and write an article on food production and the welfare of farm animals after a thorough research of the topic. If she does so, her story will enlighten many people on the safe, abundant food supply available in the US that is produced in conditions that promote animal well-being and is environmentally friendly.

  • Alum

    PETA is a disgrace. What can you say about an organization whose president proudly states that, if animal testing were necessary to find the cure for AIDS, she would prefer that such a cure never be found?

    Personally, I’m in favor of making sure we take care of human beings before devoting time and resources to animals, but if people are so interested in making sure that chickens have room to move around, they should at least support a more moderate and reasonable organization like the ASPCA.

  • Spiny Norman

    PETA is actually an anagram of “imbecile.” Okay, it’s not; but it might as well be. It should be. The vacuousness of PETA and its boosters is genuinely awe-inspiring.

  • MonkeyMan

    Alum –

    When you say that you’d rather address problems affecting humans prior to addressing problems affecting animals…it is clear what you really mean is that the suffering and death of animals does not matter to you. It would be a bit more honest to simply say you don’t care rather than to postpone the needs of animals until a human utopia has been achieved. It is not really much different than if I said that we should address problems that affect white men prior to dedicating any time or resources to problems affecting anyone else. It’s not a reasonable position, it’s evidence of an unjustified prejudice.

    Furthermore, I am not suggesting we neglect the problems affecting humans or that everyone must become an animal rights activist and dedicate their lives to helping animals. I’d simply ask that you people not actively participate in animal exploitation (i.e. by eating or wearing animal products, etc). Just like not everyone can work to end violence against women but we are justified in asking everyone not to actively participate in such violence.

  • Eric

    James: Unfortunately for you, words have meaning, and rights are not necessarily limited to human beings.

    The argument about history also ignores the fact that a.) human beings haven’t been around for 2 million years, not even remotely close to that and b.) many changes you would consider appropriate fly in the face of historical practices.

    The only chaotic thing here is your syntax. Oh, and the word “rediculous,” which is just ridiculous.

  • BADKarma

    Your mistake is assuming PETA is in any way ethical or at all concerned about animals on any level, as they are neither.

    PETA is one half of the propaganda arm of the Veganist Jihad (the other half being the H$U$). The Veganist Jihad’s concern for animals begins and ends at using them as the mechanism for gaining total, cradle-to-grave control of the lives of all other PEOPLE.

    Vegan Jihadists hate women as much or more than the more traditional variety of Jihadists. Women, after all, are the ones who bear all those evil, disgusting, useless, worthless HUMAN children. It should come as no suprise, therefore, that most of PETA’s repulsive little ad campaigns involve objectifying and dehumanizing women.

    Oh, and for the record, sweetheart? Any “information” about the bad, evil, meany-gaboobers meat and dairy industries you receive from any shill for the Veganist Jihad is intrinsically suspect, and most likely false.

  • Alum


    “It is not really much different than if I said that we should address problems that affect white men prior to dedicating any time or resources to problems affecting anyone else.”

    Really? So, thinking people are more important than animals is the equivalent of racial prejudice? I…don’t even how to respond to that.

    By the way, the use of “you people” is a little much, isn’t it?

    Also, you’ll notice that I’m implyingat the end of my original post that my personal view is just that — that it is admittedly unreasonable and I don’t expect others to adopt it…which is precisely why I present an alternative.

  • stuartdee

    peta is a magnificent organization that recognizes that a developed society cares about all living beings. Callous disregard of pain, trauma, and suffering is not indication of man at his best for sure. We ask much of laboratory animals and need to move out of the past and into technology available today, in the interim animals must be treated with care as befits a developed society.

  • Eric

    I can understand people not liking PETA’s tactics. But to dismiss the entire animal rights message because you don’t like one of the groups involved is absurd. It its core, animal rights is about respect for human AND non human animals.

    In our modern society, there is simply no good reason to kill billions of non human animals for food and clothing. At this point in history, it’s all done for want, not for need.

    Are we more intelligent than other animals? Yes. And therefore we should use this intelligence to cause less pain and suffering, rather than use it to find ways to continue rationalizing our horrific treatment of other animals.


    Go Emma!

  • bailey

    If coke and pepsi get results with sexy adds, why is it inappropriate to use ads that catch people’s attention towards more worthy causes. The lack of clothing has symbolism in this case.

  • GW

    I understand why some of you hate PETA. No one likes to be reminded of their cruel and hypocritical ways:

  • coldbacon

    The newest ridiculous PETA figurehead, the worn out former star Pamela Anderson, is literally a product of animal testing. Silicon breast implants ? Tested on animals. Multiple plastic surgeries ? Tested on amimals. Antibiotics to treat surgical wounds ? Tested on animals. Botox ? Tested on animals. Hair bleach and cosmetics ? Tested on animals. Without animal testing, she probably would look like a deflated balloon.

    PETA is just a bunch of narcissistic hypocrites who trick pet holders (the same ones who feed animal products to their pets) out of their money. They are a big business that handsomely pays its functionaries to promote a glossy agenda. However, the underlying intentions are unmasked by constant psychological and violent terror against scientists and their families singled out by PETA. Any reasonable discussion with PETA is a waste of time.

  • coldbacon

    If you want to learn more about the mindset of PETA supporters, view the blog commentary posts on PETA’s website discussing the murder of Annie Le. Some posters argue that Annie’s death will stop the victimization of animals by her. Others argue that experimentation should be performed on prisoners instead of animals:

    These are excerpts from the above links:

    Even more now that Annie Le is dead. I’m sorry, but she made hundreds if not thousands of rats suffer.

    While the media is talking about how she’s a victim, PETA should be focusing on her victims. As well as the other animals suffering at the Yale hospital.

    I can’t believe I’m the only one who when they heard she tested on animals, thought of the animals that were saved before how tragic her death was.

    Also how about the concept that the person who allegedly murdered her, worked for years in a facility where they torture animals. We all know that animal abuse soon leads to human abuse or murder.

    Posted by: Jackie | September 17, 2009 10:05 PM

    If the mouse comic disturbs you, make sure to let people know that while Annie Le is a victim of murder. She also victimized animals, at Yale University.

    Smart women don’t stand by letting animals suffer. Smart women find another way to do the research, or tries to find alternatives for their lab to experimenting on live animals. Intelligence means nothing without compassion.

    Is it any wonder also that her murderer who worked in the lab for years, had done what he did? We know animal abuse leads to a lack of empathy for the suffering of animals AND humans.

    Posted by: Jackie | September 19, 2009 12:11 AM


    You’re one sick ******, exploiting the death of Ms. Le to push your cause. Speaking of lack of empathy…

    Posted by: Anonymouse | September 22, 2009 03:39 AM

    She’s right in that statistics show that animal abusers lack compassion for humans as well. She didn’t deserve to be killed. This guy was apparently quite disturbed and although there seemed to have been signs, no one questioned them, including her. Her intelligence is admirable, yes, but we should start doing this type of research on prisoners on death row, life sentences… they are, after all, properly of the USA and why not? More accurate results would occur and perhaps speedier cures. Who knows???

    Posted by: Jackie is right | September 22, 2009 06:27 PM