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PETA's "We'd Rather Go Naked" Campaign

PETA's "We'd Rather Go Naked" Campaign

Photograph

By: Mike Theiler

Date: November 29, 2001

Source: Photo by Mike Theiler/Getty Images.

About the Photographer: Mike Theiler is a freelance photographer who is a regular contributor to Reuters, AFP, Getty, and the Associated Press news agencies. Getty Images in a photo agency that covers breaking events from around the world. The agency covers sports, news and entertainment events with hundreds of photographers located in many international locations.

INTRODUCTION

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an animal rights advocacy organization that is famous for provocative advertising aimed at promoting vegetarianism and combating any forms of perceived mistreatment of animals. The organization, which is based in the United States with operations in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Asia-Pacific region, and India, was founded in 1980 to protect the rights of animals. The more than one million members of PETA around the world support the organization's mission that eating, wearing, experimenting on animals should not take place. PETA is also opposed to animals being used for entertainment in shows or circuses, which they contend is abusive to the rights of the animals.

PETA focuses its activities in four primary areas—factory farms, laboratories, entertainment venues, and the clothing industry—where the organization says animals are being most abused. To publicize its message, PETA has historically developed controversial advertising campaigns aimed at shocking its audiences into realizing how animals are being mistreated. A past campaign included imagery of victims of the Holocaust placed alongside pictures of animals in captivity. The campaign called "Holocaust on Your Plate," presented the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis as being comparable to the slaughter of animals for human consumption.

The organization has targeted specific campaigns at younger children with the goal of producing future generations more strongly committed to vegetarianism. The organization released a comic book entitled "Your Mommy Kills Animals" with images of a woman taking a knife to a bunny rabbit. As a result of PETA's well established record of public exposure and use of the mass media, the organization has had numerous successes in stopping specific acts of alleged mistreatment of animals. Meat and fur producing companies that have been targeted by PETA's publicity campaigns have occasionally been moved to change their operations or even shut down facilities. The organization is actively involved in promoting the spaying and neutering of family pets with the goal of limiting the numbers of unwanted animals.

PRIMARY SOURCE

PETA'S "WE'D RATHER GO NAKED" CAMPAIGN

See primary source image.

SIGNIFICANCE

Since it was first organized in 1980, shock has been PETA's primary tactic for publicizing its core message that animals are being mistreated by humans. The organization routinely uses controversy and sexual explicitness to gain the attention of their target audience. In certain cases, particularly where PETA has compared animal slaughter to historical incidents of genocide, there has been a general public outcry of disgust. While many people around the world choose vegetarianism as a form of protest against animal slaughter for eating purposes, PETA's tactics have caused it to be viewed by many as a fringe group that uses means usually shunned by more moderate organizations to make its point.

This photo shows that PETA does not shy away from using sexuality and nudity to advertise its message. Naked or nearly naked models have often been used by PETA as a means of turning heads and adding to the shock value of its campaigns. The organization gained considerable notoriety for a campaign entitled "We'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur." This ad campaign poses models, often well known and recognized celebrities in the nude, with a text message bearing the name of the campaign. Singer Melissa Ethridge, basketball star Dennis Rodman, and supermodel Christy Turlington are just some of the more famous individuals that have been featured in the campaign. Although the campaign was condemned and shunned by many family value and conservative groups, PETA did succeed in stirring up considerable public sentiment against the fur industry. The result, according to PETA, was that several major clothing lines, including Calvin Klein, agreed to remove real fur from their products.

The decision to pose for this photo in front of the White House demonstrates the extent to which PETA activists appreciate the need for sensationalism to get their messages across. Washington, D.C. and the White House in particular are among the most scrutinized and closely watched places in the world by the mass media. For activists and protesters looking to sensationalize their messages, this location has long been a top choice. With the knowledge that they would be arrested for public indecency, the protesters chose to demonstrate outside the White House because their arrests would draw the attention of photographers, like the one who took this picture.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Workman, Dave P. Peta Files: The Dark Side of the Animal Rights Movement. Bellevue, WA: Merril Press, 2003.

Web sites

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). <www.peta.org> (accessed May 25, 2006).

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