Just what does getting naked have to do with eating vegan food? This question will be answered on Thursday by Ingrid Newkirk, cofounder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA.
PETA’s name is synonymous with every issue concerning animals, and its members aggressively campaign to convince others not to eat meat or buy any other products that require ingredients from animals. (The group’s push to tell people to “go vegan” recently replaced their signature call to “go vegetarian”). But also, PETA has become almost as famous for having naked people pose for its ads.
A most recent PETA ad campaign had Newkirk pose nude in a cage as “An Animal Rights Activist at Large”. The cage has a double meaning; it suggests the theme of a radical who is breaking social convention for the sake of change while also linking the idea to the fact that many animals suffer due to what products people eat choose to buy to eat and to wear. Newkirk’s nude appearance is one of many made for PETA. In Denver, she first spoke of her appearance with the Denver Post newspaper.
“We’ve got a serious issue to get out to the public, and we can’t do it by handing out pamphlets,” Newkirk told the Post.
“People can’t resist looking at something that’s arresting, sexy, shocking. If there’s a way to get the message out, we must,” she added.
Some feminists and others accuse PETA of condoning the objectification of women by using such ads to get attention. Vegan feminist Charlotte Cressey, a former Fort Collins resident who helped establish the vegan and vegetarian movement in Northern Colorado, says the ads can be counterproductive for that reason. Many will only look at the ads to see the naked women and not pay attention to the issue, and the desire to see a naked woman may be the only reason the ad gets thousands of web visits, she says.
While Cressey’s claim indeed has merit, a number of very empowered female celebrities known for working to advance the cause of women have supported PETA’s approach-with their direct participation. Among them are the Go Gos, the nation’s first all-female rock and roll band, and supermodel Christy Turlington.
Quite recently, Go Gos lead singer Belinda Carlisle sent an e-mail to PETA member reiterating how good she and her band mates felt about their decision to pose nude for PETA decades ago. Back in 1990, when the group did the naked ad, they were protesting against commercial sales of fur garments, which have plummeted in the US since then a result of strong anti-fur campaigns. The Go Gos were the first of many to pose nude for animals since then.
"My fellow Go-Go's and I were the first to pose nude for PETA's "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign back in 1990. We did it because of the immense cruelty the fur industry inflicts upon thousands of animals every year,”
Carlisle explained in an e-mail distributed by PETA.
The group had already achieved legitimate, widespread fame as rock musicians and certainly didn’t need to do the ad to gain attention They’d been on the scene since the early 80s and remain a household name among generation who grew up with their music.
Christy Turlington also posed nude to protest wearing fur and leather. The famous supermodel is not known for Hollywood-style partying, or popular suggestive flashiness. She is better known for anti-tobacco campaigns (she calls her father, who was a smoker, to lung cancer when she was a teenager), and for her Yoga practice and even served as Yoga-Journal’s Editor-at-Large in 2001, at which time readers called her a “Super Model” as opposed to just a super model, because of her moral conscience. Turlington was working to help socially and economically empower women and girls in Third World countries so they could escape the cycle of poverty.
64-year-old Newkirk says her nude picture, unlike Turlington’s was airbrushed. But like Turlignton and Carlisle, she wasn’t posing for her sake, she was doing to help end the unnecessary suffering of animals. It’s the same reason she eats a vegan diet.