Since another PETA ad campaign is making the rounds in the blogosphere -- this one persuading Ben and Jerry's to use breast milk instead of cows' milk (Breast is best!) -- I wanted to offer a little bit here and send people over to a post that captures some of what's on my mind. Namely, the all-too-common refusal of non-veg*n feminists to even engage with the legitimate animal cruelty issues raised by organizations like PETA, and, as another example, the recent Skinny Bitch book series.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of PETA. Nor am I big fan of Skinny Bitch. That so many people associate what to many of us is a movement based on compassion with PETA -- a group that regularly displays both genuine ass-hattery and sexism, racism, classism, sizeism... -- is beyond frustrating. And that so many people are now coming to veganism through Skinny Bitch -- a book that plays upon women's insecurities about their size and appearance -- well, sometimes it makes me want to put a fork in my eye.
Both PETA and the authors of Skinny Bitch deserve criticism for their approach. But this criticism needs to be situated in a larger cultural context. Is it PETA's fault or the authors of Skinny Bitch that the only animal rights messages that tend to get people's attention are the ones that titillate, and the ones that focus on people's appearance?
More importantly, as Kelly points out in her post, an equally legitimate point of criticism is the way in which we use animals for things like food, clothing, entertainment, research, and hunting ("game"). And yet. Time and again the jackass and/or offensive tactics used by one animal rights organization or book are the only point of focus, with the issue of cruelty to non-human animals totally disregarded.
Like many (most?) of PETA's campaigns, the current Breast is Best campaign is a publicity stunt (and an effective one at that; Kelly points out in her post that a Google search for "Peta + breast milk" yields over 50,000 hits). Does anyone actually think that PETA thinks that replacing cows' milk for breast milk in ice cream has a chance of being implemented?
There's absolutely no way that we could possibly produce that much milk from American human mams. No way.
And again, that's the point.
Because, rather than being a serious proposal, this is a thought experiment, meant to demonstrate how ridiculous - how ridiculously cruel - the mass consumption of dairy really is. 582 pounds of milk, you see, demands quite a bit of suffering at the expense of the milk producers: the dairy cows who produce milk, and the veal calves they give birth to. Those nameless, faceless milk machines, yeah?
Mothers, daughters and sons.
They don't really mean to suggest that American tits be hooked up to breast pumps 20 hours a day in order to whet our appetite for a highly unnatural, wholly unnecessary product.
They mean for you to imagine what a system might be like, and then extend that compassion and consideration and horror and outrage to those animals who currently are suffering for our convenience.
So ok. Criticize groups like PETA and books like Skinny Bitch. But remember there's a reason for their approach that lies out of their control. And remember that between all the publicity and shock attempts, there are legitimate issues being addressed that deserve examination and discusssion. Please don't make the same mistake they do and focus on oppression at the expense of another.