This week, people have been tweeting furiously about animal rights charity PETA. The charity has courted controversy for decades with naked protests, graphic imagery and no-holds-barred headlines.
The recent outrage was sparked by vlogger Calum McSwiggan, who took to Twitter to criticise the way the charity operate and market their message. McSwiggan says PETA should be “gently encouraging people to try a vegan diet they instead fill our social feeds with videos of animals being tortured & killed.”
PETA make no apologies for interrupting our pictures of poached eggs on toast with footage of male chicks being swept into a grinder. If watching footage from farms makes the public feel uncomfortable, is the problem really with PETA?
We rarely ask charities that campaign for human rights or environmental causes to try gentle encouragement. So why do we ask animal rights charities to stop making us feel guilty? With billions of animals slaughtered every year, PETA occupy a space where they need to make some noise.
And the noise PETA makes works. In the nineties, they showed Britain the brutal face of fur with their hugely successful campaigning. Previously the epitome of wealth and glamour, fur is now associated with cruelty and callousness — research shows 95% of the British public would refuse to wear real fur. Would this have been possible without PETA?
Every year, PETA mobilise millions of supporters to stop factory farms getting planning permission and change animal testing legislation. They have also introduced thousands of people to veganism with their free starter kit and high profile campaigns.
In his Twitter tirade, McSwiggan criticises some of the organisations more unusual campaigns, like their bid to give a monkey copyright of his own selfie. Whilst these bizarre (and occasionally controversial) choices can result in ridicule, they often open up bigger debates about the way we treat animals.
History is filled with examples of social justice groups being ridiculed and criticised for causing offence. The suffragettes broke windows to break the status-quo. If groups like PETA don’t ruffle a few feathers, will anything ever change?
Good Agency have worked with the PETA Fundraising Team since 2015