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PETA Forgets Its Racist History: Likens Animals to LGBTQ People, POC


The animal rights organization that once juxtaposed pictures of people of color in chains with chickens in cages infuriated POC and LGBTQ people with its latest campaign. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which already has a history of being called out by civil rights leaders for insensitive statements about the history of slavery, is now being ripped on social media for conflating platitudes that involve animal cruelty like "bring home the bacon" with slurs against people of color and LGBTQ people, according to CNN.

PETA's senior vice president of campaigns is Dan Mathews, an out gay man.

"Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are and start 'bringing home the bagels' instead of the bacon," PETA wrote in a tweet that offered animal-friendly suggestions for changing terms like "take the bull by the horns."

"Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it," the organization added, to the ire of many on Twitter.

The new campaign comes on the heels of a U.K.-based academic arguing for new language around the treatment of animals, according to CNN.

"Metaphors involving meat could gain an increased intensity if the killing of animals for food becomes less socially acceptable," wrote Shareena Z. Hamzah of Swansea University. "If veganism forces us to confront the realities of food's origins, then this increased awareness will undoubtedly be reflected in our language and our literature."

In 2005, civil rights leaders excoriated PETA for a campaign that involved 12 panels of photos of people of color in chains juxtaposed with shackled elephants and chickens in cages.

"PETA operates by getting publicity any way they can," said John White, an NAACP spokesman, said at the time. "They're comparing chickens to black people?"

"Black people in America have had quite enough of being compared to animals without PETA joining in," director of the Intelligence Project with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok, said at the time, adding that the exhibit was "disgusting."

But in promoting its new strategy to change the language around the treatment of animals, PETA appears to have forgotten its own history of missteps. The organization was roundly called out for it.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist