PCRM defends their ridiculous cheese thighs campaign »
We posted last week about PCRM’s* idiotic cheese campaign and just hoped it would go away, but they’re back this week with even more ridiculousness. Neal Barnard, founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wasn’t content with spreading crap on his own site; he wants to infest the rest of the internet with his rationalizations. Barnard’s piece on Crazy Sexy Life is super-disappointing and filled with hateful rhetoric disguised as caring. Moreover, so much of this shit is ludicrous coming from someone who is a PSYCHIATRIST—aren’t you supposed to care about the emotional wellbeing of others? I feel bad for anyone who was under his psychiatric care. BUT MOVING ON.
Here’s the deal with this campaign: If PCRM wanted to tackle the issue of clogged arteries from animal cholesterol, why not show that? Because people of ALL sizes deal with it, and it’s HONEST. Oh, yes, but it’s not as provocative as the big belly.
What REALLY sucks about this campaign is that it sounds reasonable and supportive, but it’s actually the same old crap (“I’m not racist, but…”). The hypocrisy of Barnard’s “of course fat people shouldn’t be shamed because they’re HELPLESS VICTIMS OF THE FOOD INDUSTRY but we should totally SHAME FAT PEOPLE SO THEY STOP BEING HELPLESS VICTIMS OF THE FOOD INDUSTRY” approach — it’s so twisted! I’ll leave you with this bit of business that reader/occasional contributor/great person Rick Kelley left in the comments on our last post. It’s outstanding, and helps to explain exactly what’s so fucked about this tactic:
The “angle” these ads use — namely, “fat bodies are disgusting, so go vegan” — is shared with countless advertising campaigns selling every sort of bullshit imaginable, to all of our detriment. They posit a particular kind of “desirable body” and shame those who fail to attain it. Branding veganism as a weight loss strategy doesn’t do anyone any favors, and it doesn’t make new vegans (unless week-long fad dieters count). These ads have nothing to do with health, not anymore than some soap or deodorant company is committed to health (and a garden-fresh scent). No one is disputing the health benefits of a plant-based diet — Forks Over Knives is routinely embraced, recommended, and celebrated throughout vegan circles, most definitely on this site — but rather rejecting the notion that a “vegan brand” to sell “ethical eating” by way of a “stop being so fucking fat, fatties” campaign is anything but mean-spirited and counter-productive.
Here are a few reasons why, from the practical to the ethical:
(1) More than anything else, this resembles diet ads, and constructs veganism as a diet. Diets are by their nature temporary and end-goal oriented. If someone goes vegan to lose weight and they don’t, it seems unlikely they’d continue. If they do, it seems likely they’ll stop after they’ve attained their goal.
(2) Whether or not someone loses weight, the use and property-status of nonhumans isn’t remotely addressed, because there is no framework or analysis to understand it. You can go through a two-week vegan diet weight loss plan cloaked in fur and leather, occasionally shooting a dog, as easily as not.
(3) It’s alienating and reinforces notions of vegan exclusivity, superiority, and contempt for human animals.
(4) By playing into normative ideals of the human body, it reinforces patriarchal notions of beauty. Despite the inclusion of a male-presenting body in the ad, no one being at all serious would argue that advertising (including this one) primarily targets men. The idea here, as FUCKING EVERYWHERE, is that female-presenting bodies are by definition thin; if not, they are gross and in need of recuperation (i.e. shaming).
(5) By focusing on isolated, individual bodies (and certainly not whole bodies) outside of any world they might inhabit, it erases people’s lived experiences. It erases the fact that different cultures view bodies in different ways; it erases the realities of people’s access to healthy foods, which are enormously pre-determined by class structures; and it erases the most basic fact of all, which is that we live in these bodies we find ourselves in, the social value of which is determined by things often outside of our control (like fucking PCRM ads, apparently).
To end this manifesto/comment, I’d just point out that one thing a “vegan movement” (should it ever arrive) needs to do is to link nonhuman animal oppression with all the other oppressive structures that dominate our lives (like patriarchy, class oppression, racism, rigid systems of normative ideals, capitalist marketing as a means of social change, etc.). Damaging nonsense like this hurts that future effort.
I encourage PCRM (and really everyone ever) to read Health at Every Size, learn about our so-called “Obesity Epidemic,” and read up on the big business of fat hate. I wrote this same shit to PETA last year but you know, since PETA and PCRM are literally in bed together (UGH MY EYES! Seriously, picturing that just sent shivers down my spine), it can’t hurt to remind them. Show compassion for everyone and work on effective campaigns that breed love and respect for all. THE END.
*PCRM has such great campaigns, why are they focusing energy and money on this one? My experience is that Animal Rights groups that focus on too many campaigns just do them all poorly. Why not work on one thing and do it really, really well?