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On PeTA versus Friends of Animals

14456vicnewspetaprotest_2_dmpaug0_2Caption: Bikini-clad PETA volunteer Nicole Matthews glances at Friends of Animals activist David Shishkoff outside the Douglas Street KFC on Thursday. PETA was lauding the fast food chain’s decision to include substitute chicken on its menu.

Photo: Dunc Malcolm/News staff

When Roger sent me "Fur Flies Between Animal Rights Groups" the title, with the accompanying photo, told me everything I needed to know (check out Roger’s July 27 entry: "Vegans Being Set Up for a Fall?" for some backstory and commentary about the PeTA/KFC issue).

The article doesn’t get into the language of whether PeTA is an animal rights group, but it doesn’t need to as it gets into the real meaning and impact that underlies the welfare-rights debate when Dave Shishkoff of Friends of Animals says:

"We don’t think it’s appropriate [for] PETA to be out promoting KFC, I’ve gotten two e-mails from them in the last week telling me to go eat at KFC . . . As a vegan and an animal rights activist, I think that’s an abomination … because they kill so many chickens. . . . In Victoria, we have two vegan restaurants — why aren’t they telling people to go and eat there?"

And regarding the obvious difference in beliefs about PeTA’s portrayal of women, such as in the Lettuce Lady campaign, he says that the campaign:

"is basically turning women into meat as well, which I think is really inappropriate.”

Those are the two points that most frustrate me about PeTA: their promotion of animal exploiters and their exploitation of women. (See Carol J. Adams, particularly the visually-disturbing The Pornography of Meat for more on PeTA, "meat" and women.)

So here are two people who would call themselves animal rights activists, and one is campaigning for a corporation that exploits animals, and the other is counter-campaigning (against both KFC and PeTA). What do you think of this? Would you go to KFC to buy a vegetarian sandwich? (It’s not vegan, as it has non-vegan mayo as well as a non-vegan bun. But you can ask for the vegan version, which has no mayo and a wrap rather than a bun.) Where do you stand on the Lettuce Lady? What about the side-by-side demonstration? Do you think it helps animal rights?

I’d love to hear from anyone who was there about how the public reacted.

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dustin Garrett Rhodes, Friends of Animals #

    First of all, I don't know if this will happen here; the readers of this website in no way seem like "typical" animal rights activists. But nonetheless, I want to comment on the question of whether or not doing a counter-protest is counter-productive. Any and every time Friends of Animals takes a stand against animal exploiting organizations that declare themselves to be pro-animal we get accused of this; for some reason, taking a prinicipled, critical, broad view of an issue is always considered harmful. For the record, I'd like to say that that's preposterous. What's also preposterous, not to mention completely unfair, is how and why so many animal rights advocates makes excuses for groups like PeTA–allowing them to disparage women, fat people, various crisises, diseases, wars, holocausts, etc. along the way. There is something seriously wrong with that. Personally, I am ashamed of activists who support PeTA. And I'll say it: they should be ashamed of themselves. Their behaviour, and what they ostensibly promote, is inexcusable and embarrassing—for all of us.

    [Now that I got that off my back …]

    I think, obviously, it's awesome that Dave put this demonstration together. I think the general, meat-eating public knows exactly the kind of laughable, ridiculous organization that PeTA is. Any time people come together to decry institutional exploitation is worthwhile. Dave and company were there to send a truly vegan message. PeTA has never attempted to do that, sadly. They're too busy making certain that women enjoy the same status as food animals in our society—turning women into another piece of meat.

    August 3, 2008
  2. Nick #

    I am absolutely delighted that there are people out here standing up to PETA's crap. It's very discouraging when 99% of your entire "movement" supports these embarrassing campaigns, and worse!–welfarism. We need to stand up and let the world know that there are other activists out there. We need to make it clear that we favor the abolition of animal exploitation, and ALL exploitation, for that matter.

    August 3, 2008
  3. Joseph #

    I'm an acquaintance of hers (Nicole Matthews) and I've spoken to her about the use of scantily-clad women in campaigns. She used to tell me that if people related her to a piece of meat, that was not her problem but society's. For Nicole, in order to counteract these perceptions women (and men) should actively encourage the use of the female body, as shown with the KFC campaign. The more women do it, the less taboo and de-womanizing it becomes. Well, at least that's how she saw/sees it.

    I noticed the article made a mistake. She's not a PeTA volunteer but an employee.

    On a side note, I'd like to add that our women-as-object discussions always happened next to a guy that advocated naked Critical Mass. I hear they're fun times!

    August 3, 2008
  4. Dustin suggest that, "the general, meat-eating public knows exactly the kind of laughable, ridiculous organization that PeTA is." I do not see this myself. Not so much in Europe but it appears that many people think PeTA IS animal rights in the USA. I suspect that most students, doing their "animal rights project" will be directed to PeTA for the AR side of arguments.

    Indeed, Gary Francione recently appeared on the debate feature, "Opposing Views", which is based on getting experts to debate issues of the day. In all the animal-related issues, PeTA are presented as animal rights experts.


    August 3, 2008
  5. Angus #

    For anyone visiting Victoria, here are the vegan restaurants mentioned:

    August 3, 2008
  6. I tend to like PETA better than Friends of Animals, so when I initially saw the picture and the lede, I was biased toward PETA's side. But after reading the story, I didn't care as much about the portrayal of women as I did about PETA advertising for KFC. I think Friends of Animals is right on about that. PETA should have sent a thank-you letter, at most. And, no, I wouldn't visit KFC, as I am against them because of their murder of thousands (or millions?) of chickens every year. FoA's action, though, accomplished what PETA loves: getting media attention.

    August 3, 2008
  7. Niilo John Van Steinburg #

    My landlord (Angus Taylor) just let me know about your coverage of this event. I wasn't able to attend that day, but I certainly supported the counter-protest and had a small part in preparing for it. PeTA has been destroying the idea of Animal Rights and the definition of Vegan for a long time now, and it just keeps getting worse. It is horrible that true animal activists must focus on organizations like PeTA, but we simply cannot let them run around promoting their own interests and reinforcing outdated and unethical practises (toward both woman *and* non-human animals).

    Victoria vegans are hoping that PeTA has gotten the message loud and clear: they are not welcome here.

    August 3, 2008

    Cory "vegetarian for over 20 years now [1]" Feldman chose to undergo liposuction on his lower midsection after seeing himself in a P-TA advertisement playing-off (making a mockery of) the well recognized Yoko One and John Lennon "bed-in" protest. Not printed in the article (I happened to be awake at 2am and caught some of the trashy celebcentric news show EXTRA), he prefaced his remark of “They were going, ‘More skin, more skin, give us more skin.'” with something along the lines of "Because PeTA loves to be so controversial."

    Here is the P-TA add…

    First of all, what the hell is "veg"? I realize that hate is a path to the dark side, but I absolutely hate that term.

    Second of all, Susie Feldman is portrayed as an accessory to her husband, whom she is wearing far less than. Yoko never appears as such within any of the "bed-in" photos I could find.

    Third of all, one tenant of postmodern feminism basically says that nothing voluntary can be sexist. P-TA relies upon this line of argumentation to defend their sexist propaganda. The suggestion that P-TA is willing to pressure photo-shoot participants to "give us more skin" wreaks of manipulation, thus severely undercutting their claim that everything is totally voluntary. Of course, I would oppose their sexist tactics even if manipulation were proven 100% absent (see below for why).

    Fourth and finally, P-TA sets up a false dilemma of attention-by-any-means, or don't really connect with anyone and be ineffective. Thusly, the objectification of human females becomes an acceptable means. However, in doing so, they are reinforcing the dynamics and ideology of domination and subjugation that afflict both humans and nonhumans. Humans' inability to maintain an egalitarian moral community concerning their own kind, does not bode well for breaking down the speciesism prohibiting nonhumans from membership within said community. We need a more holistic view. There is an alternative: non-violent, non-sexist, non-racist, creative, unequivocal, and dignified efforts at vegAN education. This approach does not generate hype and profits, but those are corporate goals, not the goals of a burgeoning sociopolitical movement.


    August 3, 2008
  9. ardeth #

    I don't think it's such a bad thing to have animal rights groups publically at odds, because, after all, every successful social movement has had warring factions in it, e.g., the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement. That's what keeps these groups vibrant and in the news. Let's face it, post-modern animal rights spans everything from the HSUS to the ALF, and that's probably a good thing, with both vegans and non-vegans included. For example, my husband is an animal rights advocate in the style of Peter Singer and still eats animal products. I don't. We all do what we can for animals. PETA is much too conservative for my taste, but it's still useful, because it represents a certain POV in the animal rights spectrum and it garners lots of publicity for the rest of the spectrum. I must say, though, that I've always agreed with the Holocaust analogy that PETA uses. It's right on, and the fact that people are offended by it says more about them and their patronizing (speciesist) attitudes towards animals than it does about PETA.

    August 4, 2008
  10. Serafina #

    Thank you Friends of Animals and Mary for bring up this discussion.
    Vegans and animals are not helped one bit by KFC's new sandwich and we are only hurt by PeTA's promotion of it.

    What hit me in my gut was to see a redhead (I am a redhead) exploiting herself to promote a monster fast food chain – some of us don't seem to value ourselves or the animal – or are at least willing to do anything for money – but what PeTA is doing not about principals. (But what is it about?)

    I suppose you could say this is a question of do you use the master's tools to take down the master's house – do we use the exploitation of women to promote a "faux chicken" sandwich .. . (oh, I mean economically support a chain that has no problem killing animals???) So PeTA is using the exploitation of woman (turning us into sex objects – and associating us with food to be consumed) to further a corporate agenda not the good of living beings.
    Again, thank you Friends of Animals for calling this mimicry of the movement what it is: oppressive hogwash.

    August 4, 2008
  11. Lyda #

    I used to sometimes volunteer for PeTA and they would ask us to "go naked" against fur. I think they create an atmosphere where it is not ok to object. They say "You'd do anything to save animals right?" When you agree, then the next thing is "Ok, well take off your clothes. You did say you'd do ANYTHING!" I am not proud that I did those protests. I wasn't smart enough when I was so young to see that verbal trap. So I though "ok, I did say I'd do ANYTHING!" Those protests, they did not show the issues of animals killed for fur in a serious light. Instead they turned the deaths of so many animals into some kind of dirty joke. They say it is not sexist if you do it willingly, but I do not know. Intent of the person is only part of it. If you say something sexist it's not enough to say "but I'm a woman" or "I didn't mean it that way." So if you participate in a protest that is degrading to women, what you mean or how you feel about it is only half the equation. You must also think how it makes other women feel. You must also ask if men seeing it feel reinforced in sexist views or behavior because of it.

    August 4, 2008
  12. Dustin Garrett Rhodes, Friends of Animals #

    Everyone's comments are interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks.

    Lyda: I relate to what you are saying. I was a young teenager when I first got interested and involved in animal rights, and I didn't understand or recognize the sexism inherent in campaigns like these until much, much later. I have a hard time trying to reconcile the animal rights person I am now with the stupid fool I was then. : )

    ar deth: I respectfully disagree that in all cases that the myriad ways of portraying animal rights doesn't end up hurting the movement as a whole. I think animal rights folk portraying themselves as "pieces of meat" to advance a point harms the overall mission. That adage, "no one is free when others are oppressed" seems poignant. Vegans should be challenging the very concept of domination, and how do justify exploiting one group in an effort to advance another? Alas, in my mind, sexism is only one problem of many in the animal rights movement. If we are to be taken seriously, shouldn't we have something serious and intelligent to say?

    In my opinion, many animal rights campaigns are frivilous, shocking for the sake of being shocking and, worst of all, void of actual content and ill-conceived. In a society that degrades and objectifies women's bodies at every turn, why would this attitude be perpetuated in an effort to challenge society's view of another species? It simply doesn't make good sense.

    August 4, 2008
  13. Dan #

    Ar deth said:

    “For example, my husband is an animal rights advocate in the style of Peter Singer and still eats animal products.”

    If your husband is an advocate in the style of Peter Singer, then he is *necessarily* an animal welfare advocate and *NOT* an animal *rights* advocate. One of the biggest problems with the so-called “movement” is that welfare and rights have been conflated so much that even industry members themselves now identify themselves as “in-line with animal rights” of all absurd statements for them to make.

    It is understandable that Gary Francione has started to abandon the term “animal rights” in favor of “abolition” because it has become utterly meaningless in the same way that “humane” and other words are meaningless.

    I suppose the next word to get appropriated and rendered meaningless is “abolition”. It’ll sound something like this when you hear its death: “We fully embrace abolition: we’ve abolished battery cages.” At that point, those of us who would like to abolish animal exploitation will have to come up with a word for “the-death-of-all-animal-exploitation-in-whatever-form-it-can-possibly-take”. Or, perhaps we ought to start just spelling that out repeatedly now?

    Oh, BTW, I think what FoA is doing in response to P-TA is wonderful!

    August 4, 2008
  14. bunny #

    I never thought I'd see an abolitionist standing outside KFC actually protesting and endorsing a one-issue campaign (against PeTA, obviously :-).

    We must ask ourselves this…are these actions maximally conducive to abolition?


    August 5, 2008
  15. Aran #

    If you want to focus on abolitionist only campaigns, then fine but spend your time doing that not telling others that they should be focusing on those campaigns. Making abolitionism work and showing it working is the best thing you can do. At the end of the day if people see your campaigns getting wins they will want to be part of it. Make your group as powerful as PETA, show your effectiveness to the world. The movement doesn’t care about some idea of Puritanism – we want to see what works.

    Going against other campaigners whether welfare/new welfare or rights doesn’t seem to have much of an objective – out of interest what was the objective? How will it help the animals? Who was your target audience? Did they respond well to the message?

    August 5, 2008
  16. What do I think? I think you already know what I think. 😉

    There have been some great comments posted already, so I’ll mainly add some back-story to this.

    There is a fairly tight circle of over a dozen AR activists here in Victoria. We’re all vegan, and we take AR and veganism seriously. We believe these are valid aspects of the social justice movement.

    Word got around that PETA was coming to town, to literally *promote* Kentucky Fried _Chicken_, to tell people to eat there. And with the message that killing chickens with gas is a ‘victory’. And that exploiting sexist mentalities (rather than challenging them!) is an acceptable form of activism, we all agreed that we had to do something.

    The most logical course of action was what you saw. It wasn’t just me, three people helped make the signs, and two attended the demonstration (tho not pictured.) We were told from PETA that the demo was to be on the Friday, and many had planned to attend, but I found out Tuesday that it was moved to Thursday, and this eliminated most of our attendees.

    This isn’t just me, or Friends of Animals – this is a community of vegan activists upset with how we’re being represented. I’m proud to be able to work with these intelligent and forward-thinking people (some of whom have posted here), and I hope this gets some attention, rather than some of the messages that have been projected on us.

    August 5, 2008
  17. Bea Elliott #

    I think PETA's naked campaign only further objectifies flesh….. It is degrading and makes animal rights appear foolish and hypocritical. Praising KFC for thier "humane butchery" is pathetic. But, I don't have an "anti-PETA-agenda". They dis-credit themselves enough already. And if indeed they are doing more harm than good concerning animal interests – I might be willing to take them on (as a cause), someday after we convince the world to stop using animals for "food". There is only so much energy that can be spread just so thin. In the meantime…. I'm inclined to follow Gary Francione's advice: "Forget about PETA".

    August 5, 2008
  18. "What do you think of this? Would you go to KFC to buy a vegetarian sandwich? (It's not vegan, as it has non-vegan mayo as well as a non-vegan bun. But you can ask for the vegan version, which has no mayo and a wrap rather than a bun.) Where do you stand on the Lettuce Lady? What about the side-by-side demonstration? Do you think it helps animal rights?"

    I think it's fine. I'm not happy about PETA's promotion of certain companies, but I can understand it from a pragmatic perspective. It's not *my* choice, but I have no problem letting some AR organizations take a pragmatic route if that's what they prefer. Think about it from KFC's perspective. If you're KFC, are you more likely to listen to the organization that is able and willing to bring you more customers or the one that isn't? Are you going to be more or less interested in providing a veg*n alternative if those who pressure you to do so won't even buy your veg*n alternative?

    I probably wouldn't go to KFC except in the rare instance when there's nothing else available. I eat at plenty of places that also serve dead animals. I don't think there's anything wrong with supporting companies that offer veg*n options. I am very strongly PRO vegan and vegetarian alternatives in ALL restaurants. I think it makes veganism and vegetarianism easier for some people and it also exposes meat-eaters to veg alternatives. Overall, I think it's a good thing.

    Regarding the lettuce lady: I don't have a problem with her. If that's what she wants to do, fine. I'm actually MORE offended when MEN feel they have the right to criticize women's bodies and their choices to use their bodies as they wish. The problem comes from the FACT that sexism is SO prevalent that virtually everyone feels they have a right to chime in with their opinions about women's naked bodies. Naked women are often too quickly judged and their voices and opinions are discounted. It doesn't matter what the situation – when a woman is naked or nearly naked, she no longer has control over her body. Everyone else wants a piece of her, even the ones pretending to protect her. That's sexism in action.

    As a woman viewing those two activists, I can't ignore the genders of each and the power the clothed man has over the nearly naked woman. He is NOT criticizing PETA, he is criticizing her… personally. He's in her space and he's telling her she's wrong, in front of everyone. This isn't about FoA and PETA, this is about a man and a woman. Images mean something and yes, the image of PETA promoting KFC means something. The image of a nearly naked woman promoting animal rights means something. But so does the image of a man publicly criticizing a woman for displaying her bodily autonomy.

    Do I think this helps AR? Actually, yes. I think public discussions of how best to promote AR do help because they're a step in the right direction. When the public is interested in hearing about internal AR debates, then they seem to be taking our basic premises for granted. They seem to have moved from questioning whether AR is right or wrong to questioning which organization to support, which issues to support, and how to change their own lives. Articles like the one Mary linked to above make readers think about AR in a way that connects it to other rights movements and brings it a little deeper and a little closer to home. It think it's a good thing.

    August 5, 2008
  19. bunny #

    "…this is about a man and a woman."


    Did I miss something?

    In other photos I saw TWO fully clothed women standing next to Dave Shishkoff, protesting along with him.

    "Sexism in action." – Wow. There are a lot of things I could say about the protest regarding how best to use one's time, but I definitely wouldn't say the folks from Friends of Animals are demonstrating sexism, neither consciously nor unconsciously. Quite the opposite.

    August 5, 2008
  20. I'd like encourage everyone to check out Will Potter's analysis of this issue at

    My take:

    Friends of Animals (FOA) likes to position themselves as an abolitionist organization working in defense of animal rights.

    However, rather than proactively struggle for liberation, it seems they’d rather waste time and money criticizing others, be it aboveground groups like PETA or underground activists who break the law to rescue animals from torture and certain death.

    There’s a reason that there is no negative mention of FOA on the website of the corporate-front group Center for Consumer Freedom: FOA is no threat.

    August 5, 2008
  21. lisa #

    Hello. I have not posted publicly in a very long time, but this very interesting discussion was introduced to me by a freind who suggested I post my response, so here it is.
    I can't help but think that PeTA is promoting what I refer to as the Godiva syndrome. The implication that the only way women can get attention is by showing thier bodies and the belief of some women than they can only make an impact on others BY showing thier bodies.
    What a shame that we still live in a world where such beliefs are held. Yes, sometimes they do return momentary results, but isn't it time women believe they can be and are heard without their flesh being the initial attraction?
    As far as the counter protesting goes..I think it's about time people that begin to understand the difference between animal rights beliefs and simply controlling the actions of others. PeTA, IMO, is about controlling others. Individuals, corporations and nonhuman animals alike. KFC recieves thier wrath if they don't oblige their demands, their support when they bow to thier will – however small the consession towards animal rights might be. Animal rights should clearly send a message of the opposite opinion. Embracing respect, not control, of all lives, at all times. Well, if we excuse the militant "animal rights" brigade, that is.

    August 6, 2008
  22. How does holding a sign stating "respect" actually promote respect?

    Like I said before, sexism is SO prevalent that virtually everyone feels they have a right to chime in with their opinions about women's naked bodies. Naked women are often too quickly judged and their voices and opinions are discounted. It doesn't matter what the situation, when a woman is naked or nearly naked, she no longer has control over her body. Everyone else wants a piece of her, even the ones pretending to protect and respect her. That's sexism in action.

    August 10, 2008
  23. bunny #

    "Everyone else wants a piece of her, even the ones pretending to protect and respect her."

    I don't think any one of the three people (one man and TWO WOMEN) in the protest were feigning respect or a protective attitude for the woman from PeTA. I think they were speaking out against sexism (as well as other obvious issues about welfarism and PeTA) in general. If you feel that standing up against a social injustice equates desiring a piece of the oppressed of whom you are defending, then I guess you could say all of us vegans want a piece of the non-human animals that we apparently pretend to respect and protect (?!).

    "It doesn't matter what the situation, when a woman is naked or nearly naked, she no longer has control over her body."

    In regard to situations in which a woman is naked or nearly naked, *context* IS fairly important. I don't think every woman in a bikini lying about on the beach is lacking control of her body. I don't think these protesters would be standing beside them with signs contesting their exposure. But this particular PeTA/FoA situation involves a *worker* for PeTA. She is essentially getting paid to stand half naked in front of KFC to *advertise* using her body. In a sense, she herself IS the advertisement and is basically regarded as a living breathing billboard…an object…a strobe light or a neon blinking sign to draw attention to the restaurant would be equivalent. As vegans, we abhor that animals are treated as mere objects for our own pleasure and use, yet some of us do not see that society treats and uses womens' bodies in the exact same manner: as a commodity.

    I once believed that women should have the right to expose themselves in whatever manner they wish and to whatever ends they wish (including an income). I figured it was part and parcel of womens' inherent rights of freedom. I still believe women should have the these rights (e.g., why can a man go topless while a woman can not?) with the specific exclusion of situations in which a woman is being paid (or otherwise) to use her body as a commodity to further the ends of another (which, if you closely examine any of these types of situations–from strippers to prostitutes to porn models to half naked woman advertising in front of KFC–their bodies are being used to further the ends of another). The accepted use of womens' bodies as commodities to make a profit is a big contributing factor to the reason why (as you stated…) sexism is so prevalent and why womens' voices and opinions are often discounted. Remember, an object doesn't have rights or opinions.

    You may think that this woman has a right to advertise her body for profit, that it is her right and her choice, (perhaps it is), but don't kid yourself that the consequences of these sorts of actions (that we see ALL around us today) do not deeply affect the cultural mindset that ultimately results in how YOU and I are treated as women in the real world.

    I won't drone on (more) when there are others who speak and write in depth about this subject, posing a fairly convincing argument. The following blog entry by Gary Francione compelled me to start thinking about the connection between animals and women as commodities (, as well as (as Mary has mentioned) the works of Carol J. Adams.

    August 11, 2008
  24. Lyda #

    Some of these comments here are getting to me. I don't think that women must cover themselves up totally or a wear a burqa at all times.

    I do not think that the women who do naked protests have the kind of choice in these matters that most commenters assume they have. If you are a volunteer for peta like I was, then you long to be seen as a good volunteer. You don't want to be told not to come back. So you have to go along with what they tell you. Not only do you have to go naked or you're not welcome there any longer you must also be enthusiastic and cheerful about it. And everyone participating must say afterward how empowered you felt from the naked protest, how wonderful it was. Otherwise you are a bad and troubled volunteer and they don't want you back again.

    I assume it is even worse if you are an employee. To express any doubt means to be fired. So you would have to say "I love using my body and sexuality to help the animals!" If you don't act like it's the best idea anyone ever had then they tell you don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    I don't think women have to be ashamed of their bodies. I think what I said earlier that it trivializes the issue and turns immense suffering into some kind of joke. If I sent out threatening letters and afterward people said I did something bad I don't think it would be enough for me to say "I only meant to help the animals if people take this the wrong way or if they believe activists are violent that's their problem!! That's not what I meant." I don't think that's enough. We have to consider the consequences of our actions and how others will view them.

    Maybe I would change my mind if someone could show me a single person who went vegan in response to a naked protest who would not have paid attention to anything else.

    August 11, 2008

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