26 December 2003

Gary L. Francione on PETA's Sexism

[I]n recent years, the promotion of animal causes has increasingly relied on sexist and racist imagery. For example, the fur campaign has from the outset been tainted by sexism. The trapping or ranching of animals for fur is certainly barbaric and immoral, but fur is no more or less morally obnoxious than leather or wool. The primary difference is that furs are worn by women, and wool and leather, although also worn by women, are worn by virtually all men. Fur became an early target of the animal rights movement, and from the outset the imagery was, not unexpectedly, sexist. An early poster shows a pair of women's legs (no torso, no head, just legs) clothed in black stockings and spiked high heels. The woman is dragging a fur coat, which is trailing blood. The caption read, "It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it." And in the nineties, PETA has promoted its "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" ads, featuring billboards with naked models, as well as demonstrations in which women appear naked. In one particularly notable example, a PETA staff person "stripped" on Howard Stern's radio station in order to make her point about fur, and Stern described each phase of the event in considerable detail. Unfortunately, some animal advocates have harassed women wearing furs. The fur industry is certainly indefensible according to any moral standard (other than an extreme form of ethical egoism), but using sexist imagery or assaults on women to make that point is extremely problematic not only because it is violent but because men wearing their expensive wool suits need not worry about animal rights advocates harassing them.

(Gary L. Francione, Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement [Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996], 74-5 [footnote omitted])