Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita, was fatally shot while leaving church on May 31. A mere four days later, the savvy PR team at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), released plans to place two billboards in the city. 

The first features the text “Pro-Choice? Choose Vegetarian,” and the second with “Pro-Life? Go Vegetarian.” According to the press release, PETA hoped to piggyback Tiller’s “shocking murder” by providing ads that “will help Wichita residents on both sides of the controversy find common ground in concern for the suffering of billions of living beings horrifically abused on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.”

Approximately a week later, plans for the billboards were quashed. All three of the companies owning the large billboards in Wichita refused to display the material. Shortly thereafter, Tiller’s family announced the clinic would be permanently shut down. Two days later, PETA announced its intention to investigate the purchase of the building and turn it into an animal cruelty educational facility. Operation Rescue, a hard line anti-choice organization who openly demonized Tiller for years, also announced plans for purchase of the building. For a “remembrance museum for the murdered unborn.” Tiller’s family has dismissed these offers as publicity stunts.

Indeed. As a former pro-choice activist, I am well versed in the frightening tactics of the anti-choice movement. I’ve had their proponents spit in my face, had my home broken into and filled with horrifying anti-choice pamphlets and photos, and was even confronted late at night by four large men warning me not to show up at a protest scheduled for the following day. I was home alone, 21, and holding a  terrified, screaming 14-month-old infant in my arms, the child of a friend. I was only moderately involved in the movement at the time; friends of mine have stories far more disturbing.

Though PETA’s tactics are strong, splashy, and espouse a message many of us aren’t ready to hear, I stand behind their ethos firmly. However, a hard lesson anyone working for social justice must learn is the delivery of your message is as important as the core of your philosophy. This principle, though pesky, is one PETA seems to persistently overlook -- this time at the expense of women's reproductive freedom.

Setting upon a tragedy to push an agenda is unseemly at best and exploitative at worst. Offering to plunk down a centre to espouse your organization’s beliefs, while the women of Wichita are left without a clinic, is garishly senseless. And almost hilarious in its PR ineptitude, to boot. 

Sorry, PETA. You lost me on this one. For good.