The animal-rights group PETA released a new ad this week that compares livestock born in the meat and dairy industries with human victims of sexual assault.
The ad begins with women sharing what seems to be traumatizing stories of rape. “One man held me down, while another man touched me,” the ad begins as various women each recite a line. “I was so scared. I didn’t know what I had done wrong.”
Everything about the ad ― the black-and-white tone, the pained expressions on the women’s faces, the mild yet disturbing music in the background ― suggests that the message is about women who have experienced sexual assault. But then the ad takes a hard turn, and it suddenly becomes clear that the women are representing the feelings of cows and pigs born into food industries. Here’s how the ad ends:
Every year, billions of animals are born into the meat, egg and dairy industries. Almost all of them are a result of forcible artificial insemination. Almost all of them are a result of rape. Don’t participate, go vegan.
The ad quickly sparked outrage, with many Twitter users condemning PETA for insensitivity to sexual assault.
PETA didn’t back down, and denied its ad diminishes the seriousness of human sexual assault.
Ingrid Newkirk, PETA president, doubled down on the ad’s message in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“It is rape when someone sticks their hand into a vagina or rectum without permission,” Newkirk said. “Every decent person abhors and denounces sexual abuse of women but we cannot blithely accept the sexual abuse of other females who happen not to be human but have the same vulnerability to pain.”
PETA is well known for controversial and offensive advertising, and this is hardly the first time the organization has made waves with its messaging.