The meat industry has lots of money to promote consumption of beef, poultry and pork. The anti-meat industry–namely People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Norfolk, Va.-based animal rights group–admits it has to push the limits to get people’s attention.
“We don’t have the ad budget of the turkey industry or Butterball, so we’re forced to do things that are controversial or titillating,’ said PETA staffer Bruce Friedrich. “There’s not any debate that many of our ads are controversial or shocking, and of course, that’s by design.”
Such was the case in an ad that PETA ran Dec. 18 in The Herald-Sun in Durham. At first glance, the ad appears to be talking about humans, a deception that Friedrich, who directs PETA’s vegetarian campaign, said was used to draw in the reader.
It opens with the warning: “DO EXACTLY AS WE SAY AND NOBODY GETS HURT.” However, the ad says, that’s what happens to most of the animals die that end up on people’s dinner tables.
The ad also included a silhouette of a Christ-like figure on a cross. It ends with PETA’s ” … one simple demand: GO VEGETARIAN.” The ad ran about two-thirds of a page in The Herald Sun and cost $3,500.
“We are trying to get people thinking about the choices they’re making,” Friedrich said. “I think the ad makes the very clear point that animals suffer and die in the same way people suffer and die. Animals are made of the same stuff we are–flesh, bone and blood.”
The ad was turned down by a dozen newspapers, including The News & Observer. Jim McClure, the N&O‘s vice president and director of display advertising, said he took the ad to N&O publisher Orage Quarles III and a decision was made to reject it and the thousands of dollars in advertising revenue it would have generated.
“In our judgment, that was not an ad that we wanted to publish in our newspaper,” McClure said.
The paper doesn’t “shy away from controversy,” he said. “We typically decline an ad because in our judgment it would not be in good taste.” The paper also will not run ads that might be defamatory, he said.
And, of course, one point of the ads is to spur articles like this one. A PETA representative called The Independent to make sure we’d seen it.