PETA is an organization that habitually uses sex to sell the virtues of veganism. This method of activism may have short-term appeal and effectiveness, especially for younger people prone to the shallow suasions of fleshy seduction. In the long run, though, the strategy makes little sense, primarily because it is, in essence, promoting the very process of bodily objectification that’s necessarily inherent in the act of eating animals, the very habit PETA ostensibly opposes. (The brilliant Carol Adams and all that . . .)
It was thus with bemused regret that I leaned about PETA’s contest to discover the UK’s “sexiest vegan.” To appreciate the unavoidable analogy between female objectification and carnivoristic aggression embedded in such a quest, one might begin by observing the language deployed by a Birmingham newspaper about the contest’s runner up, a college student named Shayna Wise. “The 20-year-old Aston University undergraduate,” says the report, “was a finalist in a nationwide hunt aimed at shattering the myth that those who shun animal products are pale and uninteresting.” Such a tone was set with the opening sentence: “Stunning student Shayna Wise looks sweet without the meat – after being voted one of the country’s sexiest vegans.” But, of course, it’s her “meat,” as PETA well knows, that makes it all so sweet.
From the steamy premise of a sexpot vegan flows a vapid stream of blather from the (admittedly quite attractive) seductress hunted down by PETA for her runner-up meatiness. She declared: “When I tell people I’m vegan they always say to me: ‘Really? But you look so good!’ . . .“I’ve never met a vegan who doesn’t look great.” . . . “Me and all my vegan friends are healthy and fit.” . . . “I put myself forward for this for the contest for a laugh, I didn’t think I’d get through.” Ms. Wise has been a vegan since February.
In promoting this sort of foolishness PETA actually does the thinking vegan a favor. It reminds us that there are very few benefits to investing in vegan “spokespeople” whose claim to authority rests in lips, hips, or the movies in which he or she starred. We’ve seen the dangers herein. We’ve seen what happens when Kate Moss enters the bedroom of her (now formerly) vegan boyfriend wearing underwear and holding a steak. We’ve seen what happens when that Jamieson person gets bored with not being in the media spotlight. We’ve seen, in other words, that seduction cuts both ways, but more often than not into the center of a sexy piece of meat.