It doesn’t matter whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a proud omnivore, chances are you have heard of PETA – the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And lets face it, I doubt very much this has anything to do with the amount of animals they have saved.
According to PETA.org, the organisation “works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns” to protect the largest amounts of suffering animals. Sounds amazing so far, right? Well, unfortunately over the years PETA have seemed to develop quite the controversial reputation through crass campaigns and extreme publicity stunts. From throwing blood on fur coat clad celebrities to naked human’s being barbecued on the street, it is very hard for society to take their methods of madness seriously. Makes you wonder, could their publicity stunts be so drastic that they completely counteract their cause? Or are they all just a clever scheme to instil outrage amongst the masses, which continually feeds their thirst for global media attention?
I can remember my first memory of PETA very well, which I believe came alongside my introduction to social media. A link on Facebook to a website owned by PETA, ‘Kentucky Fried Cruetly’, showing videos of what ‘really’ happens behind closed doors at KFC. Chickens being kept in these heart-wrenching conditions, tortured just so the public can enjoy many a bargain bucket. Now being young and naive, I never thought to question whether KFC even owned these chicken farms, or whether the responsibility of torture fell in the lap of the supplier. I didn’t even question other fast food chains doing exactly the same. All I know is the image of a devilish Colonel Sanders clutching a blood splattered, helpless chicken stuck with me, so much so, that to this day I have not stepped inside a KFC since.
But it didn’t stop there for PETA. Somehow the organisation managed to put up a headstone beside Colonel Sanders’ final resting place, featuring a poem which spells out in big, red letters ‘KFC TORTURES BIRDS’. When the stunt was discovered it caused an uproar, and with every right too. It takes a truly disrespectful and disgusting person to tarnish someones gravesite, and I’m pretty sure PETA’s actions did anything but encourage people to boycott the fast food chain. So why does the organisation go to these extreme lengths for such little public support?
Founder, Ingrid Newkirk, believes their drastic campaigns and constant risk of offending people actually does the organisation, and the animals they fight to protect, wonders. You only have to look at the endless slew of celebrities who want to endorse them, despite their radicalism, to see how powerful they have become. However, as we know in the PR industry, power doesn’t always equal popularity or persuasion of the people. The overall consensus seems to be that PETA has managed to tarnish it’s name permanently through their methods, to the point where the mere mention of it can close most peoples mind to it’s message, whether it be important or not. Don’t just take my word for it though, do a quick Google search for ‘PETA PR stunts’ and see for yourself. Soak in the negative content surrounding the organisation and learn from their mistakes.