RONZONE: Animals & nudity



Raquel Ronzone

On March 27 The International Herald Tribune stated that, according to a 2006 Harris poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, which publishes The Vegetarian Journal, only about 2.3 percent of the adult population of the United States is vegetarian and at most, half of that group is vegan. (A vegetarian abstains from meat and poultry but can consume any combination of dairy, eggs or fish. A vegan abstains from those and other animal products in addition to meat, fish and poultry.)

On April 3 The Vancouver Sun reported that, in 2006, the U.S. pornography industry generated $13 billion. Somewhere between vegetarianism and pornography, a marketing ploy has emerged, using erotica to advocate animal rights.

The nonprofit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has maintained a prominent albeit controversial role in the promotion of its cause since its founding in 1980.

Throughout its campaign history, the group has relied on shock tactics in order to draw attention to animal rights issues. PETA is responsible for the distribution of graphic pamphlets titled “Your Daddy Kills Animals!” and “Your Mommy Kills Animals!” aimed at children and the creation of “Got Beer?” – a parody of “Got Milk?” – which aims to persuade college students to down frothy brews instead of milk.

The organization exhibited “Holocaust on Your Plate,” a series of images depicting the Holocaust and factory farming side-by-side. PETA has become notorious for its forceful, graphic campaigning, but it has also received criticism for its use of suggestive (even pornographic) images to encourage vegetarianism.

The Lettuce Ladies, the Broccoli Boys, the “Running of the Nudes” and the related “Ink, Not Mink” and “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” campaigns are PETA’s interpretation of the maxim “sex sells.” Sporting a minimalist wardrobe, the 13 Lettuce Ladies – some Playboy models – and the three Broccoli Boys distribute pamphlets favoring of plant-based lifestyles.

Annually, the organization hosts the “Running of the Nudes,” a self-explanatory counterpart to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Model Naomi Campbell, actresses Christina Applegate and Eva Mendes, “Miami Ink” tattoo artist Ami James, TV personality Steve-O and Playboy Playmates Pamela Anderson, Jenna Jameson and Holly Madison, among others, have posed naked or nearly naked in protest of animals used for clothing.

Although PETA has demonstrated a predilection for nudity, one vegan has resorted to something other than that basic lack of clothing in order to promote his values – strip clubs.

In February, Johnny Diablo founded Casa Diablo Gentleman’s Club in Portland, Ore., an establishment he identified as the world’s first vegan strip club. Ultimately, the soy protein tacos, the Vegan Vixens and their pleather costumes were not enough to maintain the club. Diablo put his business up for sale in the middle of March, claiming that he misjudged the appeal of striptease to vegans or of veganism to patrons of gentleman’s clubs.

One can only wonder if those exposed to the suggestive marketing strategies can or will adopt the lifestyle that the organizations intended to promote. The existence of these advertisements allows base sex appeal to overshadow the ethical awareness, health benefits and religious aspects of vegetarianism and veganism.

For some people, the points of contention are even more significant. PETA and like-minded groups are fighting for animal rights while jeopardizing those who rally against objectification of humans. The saying asserts, “Sex sells,” but degrading the cause of vegetarianism to erotica is entirely self-defeating – and misleading.

On March 8 the Baltimore Sun reported that, according to the American Dietetic Association, 1.4 million American children under 18 identify themselves as vegetarians or vegans and 11 percent of girls aged between 13 and 17 identify themselves as such. Impressionable males and females comprise a considerable section of the vegetarian and vegan population. Permeating their society is this subliminal message: naked bodies and pole dances are entirely more persuasive and effective at garnering support than their personal convictions.

This a devastating low point in the tradition of campaigning. The cause is too honorable for degradation to sexuality. Furthermore, the heart of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles – respect of humans, animals and the environment – is noticeably absent from these promotions.


Raquel Ronzone is a freshman from Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected].