Animal activists have called for feminists’ attention by arguing that chickens are individuals just like them. And it worked – the part about getting attention, that is.
On November 30, local media first took note of a new San Jose billboard because of its shocking claim: real feminists refuse to eat eggs. The new campaign, sponsored by animal-activist organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), urged that women shouldn’t contribute to the manipulation of another female’s fertility – even if that female is a chicken.
“Face it–you can’t can’t claim to be a feminist and still eat eggs,” the billboard’s text read next to a picture of a blond woman whose face was replaced with an egg. “Eggs and dairy are a product of the abuse of females.”
That’s because, according to PETA writer Michelle Kretzer, farms see chickens “as egg machines to be used, manipulated, and pushed beyond their biological limits in order to make money,” instead of respecting them as individuals.
In other words, chickens are basically women too – especially when it comes to reproduction. “As the battle for control over women’s fertility and reproductive rights wages on, feminists are rising up against abuse and exploitation,” Kretzer insisted in a December 3 blog post. She continued:
So what does it mean, then, when women take another female’s eggs from her without a thought and readily pay money for her eggs, knowing that she was imprisoned, her reproductive cycle was controlled and manipulated, and she was forced to bear young on someone else’s timetable?
People give “strikingly similar” justifications for “disregarding” the “suffering” of both women and chickens while “denying their basic rights,” Kretzer concluded. And just like “female members of other species, human females, too, have been dismissed as not important, valuable, intelligent, or worthy of consideration.”
But how are women mistreated like the chickens PETA complains about? Kretzer referenced women’s access to abortion, according to Nylon magazine staff writer Bailey Calfee – even though PETA regularly reminds its followers that it doesn’t take a stance on abortion.
The group focuses solely on the “alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals,” PETA claims, and “people on both sides of the abortion issue” are “in the animal rights movement.”
In other words, while PETA draws from common understandings of human dignity to argue for the worth of animals, it refuses to condemn violence against actual human beings. And, in the process, PETA doesn’t elevate animals by equating them with human beings, but instead demeans women by comparing them to animals.
Animals should be cared for with respect – the Catholic Catechism affirms this by teaching against causing “animals to suffer or die needlessly.” But the Catechism also adds that “God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image” and so “it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing,” to “help man in his work and leisure.”
“It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery,” the Catechism concludes. “One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.”
And, this time, the feminist media appears to be in agreement.
“Feminism already struggles to encompass the needs and perspectives of all human constituents,” wrote associate editor Kate Bernot for The Takeout, “and now we’re being chastised because our efforts don’t extend to feathered animals who, I can say from personal experience with chicken-raising—are about as bright as a doorstop.”
Calfee agreed in Nylon, adding, “Maybe we should work on securing the rights of all human women before we venture into this kind of territory.”
PETA regularly uses controversy for the sake of publicity, but this time they’re sacrificing any credibility they might have in the process.