Editorial: PETA, stay in your lane

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Instead of saying “bring home the bacon” and “grab the bull by its horns,” PETA wants you to say “bring home the bagels” and “grab the flower by its thorns.”

But that’s old news. PETA, an animal rights organization usually mocked by meat eaters, is now under scrutiny from vegetarians and people committed to social justice, too. PETA is under fire for a Superbowl ad, or what was supposed to be a Superbowl ad, but was rejected by FOX and the NFL. The ad features several animals taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” emulating a gesture American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing during games to protest police brutality. The minute-long commercial proposal ends with a banner that reads, “respect is the right of every living being. #EndSpeciesim.” PETA decided to release the ad on its Twitter account anyway. 

While the ad was probably not made with ill intentions, it’s inappropriate to use taking a knee — which is a gesture Kaepernick and other black Americans used to fight racist violence — and apply it to an animal. PETA has a history of controversial takes, and while the organization does a lot of important work, it’s extremely problematic to put animal rights on the same level as human rights.

“Speciesism — like any form of discrimination — is a supremacist worldview,” PETA wrote in a news release explaining its choice to release the ad. “It allows humans to disrespect other living, feeling beings and to treat their interests as unimportant.” 

And while there might be truth to this, using a social justice movement as a platform in an ad isn’t the way to express speciesism. Especially Kaepernick’s platform, which became a major controversy within professional football a few years ago.

The NFL faced scrutiny for the way it handled Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem — due to racism in the United States — back in 2016. PETA framed the NFL’s rejection of the ad as further ignorance on the part of the organization.

“THIS is the PETA #SuperBowl ad the @NFL apparently didn’t want you to see and pressured @FOXSports to snub,” PETA wrote in its tweet of the rejected ad. “It envisions a world where respect is the right of every being and pays homage to Kaepernick and movements rejecting injustice.”

But as many people pointed out, the ad itself takes a complicated human issue like violence against black Americans — which many activists have fought hard against — and simplifies it in order to push an animal rights agenda. 

“PETA colonized the Black Lives Matter Movement; disrespected Colin Kaepernick’s protest against injustice, and made a mockery of 400 years of systemic oppression by comparing Black lives to grizzly bears and bald eagles,” black activist Michael Harriot wrote.

There’s no harm in fighting for animal rights, but PETA needs to stay in its lane and fight for animal rights without simplifying social justice movements. It’s offensive, and PETA simply doesn’t belong in Kaepernick’s neck of the woods, as black journalist R. Eric Thomas wrote.

“Be nice to animals,” Thomas wrote, mocking the ad. “And I guess black people, if you have the time. Play ball!”