Last month the animal rights group launched its latest campaign in the UK against cosmetic testing on animals, featuring model and TV personality Jessica-Jane Clement naked, with curled legs and a strategically placed bunny on her breasts; a typical image for PETA campaigns.
Through images such as this, and similar ones used in other campaigns, PETA has been criticised for undermining women to promote animal advocacy.
However, the organisation’s UK policy advisor Alistair Currie, tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that sometimes it is necessary to catch people’s attention to highlight bigger issues, and reiterated both men and women are used in this fashion in its campaigns with the purpose of drawing attention.
“People have used their bodies to make political statements since the time of Lady Godiva. Our dedicated volunteers, both women and men, choose to use their bodies in an attention-grabbing way to speak up for animals that never get a choice or a chance to speak up for themselves,” he says.
Initiate discussion, raise awareness
Currie explains PETA rely largely on free "advertising" through media coverage, so it has to find creative ways of getting the word out about cruelty to animals because he says that just presenting facts on animal testing has proved unsuccessful in the past.
“It's sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo and, of course, action,” he explains.
Awareness is another reason celebrities are used in the campaigns, as Currie says that when celebrities talk, people listen.
By taking a stand against animal abuse or exploitation and highlighting issues such as the 2013 ban on testing cosmetics on animals, celebrity supporters can make a big difference, and enhance coverage.
“Through coverage in national newspapers, our message about cosmetics tests and the threat to the 2013 ban has reached millions of people.”
In cosmetics, Currie says that the industry is certainly aware that animal testing comes at a significant price to their reputation.
He cites Urban Decay's decision to reverse its plan to sell products in China due to the animal testing rules in the country, as an example that companies can and do respond to public concern in a very direct way.
“[Also] the success of brands such as Lush and The Body Shop show that this is a live issue for the industry – these are brands that aren't just opposed to animal testing but that actively campaign against it.”
Currie acknowledges that the cosmetics industry has put a lot of money into the development of alternatives, which is a positive move, and feels the pressure applied from PETA campaigns and public support have influenced this.
“In terms of the future of the ban, those in industry who want to see it, have had to work primarily behind the scenes instead of in public because they know this story is bad news for them,” claims Currie.
“The European Commission has been talking directly to animal protection groups like PETA because they recognise that we represent the public on this issue and can mobilise our support.”
The commission is expected to make an announcement on the ban within the next few weeks.