Friday, June 18, 2010

Bad Reputations

Rock icon Joan Jett has been a celebrity mouthpiece for PETA for years. She's also often misrepresented in the media and by animal advocacy groups as being vegan, even though she consistently shows up at public events wearing her trademark leather pants and other leather clothing. She set the record straight about her non-veganism recently in an article in the New York Observer:

"If not wearing leather would stop animals from getting eaten, then I'd stop wearing leather tomorrow," said Ms. Jett, who recently released a greatest-hits album and a new book and is played by Kristen Stewart in a new movie, The Runaways. "At least I can sit there and thank the dead cow for letting me wear its skin."
The non-human animal enslaved and slaughtered and whose skin Jett continues to wear to maintain her rock 'n' roll image doesn't care whether his or her parts ended up in her body or on her body (or "its" parts, as Jett might prefer to say). It's not how we use non-humans that is significant; what's wrong is that we use them at all.

Add to all of this that
PETA described her as handing out "vegetarian/vegan starter kits" for it in NYC a few months back. Whether PETA was using the terms 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' interchangeably (which is problematic in itself, albeit not surprising from PETA) or unapologetically non-vegan Joan Jett hit the pavement to promote that which she herself opts not to embrace, my head could very well implode trying to peel away the layers of muddled contradictions and moral confusion.

If Jett's inability to "get it" with regards to animal use isn't apparent in the previous quote, how about this one from PETA's website, where she responds to a question concerning how she feels about people who wear fur?

I believe they are callous and self-involved. With such good-quality imitation fur available for making clothes, etc., there is no reason to torture animals. It’s the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. Put fur lovers’ legs in a steel trap for a few days, or whack ’em on the head with a club, and maybe they’ll get it.
So eating animals is wrong and wearing their skin with the fur still left on it is worthy of having your leg put "in a steel trap", but wearing that skin is perfectly alright as long as you unhair it first? From Jett's first comment, I am guessing that she assumes that all leather comes from cows raised for human consumption and thus attempts to justify her use of it in that she figures that the cows are dead anyway. This is far from being a given, though.

What's somewhat ironic is that PETA, itself, has a blurb about leather on its site where it states the commonly known fact that leather can come from the skin of a wide variety of non-humans (e.g. cats, alligators, kangaroos, ostriches, and more -- some of them raised specifically for the human use of their skin). PETA points out that since leather is generally not labeled, there's often no way to tell whose skin you're wearing (as if it should matter whose skin it is, honestly). PETA also states on its site that the leather industry is the most economically important by-product of the meat industry, helping to prop it up financially. What PETA doesn't mention is that the skin of calves helps prop up the dairy industry even more so -- whether taken after they are slaughtered to become "veal", or taken from the fetal calves of spent pregnant dairy cows at the time of slaughter. Providing demand for a cow's skin ensures the continued profitability of the beef and dairy industries -- dots which Jett, unfortunately, fails to connect.
What's most important to remember, though, is that condoning the occasional use of some parts of some non-human animals for human pleasure merely perpetuates the status quo -- that animals are things for us to use. Is that really the best way to advocate for them?

For more information about PETA and the many dots it miserably fails to connect, itself...

Please check out Dan Cudahy's
Unpopular Vegan Essays blog here.

Visit Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach to read Prof. Gary L. Francione's articles on
how PETA kills animals and has been killing animals for a while, and on Ingrid Newkirk's defense of PETA's speciesist and sexist campaigns (and check out a few examples of the sexist campaigns here and here). Also read about how PETA gives awards to animal exploiters like KFC and works with them to make people feel better about continuing to consume animals.

Have a look at previous My Face Is on Fire posts to read about how some of my fellow abolitionists and I got fed up and wrote a letter rejecting those sexist tactics used by groups like PETA in the animal advocacy movement. Also read an example of how PETA profits from animal exploitation, how it misrepresents veganism while promoting the consumption of animal products and finally, how PETA's Bruce Friedrich has shamed vegans for asking waiters about ingredients on restaurant menus.


VeganGirlInTheWorld said...

Wow. Just wow. I agree with all your points 100%.

And, though I agree with the argument that leather is making the beef and dairy industries more profitable, much of today's leather comes from India in which cows ARE killed for their skins. Either way, leather is not an ethical choice.

Thanks for writing this Mylene.

tru said...

dammit dammit dammit! Not Joan Jett!!

VeganGirlInTheWorld said...

And, just to be clear, all animal use is wrong. So whether or not an animal 'product" is considered a "byproduct', we shouldn't be using non human animals. Period.

"The non-human animal enslaved and slaughtered and whose skin Jett continues to wear to maintain her rock 'n' roll image doesn't care whether his or her parts ended up in her body or on her body (or "its" parts, as Jett might prefer to say)."-MYL├łNE OUELLET

So true.

Allysia said...

So just last week I purchased my very first pair of vegan shoes, and my dad treated me like I was crazy, saying I was 'going too far'. Just wanted to tell you that reading this helps me feel sane!

M said...

VeganGirlInTheWorld, I agree with what you've said. I've actually gotten equal numbers of emails supporting this post as I have emails stating that I should be thankful that someone as famous as Jett is advocating for animals. The thing is that she's only advocating for *some* animals and in doing so, just reinforces the message that some non-humans are meant to be used by us. That's not advocating for animals; that's just perpetuating speciesism.

Allysia, does your dad understand why you won't eat animals or animal products? If so, you could try to explain to him how it doesn't matter which part of an animal is used and that the lives they live leading up to their slaughter are the same? Hang in there!