"Rubbish!" says PETA president Newkirk to charges of sexism & promoting eating disorders
Michael Shank, Communications Director and Policy Adviser for Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA-15), and six other staffers from four congressional offices contacted PETA to protest the organization's mixture of sex, vegetables and politics that was going on outside of Rayburn House Office Building last Wednesday.
Playboy model Vida Guerra (above, r), clad in high heels and a teensy weensy bikini covered with real chili peppers, was stationed with another unidentified model at a table during lunchtime, passing out free vegetarian chili dogs for PETA's cheeky National Veggie Dog Day. They couldn't be missed by those entering and exiting Rayburn for either the Ag & antibiotics hearing or the historic child nutrition markup--or anyone else, for that matter.
"PETA needlessly sacrifices women's rights to promote animal rights, overtly objectifying and sexualizing women," Shank, a vegetarian, said he told PETA, adding that PETA limits their semi-nude models to women who "conform to what society has deemed the ideal, sexy body type."
PETA sends bikini-clad women to Capitol Hill each year for its Veggie Dog Day, and Guerra is the latest high-profile hottie to get the job; PETA reported 600 veggie dogs were doled out. But Shanks and the other staffers who lodged complaints believe using models for such publicity stunts is doing far more harm than good.
"PETA is feeding into ideas of attractiveness that create and exacerbate feelings of shame, which results in an estimated 8 million Americans who suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa," Shank said.
When contacted for a response, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk called the concerns "rubbish."
“I think that’s the daftest thing I’ve ever heard!" Newkirk said, in a breezy phone message. "Unless these people have never been to a beach or have just moved here from Afghanistan.”
Shank stressed that he and some of the other staffers who lodged complaints are not only vegetarians but activist vegtarians, who "support less energy and resource intensive diets and are concerned with the ethical and environmental implications of the 35,507,500 cattle that the USDA says were slaughtered in 2008 for food."
Guerra is proof that meat can be beat...
Guerra, recently voted #26 on FHM's 100 Top Sexiest Females list (and a two-time winner of the rag's Best Butt award), has been a vegetarian for just one year, according to PETA's website, and she said she is thrilled with its positive benefits, particularly for her skin. Interestingly, not too long ago Guerra was hawking Burger King's TenderCrisp, a bacon and chicken sandwich, in a television commercial.
PETA started the annual vegetarian hot dog handout in response to the American Meat Institute's annual National Hot Dog Month, which started in the mid-1970s and features an annual Hot Dog Lunch for congressional staffers. This year, PETA's theme of "spice up your life" by going vegetarian was artfully represented by the chili peppers on the models' bikinis. Last year, Playboy models donned skimpy bejeweled lettuce swimsuits.
Lauren Stroyeck, a PETA campaigner, told media that Veggie Dog Day helps brings awareness to "the suffering lifestyle of pigs."
"Free vegetarian chili dogs are a fun and delicious way to let people know that we can pig out on hot dogs without causing actual pigs to suffer," Stroyeck said.
--Helena Bottemiller & Eddie Gehman Kohan