Backlash spurs PETA to pull grisly anti-meat ads

Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press

Thursday, April 22, 2004

TORONTO - A fierce backlash sparked by ads that exploit the grisly serial killings of women in British Columbia has prompted a militant animal-rights group to dump plans to expand its current anti-meat campaign to three Canadian cities.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Thursday its intention was not to hurt the victims' families.

"The one unexpected aspect was hearing from the family members, who were and are not the target of the campaign," Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan campaigns, said from Washington, D.C.

"Our intention was to provoke meat-eaters, not upset the families."

The ad in question shows a young woman on one side, a "smiling" pig on the other, and a slogan: Neither of us is meat.

It's a reference to the case of Robert Pickton, who is to stand trial late this year or early in 2005 on charges he killed 15 women on his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The province's medical officer of health said recently meat products from Pickton's farm may have contained human remains.

Among those who pleaded with PETA to drop the campaign was Paul Barnard, whose sister-in-law was among 60 women who vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"If (PETA's) objective was the shock value, they shocked more people than they intended to," Barnard said Thursday from Pine Falls, Man.

"This one was a little over the top. As a family we're still trying to digest it."

The billboard ads went up late last month in Toronto and Edmonton, and the group had planned to plaster the downtowns of Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa with similar posters.

While the billboards will stay in place for another two weeks, the posters will instead be used in the U.S. and a different one posted in the Canadian cities, starting in mid-May.

Barnard said he's grateful the posters won't go up but expressed disappointment the billboards won't come down immediately.

"If their basis (for pulling the posters) is ethics and morals, you would apply it everywhere."

Not since the group enlisted Albertan singer k.d. lang for its "meat stinks" advertisements almost 15 years ago has one of its campaigns evoked such strong reaction in Canada.

Even Prime Minister Paul Martin weighed in, calling the campaign unacceptable. Newspaper editorialists and columnists accused PETA of hurting its own cause by going too far.

Advertising Standards Canada, the self-regulating industry group that handles consumer complaints, received at least two-dozen related to the billboard.

Friedrich said he was surprised by the backlash.

"I really don't get what all the fuss is about," he said.

 The Canadian Press 2004

Anti-meat ads referencing Pickton case 'grotesque-Apr 6, 2004



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