Anti-meat ads referencing Pickton case 'grotesque'

Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

A new anti-meat campaign that exploits the horrific killing of women in British Columbia is a disgusting travesty that demeans the victims and exploits women, critics say.

The outdoor ad, sponsored by the militant animal-rights group PETA, shows a stock head shot of a pretty young woman on one side and a "smiling" pig on the other, along with the slogan Neither Of Us Is Meat.

That's a reference to the case of Robert Pickton, the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer who is charged in the deaths of 15 women. Pickton is expected to go to trial late this year or early in 2005.

British Columbia's medical officer of health recently said meat products from Pickton's farm that were given to friends and associates may have contained human remains.

"This is terrible," Rick Frey, whose 24-year-old daughter Marnie's remains were found on the Pickton farm, said after seeing a copy of the billboard.

"I don't think we need to be reminded what the hell went on there," Frey said from Campbell River, B.C.

"When I heard about it before, in the early stages, I had nightmares. This won't help at all."

The billboards went up in Toronto and Edmonton this week, while PETA said it had a signed contract to have 1,000 flyposters plastered all over the downtowns of Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal on May 2.

Lee Lakeman, of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, called the ad "grotesque and exploitative in the extreme."

"It's particularly grotesque in a situation where women are dead and where many families are grieving and dealing with the horrible possibility their family members' bodies were mutilated in farm machinery and in the meat-processing machinery," said Lakeman from Vancouver.

However, the mother of one woman whose DNA was found on the Pickton farm said the ad campaign didn't bother her despite being deeply saddened by the terrible fate of her 29-year-old daughter, Sarah deVries.

"Once she was dead and her pain was over, I'm not hung up about what happened to her body," said Pat deVries from Guelph, Ont., where she is raising Sarah's daughter.

The point PETA was trying to make was that animals experience pain and suffering just as people do, said Bruce Friedrich, the group's campaign director based in Washington, D.C.

"Canadians who are shocked at the thought that they may have eaten human flesh should think about the fact that there appears not to be a difference in taste between pig flesh and human flesh," said Friedrich.

"A corpse is a corpse, whether it formerly belonged to a pig, a cow, a chicken, or a human."

But Melanie Cishecki, executive director of MediaWatch, which monitors the portrayal of women in the media for sexism, said she was stunned by the ad.

"I just have a really visceral feeling of disgust that an organization may be trying to make a link between their message promoting vegetarianism and a huge tragedy that's fallen on women," said Cishecki.

Ross Dann, owner of the small independent billboard agency Prime Outdoor in Toronto, said the ad would stay up for about four weeks.

"It's really not my call. I just represent a sign owned by somebody else. Ultimately, the building-owner guy says, 'I'm OK with that.' He looks at it as a revenue stream."

Founded in 1980, U.S.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is known for its shock-value campaigns. Canadian TV stations recently rejected one of the group's animal-rights commercials as too graphic.

In Germany, the Central Council of Jews said recently it would fight a cross-European PETA campaign that likens animals to victims of the Holocaust on the grounds that it is an "anti-Semitic provocation."

 The Canadian Press 2004



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