It’s confronting viewing. Staring straight down the camera, four women share horrific details of being raped.
“One man held me down, while another touched me,” one woman says.
“I didn’t know what I had done wrong,” says another. “After, I felt like I was nothing.”
Holding back tears, the rape survivors reveal how they were made pregnant, used, treated like “an object”, and made to feel worthless.
But then, a confronting twist.One woman holds up a picture of a cow while saying “because I am you, only different”.
What? They’re comparing rape victims to animals?
This is animal rights group PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) new video campaign, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“Every year billions of animals are born into the meat, egg and dairy industries. Almost all of them are a result of forced artificial insemination. Almost all of them are a result of rape,” the ad reads.
The comparison has outraged survivors of sexual abuse as well as advocates groups, who believe the “appalling” comparison is demeaning to rape victims.
Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia executive Karen Willis told news.com.au the campaign was “unconscionable”.
“Using sexual assault to promote any other issue is highly inappropriate and anyone who is watching that who has experience of sexual assault will be incredibly distressed by those images,” she said.
“I don’t have a problem with reducing the pain and fear of animals that are used in the production of food, I’m certainly on board with that, but using a highly emotive, triggering, violent concepts of sexual assault to promote animal rights, I think, is just unconscionable.”
Ms Willis said that the same tactic had been employed by animal rights groups in the past, but it was “a very long bow” to draw between the two issues.
“When we oppose animal cruelty there is a certain concept in it that ties in with humanity and respect, but we know that violence against women comes from gender inequity, whereas treatment of animals is about seeing those animals as something involved in production for food. It’s very different,” she said.
But the controversial group has hit back at criticism the attention-grabbing clip has attracted.Its Twitter feed, where the video was first released on Wednesday, has become a stream of defensive strikes, hitting back at people and organizations defended by the message.
“Sexual abuse is a serious issue. Acknowledging it for animals doesn’t take away from humans,” the group told one user.
“Exploiting female bodies is not OK no matter the species,” they said to another. “Purchasing meat is paying somebody else to rape and kill animals.”
The aim of the campaign is to promote veganism.
In a statement sent to news.com.au, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk defended the campaign, saying “we are talking about rape”.
“We believe that everyone should see the reality of dairy, meat, and turkey production and then, unless they’re ethically blind, they will be appalled.”
Ms Newkirk’s statement went on to denounce people who sympathise with rape victims, but don’t acknowledge the vulnerability of animals, as hypocrites.
“Every decent person abhors and denounces sexual abuse of women, but we cannot blithely accept the sexual abuse of other females who happen not to be human, but have the same vulnerability to pain.
“We can’t fill our mouth full of steak, bacon, or turkey knowing that mother cows are routinely sexually abused and that their calves — their beloved offspring — are taken from them shortly after birth.”
The disruptive activist group has form in using shock tactics and offensive ads to gain exposure, and in comparing animals’ experiences to those of women. Earlier this year the group was forced to defend its president Ingrid Newkirk’s comment comparing women’s rights to those of chickens.
“Discrimination is discrimination, and it’s wrong, whether you’re a woman or a chicken,” Ms Newkirk tweeted during the United Nations State of Women conference.
The group has also consistently copped flack for objectifying women in its advertising.