PETA’s Persevering Animal Rights Crusade
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, is an American non-profit organisation founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco and based in Norfolk, Virginia.
The organisation has 6,5 million members, mostly active supporters, that plausibly makes PETA, if not the largest, certainly one of the largest, most motivated, and most influential animal rights group in the world.
As a non-profit organization that operates independently of any government with the purpose of addressing social or political issues, PETA’s communication initiatives, as one would expect, often encounter hostile receptions.
Their animal rights communication initiatives are not entertaining. They are hard-hitting, wake-up-calls that some people like big-game trophy hunters for example, and organisations with vested interests in exploiting animals unethically and inhumanely for financial gains, care not to hear.
With financial resources dependent on public donations, PETA’s dedication and perseverance in pursuing their animal rights crusade against all odds, is truly remarkable and they deserve every bit of support conscionable societies, animal conservationists, and animal lovers everywhere can give them.
1. PETA, Break Free
Advertising Agency: PETA In-house, Germany
GGI Animation Studio: FABLEfx, Stockholm, Sweden
Directed by Jesper Ohlsson in collaboration with Chapel Films, ‘Cozy’ the computer generated Gorilla, is seen listening to Queen’s song “I want to break free” on an old Walkman.
Seen through the eyes of young boy, who acutely senses Cozy’s hunger for freedom, the commercial emotively highlights the deprivation and abuse zoo animals are exposed to.
As PETA spokesman, Peter Höffken explained, the extreme stresses of confinement and isolation that zoo animals experience are abhorrent and totally unacceptable. Every living being deserves to have the right to freedom.
Head of Creative at PETA Deutschland, Christian Coslar added:
“The captivity of the apes does not result in the protection of the species or a deeper knowledge about nature. At most, those who visit zoos learn to detect how an animal acts with behavioral disorders”.
2. PETA, Don’t Stand For Injustice
Production Company: United Tricks, New York, USA
Designers and Illustrators: Félicie Haymoz, Julien De Man, Fons Schiedon, Lia Mchedlishvili.
Directed by Fons Schiedon, PETA’s animation commercial was inspired by former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016, knelt when the national anthem was played at National Football League games in protest to police violence against black people.
The commercial depicts a bee, fish, and a variety of animals respectfully ‘taking a knee’. The commercial’s symbolic call to action, is a about ending that world-view assumption of human superiority called ‘speciesism’.
Like other forms of discrimination, speciesism causes humans to treat other living, feeling beings like objects, even though they share our capacity for pain, fear, love, joy, and loneliness, and have as much interest in freedom and staying alive as we do.
The commercial received Colin Kaepernick blessing but not the NFL’s. They banned the airing of the commercial for the 2020 American Super Bowl Championships.
Their controversial censorship decision unleashed an avalanche of heated debates on social media, political backlashes aplenty, and multiple protests by freedom of expression and social equality advocates.
3. PETA, The Bear
Advertising Agency: VML Y&R, Prague
Directed by Angel Apostolski, the short film is about a bear that is caged and brought to a laboratory to be strapped down, shaved, injected with chemicals, cut open, and then disposed of.
The ‘bear’ in the story however, is a little girl’s lost teddy bear that is used with graphic effectivness as a powerful visual metaphor to highlight the cruelty that animal testing actually entails.
4. PETA, Animals Are Not Christmas Gifts
Advertising Agency: Serviceplan Campaign International, Hamburg, Germany
Directed by filmmaker Justus Becker, the effective simplicity of this brilliantly conceived commercial, of powerful visual symbolism, underlines the sad truth of a recurring theme, that after the festive season, Christmas present pets often end up being heartlessly abandoned.
5. PETA, Behind The Leather
Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Bangkok, Thailand
For this startling brand activation Ogilvy set up a fake ‘Leatherworks’ pop-up shop in a large, very busy Bangkok shopping mall.
Hidden cameras recorded the shocked reactions of customers when they discovered the grim surprises that the prop-makers and stylists had prepared for them. The commercial of the edited in-store footage makes for tough viewing.
Using fake blood, the amazingly realistic props of intestines and even a mechanical beating heart are truly remarkable.
The activation won 5 Cannes Lions. Two Design Gold’s, a Promo & Activation Bronze, and a Gold and Silver for Media.
6. PETA, Get a Feel For Angora
Advertising Agency: Lowe & Partners, Singapore
I doubt that many people give a thought about where Angora wool comes from. The origins of the distinctly different, but similar in feel fibers of Mohair and Cashmere, are probably also not part of consumer consciousness.
Angora hair or Angora fiber refers to the downy coat produced by Angora rabbits, while Mohair fiber comes from Angora goats, and Cashmere wool from Cashmere goats.
90% of the world’s Angora fur is produced in China by more than 50 million Angora rabbits providing 2,500–3,000 tones of wool per year.
PETA’s ‘Get a Feel for Angora’ commercial, directed by filmmaker Olivier Venturiniore, effectively focused consumer attention to just how much painful strife and distress Angora rabbits are subjected to.
And laudably, in 2013, several clothing retailers concerned about the ethical treatment of animals, suspended the sourcing of products containing Angora wool after video evidence surfaced of live rabbits with their paws tied, being plucked raw in Chinese fur farms.
The major retailers that received consumer kudos for instituting bans on Angora products include, Hugo Boss, Gap, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M and Esprit.
7. PETA, 98% Human
Advertising Agency: BBDO, New York, USA
Toygar Bazarkaya, executive creative director at BBDO New York explained the agency’s creative motivation behind PETA’s public service campaign, ‘The Great Ape Pledge’.
“You’re always assured by filmmakers that no animals were harmed, so you feel good about it. The thing you don’t know is these animals are often beaten and punched and tortured to do what they do.”
“They have a window where they look cute to us, around 4 or 5 years old. But by 6 to 8, they become too strong and too dangerous, and they’re discarded. The back story gives you chills.”
To avoid the use and abuse of living creatures in filmmaking, the agency’s persuasive solution was to communicate the power 3D Animation (CGI) has to be a highly preferable and immensely effective alternative.
American actor Adrien Brody felt that the highlighted issue was a highly important public service communication and in acknowledgement of its humane gravity, gladly provided the ‘voice-over’ for the commercial at no charge.
The agency realised however, that to get the attention of their key target market, namely commercial filmmakers, they would have to win a Gold Lion at Cannes. With the help of the highly skilled ‘The Mill’ studios, they laudably achieved that goal.
8. PETA, Behind The Scenes of 98% Human
Design & Animation Studio: The Mill, New York, USA
Creative and Animation Director: Angus Kneale
VFX Supervisor: Vince Baertsoe
The detailed production process of the remarkable realism that was achieved makes for fascinating viewing.