Roar of disapproval

Oct 05, 2011, 12:45 IST | Sudeshna Chowdhury

PeTA announcement to launch a porn website to raise awareness about animal cruelty, invites ire and fire

PeTA announcement to launch a porn website to raise awareness about animal cruelty, invites ire and fire

How can pornography and animal rights be linked? This is the question on minds after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), a non-profit organisation, announced that it will soon launch a pornography website to raise awareness on various animal rights issues. PeTA's move has invited the ire of activists all around the world, who have referred to this campaign as a cheap marketing strategy. In India too, women's rights activists have condemned this move. PeTA often uses pictures of scantily clad women to draw attention towards unethical treatment of animals. 

Foxy? PETA members pose dressed as foxes in London, England. The
group was campaigning against the use of animal skin in garments.

Said Dr Nandita Gandhi, co-director of Akshara, a non-profit organisation working in the field of women's rights, "People treat animals badly. But I think that PeTA needs to take the broader issues into concern and not just use pictures, which are tantalising and shocking all the time. For example, it's not just about killing wild animals, but upsetting the eco diversity by hunting and killing them. Similarly, they miss the point in their quest for the sensational by having a porn site through which they are degrading and insulting women. Quite short sighted and misogynist, though it is for a good cause."

Others believe that by launching a porn site they are commodifying women and promoting violence. Anagha Sarpotdar, a research scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) says, "By creating such a website the organisation is using bodies of women as objects to earn publicity and money. In fact, the entire discourse on anti-animal cruelty is being commodified to be sold to people. The organisation, while aiming to preserve the interests of animals is treading a dangerous path by damaging interests of women." Many other animal right activists believe that this sort of move is definitely an innovative marketing strategy but "two issues, which are not even closely related should not be clubbed together in this manner at all," said Arvind Gada, founder of Karuna for Animals in Distress. 

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Said sociologist Mugdha D Karnik who is also the Director, Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai, "As a sociologist, I don't think pornography is dangerous to a society -- to any society including Indian.

Pornography is not a cause of the social decadence but the effect of its decadence. It also has a very limited effect on the so-called moral fibre of any society or on the morality of adolescent age groups. PeTA will definitely succeed in drawing attention to itself, when they launch this website. They will not succeed beyond visibility. For any issue to succeed, it must have a sound philosophical and logical base."

Many believe that such a move linking a porn site to activism on behalf of animals would put a huge question mark on the credibility of the organisation. "I think PeTA will lose credibility. Most people would write them off as crazy and stop supporting their organisation even if they support the cause of animals. Why would PeTA want to target a population that visits porn sites? Is it because this group is more prone to be cruel to animals, or is it because PeTA believes that more people visit these sites than those who don't? If the domain is listed as an animal support site then yes, it will be dangerous to society, as even children will access these sites. If, however, it is recognised as a porn site then it is no worse than any of the others and hopefully can be filtered out," said Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, women's rights activist.

The other side
In an email interview Poorva Joshipura, Chief Functionary; PeTA India, said that using the adult entertainment site domain name is a PeTA US initiative. Media reports suggest that the site will have pornographic content, but further browsing will reveal graphic images and videos depicting the plight of animals treated cruelly. "The fact is that adult entertainment sites are visited by people all over the world, some as voyeurs, some out of deep interest in the subject, some by mistake, so it is vital to seize that audience for social causes.  The site is still being built so people will have to wait to learn what the full content will be." On how much of the content of the website will feature pornography, Joshipura said, "Because an enormous US audience visits adult entertainment websites, PeTA US cannot miss out on relaying the message of kindness to animals to this population, so they have captured a domain name and will be posting graphic videos on it, videos of the plight of animals used for meat, the circus and other educational materials on it. Also PeTA and its affiliates do not feature 'porn' at all.  We may feature scantily clad girls, graphic videos of what is done to animals, and double entendre, but there is no porn." When asked about various controversies surrounding the campaign, Joshipura said, "Experience has taught us that provocative and controversial campaigns make the difference between keeping important yet depressing subjects invisible and having them widely seen. PeTA US has found their racier actions are sometimes a fast track way to get people to sit up and pay attention to information about the plight of animals, though they typically do not use imagery any more racy than what one would find on the cover of a men's magazine."

Everything about it is XXX
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) which is always eyeing attention-grabbing campaigns, is now crossing the line to launch a pornography website in the name of animal rights. PeTA plans to launch its pornography site when the controversial new .xxx domain becomes active in early December this year. PeTA in fact, courts controversy with its campaigns for animal rights, which regularly feature scantily clad models. Now, it wants to use pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering to shock viewers into awareness. It is going to be a PeTA triple-X site. PeTA has taken plenty of criticism with activists stating that it uses women's bodies to hammer home a message. The animal rights organisation evokes outrage and there has been an outcry that it is sexist. But PeTA seems undeterred. 

Expert View
As per the Information Technology Act, 2000 as amended by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 Section 67 Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form: Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to five years and also fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees. This is generic and it may include the activity of humans with animal in electronic form, but limits to publishing and transmitting the content in electronic form.
- Vicky Shah, information security professional

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