“Have a heart go Anderson…I mean Vegetarian!”

If you don’t care about the environment today, you are considered a monster. As a global issue, the entire world is attempting to make ‘environmentally friendly’ choices, however, animal activist group PETA have a very unique way of displaying their beliefs. Although they may be friendly to the environment, are they friendly to society?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights NGO in the world. It works through animal rescue, legislation, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns to protect all animals from harm. In July 2010, long time supporter of animal rights, Pamela Anderson released her newest PETA advertisement, encouraging vegetarianism.

The image portrays a nearly naked, blonde Anderson, posing seductively in a bikini. Her body is marked with paint, mimicking a butcher’s diagram with words such as “breast”, “rump” and “round”. The caption for the advertisement “All Animals Have the Same Parts. Have a Heart-Go Vegetarian” stands out against the ‘pure’, white background.

Nudity isn’t a new territory for Anderson who is well known for her days as a Playboy Bunny. Nor is this a crazy step for PETA, known for pushing the boundaries in advertisement and repeatedly using nudity, to encourage the idea of being ‘natural’. Nevertheless, is this sending out the right message or is PETA stooping too low, sexualising their advertisements to gain support?

The denotations of this image do not immediately bring to mind the idea of becoming vegetarian to protect animals. Semiotician, Roland Barthes put forward the ideology that the reader produces the meaning. Therefore, different people may interpret images differently. As a result, the original true meaning of an image can often be misunderstood; in this case, PETA’s reasoning behind vegetarianism. The connotations of the advertisement make me see vegetarianism as a way to have a ‘perfect figure’ and ‘sex appeal’ like Anderson’s; but is it the same for you? Some definitely think so with it being banned in Canada for being “sexist” and treating the actress “like meat” (see article here).  Standing out is one thing, but being controversial is another. Companies like PETA often blur the two ideas, creating images that question morals as a result. Many may find it creative, but not everyone will agree.

Although signs can be universally understood, depending on their context, they can be interpreted a number of ways. Did you know that in 2012, 889,000 advertisements were banned? Well yes, thousands of images had their denotations and connotations questioned and they clearly pushed the boundaries of ‘simple ideas’ too far. To successfully interpret the ‘true’ meaning of an image, it must be understood that images go beyond ‘one’ message and what you see isn’t necessarily what it means.

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