New York, NY, August 27. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have added a sour taste to their Milk Sucks campaign. On billboards, posters and bumper stickers they feature the face of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani wearing a milk mustache. Exploiting the Dairy industry slogan Got Milk? the PETA ads ask, Got Prostate Cancer?
PETA's poster of Rudolph GiulianiFollow Up: PETA apologizes
The message is misleading and overstated and nothing justifies this theft of Rudy's face. Evidence that dairy product intake may increase risk of prostate cancer is significant though not definitive. You can read up on it on our EatingWell pages. PETA has some excellent information. But picking on a man who has cancer sucks.
The radical issue here is Rudy Giuliani's status as a man with cancer. They should have hired a model or found someone else with prostate cancer who wanted to get this message across. The Milk Sucks campaign includes "Got Breast Cancer?", which uses a pink ribbon. If they'd used the face of a female political figure who has had breast cancer, the reaction would be public outrage.
So why pick on Rudy? He has been open about the fact that his father died of prostate cancer, so genetics rather diet may be involved for him. And only a standup comic would bring up the fact that during the Depression, according to an unauthorized biography, Rudy Giuliani's Dad was jailed for armed robbery of a MILKMAN.
The truth is, this macabre PETA image is passive-aggressive payback in a specific conflict. What bugged PETA about the mayor is that this summer NYC hosted an outdoor art show of 500 fiber-glass cow sculptures. On any bus ride you'd see life-size cows fancifully decorated outside public buildings. PETA wanted to join in, but city authorities impounded their cow and labeled it "profane," "graphic," and "inappropriate."
"Last month," says spokesman Sean Gifford, "PETA filed a lawsuit against New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the organizers of CowParade NYC 2000 after the charity's fiberglass cow was banned from the event." PETA's suit alleges that the rejection of the anti-meat design "constitutes a violation of PETA's First Amendment rights, as well as a breach in contract for the almost $10,000 cow."
Mayor Giuliani previously had censored a British art exhibit in Brooklyn that featured a painting of the Virgin Mary, a Black Madonna using a traditional African material, elephant dung.
PETA say their cow sculpture "is designed like a butcher shop's poster cow, each section of its body containing a fact about how cows are killed for food and how eating them is linked to killer diseases like cancer, heart attacks, and even impotence."
"If the public feels uncomfortable reading about cows' being castrated and dehorned without anesthesia, they should go vegetarian," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "Instead of banning PETA's cow, they should prohibit hamburgers from entering the city limits."
So, putting the milk-mustache on Rudy is pay back. But still Rudy is a CANCER SURVIVOR, not yet finished with even his first treatment. In fact this week he seemed to be in a funk over it, refusing to talk to the press like he did in the early days. Which is understandable.
This is the heart of the matter -- PETA has screwed up by making sport of a man who has cancer. PETA comes across as blaming a victim of prostate cancer. Their billboard image makes a sinister object of this man who has prostate cancer, portray him as MALIGN. Thousands of cancer patients might give at least a flicker of support if PETA apologized to Giuliani and radically rethought this campaign for health and against cruelty to cows.
PETA is right to raise red flags about cancer from over-consumption of dairy foods (and of me, and excess eating all round). Some people strongly believe beyond this that avoiding meat and milk consumption is indeed an ethical imperative for the sake of compassion toward animals.
Some cancer patients do wish to advertise their opinions on possible causes for their disease. Quite a few men with prostate cancer may be happy to use a bumper sticker about milk, meat and PCa. Further, some men with prostate cancer believe that animal rights are as worthy a cause as human rights and want to help stop the mass slaughter and torture of animals.
PETA's shock tactics have captured national attention in a way that pharmaceutical company ads showing celebrities with prostate cancer have not. The upshot is complex.
With this one campaign, PETA took ad hoc charge of prostate cancer activism. PETA has stepped into a vacuum in the prostate cancer movement and created a campaign as aggressive as ACT UP campaigns for people with AIDs.
PETA has gotten attention at the cost of doing prostate cancer survivors and patients wrong when, in actuality, their concerns about health and also about pain, suffering and cruelty to animals should link them with people who have to deal with cancer.
Drug companies are paying for prostate cancer early detection campaigns and getting more younger men onto castration drugs. PETA for the sake of its own agenda is educating the next generation about some aspects of cancer prevention. Let's learn whatever we can from them while urging them do a more compassionate job in this field which we, unfortunately, know more about.
Rudy Giuliani's Prostate Cancer and Other Men's Lives
Intimate disclosures against a backdrop of unhealed racial brutality and new health cuts May 11, 2000