Meaty protest or sexploitation?

It was a question some were asking as Ottawa Ribfest opened on Sparks Street and meat lovers were greeted by three nearly-nude protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Each woman’s body was labelled and sectioned off into standard names of meat parts while they held signs encouraging those passing by to follow vegan lifestyles.

“We’re making the connection that all animals have the same parts; we’re all made of the same flesh, blood and bone,” said PETA campaigner, Emily Lavender.

The campaign’s message is to encourage people to ditch meat, eggs and dairy, says Lavender, a diet she says is now easier to achieve with a variety of alternative foods being sold at grocery stores.

But event-goers said the display of female nudity served as a distraction from the campaign’s real message.

One woman, who wished to stay anonymous, said the women were being turned into “sex objects,” citing the crowds of men catcalling, laughing and taking photos with the near nude PETA volunteers.

“It’s a totally wrong message,” she said. “It’s just changing the real important topic towards just a sex topic.”
Martin Dagenais, who was passing by the campaign, agreed.

“It works to attract [attention], but I also think that the message gets lost,” he said. The campaign, because of its content, he added, lost half of its demographic.

“Right now you’re just hitting like 50 percent of your mark and you’re deterring other women from wanting to pass that message,” he said.

The event doesn’t attract many people open to changing their eating habits either said Ribfest attendee, JP Pellerin.

“I think that people coming here aren’t really so worried about it,” he said. “Going vegan is one big extreme so I think not everybody’s ready to do one big extreme jump,” he said.

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