Harriet Walker: Spare me Pamela's prime cuts

Share
Related Topics

In the heaving meat market of provocative advertising, PETA's new offering stands out like a bloody steak. It's a string-bikini-ed Pamela Anderson segmented into all the choice cuts you'd normally see emblazoned on a diagram of a cow at your local butcher.

It's designed to make us think twice about devouring helpless animals, but how many men will stop salivating over a juicy bit of thigh when faced with the Anderson tenderloin is anybody's guess.

That's right, Pammie has become the literal slab of meat that she has metaphorically and pneumatically embodied for the past 20 years. Do we praise her for her ethical devotion to a good cause? Or do we wince at the casually carnivorous attitudes behind it?

Animal charity PETA has a long tradition of eye-catching adverts – from the "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" series that featured supermodels with no clothes on, to a stunt which saw bloodied women (again, no clothes) wrapped in clingfilm and served up on polystyrene trays. There's a time and a place for shock tactics, but they need to be carefully conceived and they need to avoid any unfortunate attendant overtones – which Pammie's new ad doesn't. It's seedy, gratuitous and objectifying, without being clever or relevant enough for that not to matter.

In France, almost every advert features a naked or nearly naked woman. You can't buy a septic tank without confronting some pendulous breasts or a set of well-honed abs. But in Britain we're more puritanical – remember the outrage over an orgasmic-looking Sophie Dahl reclining in the nude to advertise YSL's iconic fragrance Opium. As a self-righteous teenager, I was gleeful that the giant poster in Sheffield's city centre was instantly defaced with a lurid smattering of "Porn hates women".

So why should Pamela be any different? Because she's selling a virtuous lifestyle rather than some luxury goods? She's a tireless campaigner for vegetarianism and her one great talent is taking off her clothes – surely it's a match made in commercial heaven. But on the journey from boardroom to billboard, did no one realise that this advert is flawed for two reasons? First, there isn't a sheep, cow or pig in the world as fit as Pamela, so it's not a fair comparison; and second, it appeals to exactly the same primal, carnal desires that mean we're prepared to rip apart baby animals and dip them in ketchup.

Yes, it's distasteful to think of women in the same category as lambs to the slaughter, but that's because we'd like to think we've come beyond that, that women have something to offer beyond their bodies. Lambs, well, it's a different story isn't it? They're never going to run a business or win a Nobel prize.

I'm being facetious, of course – chances are that our obsession with eating meat will come to be seen as the great barbaric failure of our age. Like the Romans, future generations will marvel over our central heating and TV gameshows, but their insides will turn cold at our casual barbarism. Whole shops devoted to the selling of dead chickens with jaunty drawn-on smiles! (Nando's). A sinister clown persuading children to eat cadavers by giving away toys! (McDonald's). Another sinister clown creating bespoke sauces in which to marinade the recently murdered! (Loyd Grossman). And Jamie Oliver is urging us to unleash our inner caveman with his meaty new venture.

But let's face it, there's nothing sexy about vegetarianism. As the thousands of beardy, socks-and-sandals wearing diehards will attest, this advert is the raciest thing to have happened to the movement since Linda McCartney... well, since Linda McCartney. I'm not against going veggie, but it would take a more concerted argument than a Baywatch star with her kit off (hardly a rare occurrence) for me to forfeit a bacon sandwich. In fact, I'd rather pose in a bikini myself than never give up meat. But that would be gratuitous. And it might put you off your burger.

h.walker@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/harrywalker1

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own