NEW YORK (Reuters) - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, no stranger to attention-grabbing campaigns featuring nude women, plans to launch a pornography website in the name of animal rights.
The nonprofit organization, whose controversial campaigns draw criticism from women's rights groups, said it hopes to raise awareness of veganism through a mix of pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering.
"We're hoping to reach a whole new audience of people, some of whom will be shocked by graphic images that maybe they didn't anticipate seeing when they went to the PETA triple-X site," said Lindsay Rajt, PETA's associate director of campaigns.
PETA has been accused of campaigning for animal rights at the cost of exploiting women. A Facebook group, Real Women Against PETA, was launched after the organization paid for a billboard showing an obese woman with the message: "Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian."
Another critical Facebook group is called, "Vegans (and Vegetarians) Against PETA."
"PETA is extremely disingenuous," said Jennifer Pozner, executive director of the New York-based advocacy group Women In Media & News. "They have consistently used active sexism as their marketing strategy to garner attention. Their use of sexism has gotten more extreme and more degrading.
"This may be in their minds the only thing left at their disposal to lower the bar," she said.
PETA has filed paperwork to launch its pornography site when the controversial new .xxx domain becomes active in early December. While many nonprofits and corporations are scrambling to protect their website names from being hijacked by a pornographer slapping on a .xxx domain, PETA is embracing the new domain as just another way to conduct business.
"We try to use every outlet that we can to speak up for animals," Rajt said. "We anticipated that this new triple-X domain name would be a hot topic and we immediately decided to use it and take advantage of it to try to promote the animal rights message."
Jill Dolan, director of the program in gender and sexuality studies at Princeton University, was critical of the PETA campaigns.
"Exploiting porn to get people's juices going seems lame; exploiting pornographic images only of women to make their point is retrograde and misogynist," Dolan said in an email. "Come on, PETA. Don't be Neanderthals."
Rajt denied that PETA has been insensitive to women.
"Our demonstrators, the models, all chose to participate in our campaigns... It's not a very feminist thing to do to turn to women and tell them whether or not they can use their voices, their bodies to express their voice."
Visitors to the X-rated site will initially be presented with pornographic content as well as images from PETA's salacious ads and campaigns, Rajt said. Those images will be followed by pictures and video shot undercover of the mistreatment of animals. The site will also include links to vegetarian and vegan -- using no animal products -- starter kits as well as recipes.
PETA's ad campaigns have featured adult film stars Sasha Grey, Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson. In 2008, the organization's YouTube account was temporarily shut down after showing racy videos of celebrities and others posing nude.
"When people first visit the site, it will be very enticing and once they go just a little bit deeper, that's when they'll be confronted with images that we hope will make them stop and think and get them talking and hopefully encourage them to make a lifestyle change to a plant-based diet," Rajt said.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Ellen Wulfhorst