Body Shaming and Veganism: It just keeps getting worse…

I recently wrote about the widespread use of body shaming in media campaigns and highlighted unflattering billboard images in Albany, New York sponsored by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Based on the backlash from this campaign, I would have hoped we had seen the end of these stigmatizing messages. Unfortunately, that has not proven to be the case.

PCRM has since taken their message on the road to Chicago and Miami, where new billboards have gone up to coincide with the start of baseball season that read “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer” and feature a cartoon of an obese man in a revealing hospital gown enjoying a hotdog. They have also expanded into a new media platform with a commercial airing in Dallas and on the CNN Airport Network that proposes a “Sit Next to a Vegan” option for fliers. Instead of paying for extra legroom or an aisle seat, PCRM suggests charging customers to sit next to a vegan, implying this will land you beside a slender, attractive blonde and give you “all the room that you want.”

PCRM’s president Dr. Neil Barnard explains that they’re “taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to getting the word out, but the epidemic of obesity is no joke.” What’s also “no joke” is the shaming and stigmatization inherent in these ads. PCRM is an organization of health professionals that supports research and advocacy around the health benefits of vegan diets and the ethical treatment of animals—the fact that their compassion for animal welfare does not extend to fellow human beings is appalling.

As stated so eloquently by Ginny Messina, RD, “when we advocate for animals, we’re supposed to stand against the bullies, not adopt their culture of unkindness, disrespect, and mean-spiritedness…let’s all of us who stand for kindness, compassion, and an ethic of justice lead the way.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

By: Susan Kleiman