An Open Letter to PETA

Okay, PETA.

Let’s lay some things out on the table so that we both know where we stand.

I don’t like you. Not necessarily the seed of your message, but the ways in which you choose to share it. I don’t like that you have used everything from the objectification of women’s bodies to the shaming of fat bodies, as well as sprinkling in a little exploitation of tragedies that have happened to real people. I don’t like that such a large percentage of the companion animals in your shelters are put to sleep, for reasons which I personally believe lie with an ideology death is better for them than to live with humans. There was also that time you preemptively celebrated about a virus that made people ‘allergic’ to meat, completely overlooking the fact that some people literally have to eat meat to survive (whether due to physical condition, a neurological difference that impacts food preferences, or due to poverty restricting dietary options).

You also tried to make people stop eating eggs by telling them ‘ew, they’re, like, chicken periods’ – because we all know menstruation is awful and terrible and shh we pretend that it doesn’t happen.

Basically, your organisation, particularly in its advertising, has consistently failed to recognise or respect the complex intersections of racism, classism, sexism, ableism and other oppressions alongside the cruel way our society treats animals.

Other people have written eloquently and assertively on these criticisms. These aren’t my areas of expertise, which is why I have provided links to other people’s commentaries. There are many more to be found, and several different analyses to consider, waiting patiently for you on the good ship Google.

However, on this occasion you have trespassed into a realm that definitely is my area of expertise.


You crossed the line into Autism territory. Unfortunately for you, something I know a lot about. Not because I ‘have’ it. Because I  am it.

And, as a somewhat-uninvited visitor to the area, it would only be polite of you to listen to this long term resident and hear what she has to say.

I’d like to start with: how dare you? 

How dare you presume to manipulate and twist my neurotype (or my disability, depending on the situation) in order to further your own goals? It does not matter how honourable those goals may be. It is not yours to touch, never mind yours to frame in such a terrifying way: when you make implications that ‘autism is scary and bad, and you must listen to us in order to defeat it’, you are impacting and endangering real people with individual minds and lives. We are not a theoretical entity. We are real, we are feeling, and we are existing in every corner of the world.

I could launch into a spiel about the scientific inaccuracies of your claims. Because they are, indeed, inaccurate. We don’t know definitively what causes autism; we don’t even know whether environmental factors have any real impact over pure innate genetics. I doubt the scientists you employ (if you employ any) have cracked this mystery, nor indeed that they would descend from on high in a beam of light, our Autism Saviours, with their message conveniently in line with the agenda of your organisation.

The fact of the matter is: I don’t care. I don’t care what causes autism. I don’t care if anything causes autism. I don’t even really care about the fact that you are using ridiculous and dodgy science. These are the very least of my worries and concerns. Merely a wisp of smoke in the fire of my emotions.

Let me explain why.

The entirety of your poster is based around the fear of autism; autism is categorised by the tiresome image of a child crying (very similar to what used to be the logo of The National Autistic Society – they, however, have recognised the problem with this and long done away with it). As well as demonstrating that the many millions of Autistic adults are clearly not on your radar – either you don’t acknowledge that we exist to speak for ourselves, or you overlook us because you know that many of us would not fall for your ridiculousness – this imagery flashes the not-even-slightly-subliminal message that autism is a preventable nightmare. That the target of this fear-mongering is the parents/guardians of Autistic children makes it even more sinister.

The attitudes that you peddle, for whatever reason you feel it is beneficial to peddle it (I don’t believe for a single second it is out of care or concern for Autistic people or our families), are actively killing us.

The fact is that Autistic people are routinely victims of abuse and murder – not only that, but the very acts of violence committed against us are often excused and defended because of the very fact that we are Autistic. The messages you spout are the driving force behind these atrocities. Parents, guardians and caretakers of Autistic people will go to extreme and damaging lengths to ‘fix’ the autism that ‘blights’ their lives, whether that be through damaging therapy or, when these measures inevitably fail, killing their child out of ‘desperation’.

You claim to be against cruelty. And yet you will stand by and abet the cruelty that neurodiverse people face every day. Are we just obstacles to be pushed down in your hurry to stop the admittedly-awful dairy industry? Are we sacrifices that are worth making? As an Autistic person, the value of my life has often been called into question by people who have no idea what they are talking about – if you would happily add yourself to that list, then you are supporters of the very maleficence you claim to fight against.

I could fall to my knees, take hold of the hem of your clothes, and beg you to see that we are human beings worthy of respect. But I won’t. I truly believe that you see no value in our lives. Maybe you will prove me wrong. You probably won’t. But if I can plant one little seed of questioning into the mind of a single person within your organisation, then maybe we can go some way towards stopping this.

We are real people. I won’t even argue that we are vibrant, wonderful, complex and diverse people who bring so much beauty to the world – because even if we didn’t, we would still have the right to exist. We are not tools in your armoury. We are a reality. Very often, still to this day, we are caged, and tortured, and killed – denied the very freedoms you seek to find for the animal victims of our corrupt dairy industry.

You can fight your fight without running your sword through us in the process. All it takes is a little time to stop and think about where you swing the damned thing. And I can fight mine alongside yours. There is corruption and cruelty in this world – whether it be human on animal, or human on human – but there is also joy, beauty and co-existence.

I’m fighting for my right to exist in that world.

Whether you stand with me or not is entirely up to you.


Author: QueerlyAutistic
Erin Ekins is a queer autistic writer, speaker and attempter of activism. She has an interest in all areas of autistic social justice, but has a particular passion for improving understanding and acceptance of the intersection of autism and queerness. She runs the blog and is the author of the upcoming book 'Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens on the Spectrum'. By day, she works in campaigning and influencing at a disability related charity, but, by night, she is inhabits a busy space between angry internet person and overly-excited fangirl.

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