If you walked through Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh around lunchtime today, it was hard to miss the World Water Day demonstration held by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. With temperatures in the low 30s, two women wearing nothing but nude-toned underwear and pasties over their breasts stood under a stream of water in a makeshift shower.
The demonstration by animal-rights group PETA,was meant to send a message about the amount of water used to produce animal-food products like meat and cheese. According to language on the makeshift shower curtain, it takes 55 gallons of water to produce two slices of cheese. Another section of the curtain said one pound of beef is equal to 180 showers.
Using the naked female form in campaigns is nothing new for PETA. The organization has been criticized for sexualizing women in its campaigns before. And today, the two showering demonstrators were referred to by organizers as “bathing beauties.”
“This is just an eye-catching way to get people to pay attention. Facts and figures alone don’t always work,” said PETA campaigner Keterina Davidson. “These are two empowered women who are willingly out here to make a statement for something they believe in.”
While many onlookers and passersby were intent on ogling the women and asking if they were cold, the two activists stayed on message, as two other organizers offered literature on the impact veganism has on the environment. According to the pamphlets, by going vegan, a person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water per year.
“We’re a little cold, but it’s nothing compared to what the animals go through for meat production,” said Leila Sleiman, one of the women.
Sleiman and co-demonstrator Misti Lee did get through to some passersby. Several vegans stopped by to thank them for their efforts, and others praised them for their dedication to making a statement.
“I’m impressed that they’re willing to risk hypothermia,” said Jennifer Pizzuto. “I have mad respect for them.”
Sleiman challenged Pizzuto and others to go vegan for 30 days, but they demurred the challenge saying it was “too hard” or “too expensive.” Sleiman, who says she’s been vegan for 13 years, disagrees.
“I think it’s easier now than it’s ever been,” Sleiman says. “There’s so many reasons to go vegan, but for me, it was the animals and health. When I learned about factory farming, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Even though you’re not slaughtering the animal yourself, you’re paying someone to do it.”
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