Poor Che Guevara

Dear Colleagues:

Although I am opposed to all violence, and, therefore, I do not approve of the violence that Ernesto “Che” Guevara used to liberate Cuba from the U.S. backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, I found it profoundly sad to see the latest PETA campaign that features Che’s granddaughter, Lydia Guevara, posing semi-nude in a PETA campaign ad promoting the “vegetarian revolution.”

This ad trivializes the struggle for social justice that Che believed in and for which he gave his life. Can you imagine Che Guevara “going naked for liberation rather than be a U.S. puppet?” No, of course not.

In 2007, PETA put out its State of the Union Undress, a video of a woman doing a full striptease “for the animals” that ended with a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King.

In my comment on the PETA video, I stated:

The idea that PETA thinks it appropriate to end a striptease video with a quote from Martin Luther King about injustice is further indication that PETA is willing to trivialize anything and anyone in its relentless attempt to promote itself. Perhaps PETA should recall that Dr. King significantly advanced the cause of justice through intellect, tenacity, dignity and courage and without ever “going naked” to win civil rights or engaging in any of the sensationalism and tawdry cheapness that has become PETA’s trademark.

This is the problem with all of PETA’s pathetic attempts to liken its campaigns to civil rights struggles or other struggles for social justice. The people involved in those struggles were serious people who made serious sacrifices and tried to effect fundamental changes in the way that people think. PETA is doing nothing more than seeking publicity and donations for itself. That is unfortunate.

Moreover, it is tragically ironic that PETA is using sexist imagery when Che Guevara, a committed Marxist, rejected sexism.

But I guess that in the end, it does not really much matter as I suppose that most of PETA’s membership has no idea who Che Guevara was. To the extent that people in other parts of the world remember Che, they will, like me, feel profound sadness at this campaign. And unfortunately, many will use this silly publicity stunt as an excuse for dismissing animal rights as a serious issue.

Che Guevara was not a vegetarian. Perhaps, had he lived, he would have come to see animal rights as a serious social issue. I doubt, however, that he would have been prompted to do so by PETA’s campaigns.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione