Peta Armani Fur is Dead / Eva Rinaldi

January 28, 2016; WCIV-TV (Mount Pleasant, SC)

PETA has certainly proven itself as masters of the bizarre public relations stunt in the past, but this one is right up there with its most notable of brainstorms. On Thursday, it was reported that PETA might be interested in purchasing the house used in the filming of The Silence of the Lambs. The price of the creepy-looking house in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, has just been dropped from $300,000 to $250,000 because…well, maybe people don’t want to live there. (The realtor says there has been a lot of interest in seeing it.)

As you may remember, in that movie, serial killer Buffalo Bill starves his victims until their skin loosens and then fashions that skin into garments for himself. PETA says that this is “not so far removed from the reality of what animals who are killed for their skin endure.” The group is publically considering buying the property and turning it into an “empathy museum,” that “would serve as a way to point out that all animals are made of flesh, blood, and bone and that just like us, they, too, experience fear and suffering and are capable of joy and love.”

In a move that suggests that maybe this was simply a publicity stunt (which we are now aiding), PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman took the odd strategy of writing a letter to the realtor laying out the horrors of the production of leather and fur.

NPQ thinks there is something to PETA’s tactics in terms of shocking people into paying attention from a different, often deeply disturbing, and even sickening perspective. Despite the visceral backlash, their persistence and eye for a good publicity opportunity has to be noted as next to brilliant. As they gently remind us:

We’re always looking for ways to draw attention to the violence inherent in the production of leather, fur, and other animal skins—which involves processes that would shock all but the most hard-hearted person. Cows are branded with hot irons, have their tails and horns cut off without painkillers, and are hung upside down, skinned, and bled to death for the production of leather gloves, jackets, and boots, and rabbits, minks, foxes, and other animals killed for their fur are beaten, strangled, electrocuted, and often skinned alive for fur coats, collars, and cuffs.

—Ruth McCambridge