Detroit residents are struggling to pay their water bills at such an alarming rate that the city’s utility announced a few months ago that it would cut off water for between 1,500 and 3,000 people every week. The situation has gotten so bad that the United Nations has had to step in and tell the city that such massive water shut-offs are a violation of human rights. People are desperate just to keep their taps turned on, as about half the city has fallen behind on its bills. As a resident recently told ThinkProgress, “when half of the city can’t do something, it tells you it’s a systemic problem.”
Now, an unlikely group seems to think it can step in and solve this systemic problem. PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will offer financial assistance to 10 families who can’t afford their water bills — if the families go vegan, that is.
“[W]ith the help of a generous PETA member, we have come up with one small way to assist Detroit residents and save animals, too,” PETA writes in its post. “Thanks to this donor, PETA will be able to pay off the water bills for 10 families who commit to going vegan for one month. We’ll also help them get started by giving each family a basket of healthy vegan foods and recipes.”
The group asks people who are interested to take photos of their overdue bills and send them in along with a pledge to go vegan. It gives no indication of what it would do should someone accept the funding and then immediately start eating meat again.
While PETA is always on the lookout for the ethical treatment of animals, the group seems less interested in the ethical treatment of humans. PETA is notorious for gimmicks that are meant to get attention, often in lieu of respect for the people at the center of them. For example, women are often depicted naked, covered in “blood,” and trapped in cages for PETA promotional materials and events:
And in something of a patronizing side-note, PETA also adds that poor residents should take interest in the health effects of their vegan lifestyle. “The last thing that people who are struggling need is increased health-care costs,” the blog post says. “By accepting our offer to go vegan, not only will families be getting an immediate financial boost and helping animals, if they stick with it, they’ll also lower their risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and strokes.”
What PETA seems to miss in their vegan-as-a-bargaining-chip scheme is that it’s not easy for everyone to live on a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables like the kind PETA encourages. Some people — and especially lower-income residents like those in Deroit who are struggling to pay their bills — reside in food deserts where it’s not easy to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables all the time. Or they simply work too many jobs and still don’t have enough money to have the time to prepare fresh, unprocessed foods. In 2012, 18 million families in the U.S. were unable to get a sufficient amount of food to be healthy.