Haasch: PETA’s cow milk tweet proves that being horny on main works

Brands turn to shock value in order to spark interest and conversation. We all suffer.

Palmer Haasch

Last week, PETA tweeted an image that at first blow looks a whole lot like erotic furry art. The image, which depicts a full-grown man drinking from the very human breast of a disconcertingly anthropomorphic cow, was accompanied by the caption, “Looks weird right? It’s what you’re doing if you drink cow’s milk [hand emoji] Raise your hand if you know that humans shouldn’t be drinking cow’s breast milk. It was made for their babies—not you!” 

First of all, PETA, it sure as hell does look weird. Why does the cow have human breasts instead of utters? More importantly, who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to give the cow human hands? Why — truly why, because there’s no rational reason — is the cow wearing a tube top? Why does the man gently suckling at this very human cow’s teat look so eager? Why is the cow giving me bedroom eyes through the screen?

As someone who is regrettably Very Online, my first reaction was that this was someone’s very specific kink. I’m not here to kinkshame, mind you. However, the art was created to be activism itself; PETA credits the artwork to artists known as Free Bison and Choice Bison. Both are affiliated with The Bison Movement, which describes itself as the world’s first vegan art movement. The art is intended to be provocative and effective, a task at which it breezily succeeded. 

This isn’t the first time a brand or cause has put bizarrely erotic art on our Twitter feeds. In February, Pluckers Wing Bar, a restaurant based out of Austin, Texas, tweeted a since-deleted image that was arguably mpreg art of Phineas from Phineas and Ferb. Mpreg is a trope frequently found in fanfiction that typically involves pregnant cisgender men. The image depicts Phineas looking fondly at and resting his hands on his excessively distended stomach, from which a small cartoonish heart extends. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on, but Pluckers just went right ahead and tweeted it with the caption, “me after all you can eat wings.” As the Daily Dot’s Ana Valens reports, people were less than thrilled.

While Pluckers tweeting an mpreg edit of Phineas could have been a blundering mistake, (although I’d be a tough sell on that idea), it’s clear brands can find success not only in authenticity, as I argued in a previous column, but also in shock value. This isn’t out of character for PETA: the organization wrote in a blog post addressing the tweet that, “PETA is known for causing a stir on Twitter if it means sticking up for animals.”

Ultimately, the strategy pays off. While Pluckers deleted its controversial tweet, thousands of people now know its name because of the viral incident. Similarly, PETA’s recent tweet spurred write-ups from news sites like The Daily Dot and HuffPost. The tweet just won’t stop popping up on my feed because no one will stop talking about it. In PETA’s book, it’s a win simply because the image generated widespread conversation. Speaking globally, it’s a testament to the fact that brands don’t have to be relatable to generate buzz — sometimes, all it takes is an extremely horny tweet on main.