Celebrity endorsements of PETA are nearly as infamous as the company’s graphic and often-questionable awareness campaigns. Since the animal rights organization was founded in 1980, influential figures from the arts and entertainment world have voiced their concerns over animal cruelty, whether in favor of vegetarianism or in disapproval of product testing on animals. Even Iggy Pop and Nick Cave are known proponents.
The man behind the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ most controversial campaigns is Senior Vice President, Dan Matthews. Much earlier in his career, before more famous people like Paul McCartney, Pink and Pamela Anderson got involved, Dan reached out to none other than Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen—an inspired choice, I think you’ll agree—about a compilation album to benefit PETA. With Jourgensen on board as the album’s primary producer, Matthews put together a different kind of record; one that would find a correlation between music and animal activism.
Featuring a forlorn monkey in a laboratory on its cover, Animal Liberation was released by legendary Chicago independent label Wax Trax! on April 21st, 1987. All songs on the compilation were donated to PETA by the artists (some had been previously released) and featured subjects of animal cruelty. Among key contributors to the album were musicians like The Smiths, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Captain Sensible, Chris & Cosey, Shriekback, and a collaboration between Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich. Song clips between tracks featured ominous segments of “actual dialogue from animal experimenters and meat farmers and actual alerts from TV and radio shows.” While Jourgensen did not contribute any actual music to the project, the interlude clips were all produced by him.
From the album’s linear notes:
In 1985, Dan Matthews (PETA) approached Al Jourgensen (Ministry, Wax Tax) about helping put together a “different” sort of benefit album - for animal rights. Sympathetic artists from across America and Europe were approached to donate material on animal issues (some songs previously released). From all these submissions, ANIMAL LIBERATION has surfaced - the songs interspersed with action segments containing actual dialogue from animal experimenters and meat farmers and actual alerts from TV and radio shows. The introduction carries, in 11 languages, the central theme: “ANIMALS ARE NOT OURS TO EAT, WEAR OR EXPERIMENT ON.”
Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich: Don’t Kill The Animals (Rescue Version)
Civil Disobedience Is Civil Defense
Attrition: Monkey In A Bin
Siouxsie And The Banshees: Skin*
Chris & Cosey: Silent Cry
Lene Lovich: Supernature
Colourfield: Cruel Circus
Luc Van Acker: Hunter
Shriekback: Hanging Fire
Captain Sensible: Wot? No Meat!
Howard Jones: Assault & Battery
The Smiths: Meat Is Murder (Live)*
*Only available on the UK version of the release
One year after the album’s release, Dan Matthews announced PETA’s first (and so far only) Animal Rights Festival, declared the “largest musical event for animals ever.” The free event, which took place at the Sylvan Theatre on Washington’s National Mall, was hosted by the B52s and featured performances by Nina Hagen + Lene Lovich, Exene Cervenka and Tony Gilkyson from X, Howard Jones, and several others. Both Exene and the B52s also appeared on PETA’s follow-up compilation Tame Yourself, which was released by Rhino in 1991.
Listen to Animal Liberation in its emancipating entirety below:
The Smiths - “Meat is Murder” (live at Oxford Apollo 1985). Only available on the UK version of the record.
“Wot? No Meat!” by Captain Sensible
“Silent Cry” by Chris and Cosey
Music video for “Don’t Kill the Animals” performed by Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich.
Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich discuss “Don’t Kill the Animals” in 2017.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Animal Protector’: If PETA made an 80s action flick directed by Tim & Eric
‘Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse’: The Warlock Pinchers hate Moz, but love them some Satan
‘Cha Cha’: Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich star in ‘lost’ punk film, 1979