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Payback Is Hell!

Written by PETA | July 28, 2008

Move over, National Garden Week! Out of the way, Waffle Week (OK, maybe you can stay). And get off my lawn, all you prevention and awareness weeks. This is the coolest week ever … Shark Week! Catch this (geddit?): The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is back for its 21st year, and I am pumped. When else do you get a whole week of programming dedicated to these pointy-toothed wonders?

Shark Week has another purpose, though, besides just being scary (which it totally is). Shark Week’s programs teach viewers that shark populations on the coast of the Eastern U.S. declined by 80 percent in the ’70s and ’80s because of shark fishing for “sport” and steak.

Sharks are hunted not only because of the high price fetched by their teeth, jaws, and fins but also because of their reputation as human-killers.

True, an average of 10 humans die each year because of shark attacks. However, this is nothing compared to the 100 million sharks (and billions of other sea animals) killed by humans every year—so that humans can eat them.

When you think about the painful way that all fish are slaughtered for fun and food—suffocated, crushed to death, and cut open alive—shark attacks really don’t seem all that unprovoked, do they?

On that note, check out our new billboard. It’s going up in the cities that see the most shark attacks:

Payback is Hell

For more information on sharks and fishing, please visit—and watch Shark Week! I will!

Posted by Amanda Schinke

Commenting is closed.
  • Ben Y. says:

    @SusanSusan if your watching Shark Week as you claim you will realize that the majority of times sharks attack humans its becuase they think humans are food. Not because they are attacking as revenge or because of self defense due to the abuse they suffer at the hand of humans but because they are HUNGRY!The new Mythbusters shark week special had one Mythbuster standing still and one thrashing around in the water. The one standing still only got poked by the shark and wasn’t attacked.

  • Hope says:

    It is very inaccurate to say that sharks take revenge on people. The only reason they hunt people is that we look like their natural prey. It is not their fault and they should never deserve to die for it.

  • Paul Goldberg says:

    Please do not use such an offensive ad. It will only generate more hatred for sharks and encourage their destruction. Much better would be to put a picture up of a slaughtered shark (or a group of sharks being caught and having their fins removed to elicit sympathy and compassion for the sharks. Someone in your PR department is not thinking. Your ad will only make the shark killing hysteria worse!

  • Renee Stewart says:

    Great ad PETA, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it,seems to me people are reading into it a bit too much and taking it out of context. Keep up the good work.

  • Michael Manous says:

    Bad ad.1. Sharks don’t take revenge; it’s a ludicrous concept.2. Most people won’t know what they’re taking revenge for, regardless.3.There is NO message, here. The ad says NOTHING about the real issues.4. The ad is likely to make people feel like we should take action to ELIMINATE these sharks rather than protect them: I mean, why would I want to protect something that will go out of its way to hurt me?5. Compassion for animals should not be placed in opposition to compassion to human beings: the two, in actuality, go hand-in-hand.Again, bad ad. This is not the way to promote a spirit of compassion in the world. I hope this ad does not go forward.

  • Daisy Hardiman says:

    This is a wonderful add, unfortunately animal never take revenge on us…what a pity! I think people that treat animals with disregard do not deserve to be alive!!! And I do not care what anybody thinks…How can you trust someone that hurts animals? They are innocent and only act by instinct, unlike humans who can actually be despiteful and wicked on purpose! Lets be realistic… we are the major treat to earth in general, and that is not a secret any more.

  • natalie says:

    i watched them cut a shark open alive on shark week……why are we surporting it???

  • Karen says:

    I totally agree that we should protect sharks, and I love PETA campaings but I think this shark campaign by PETA is not achieving what it intends. If I weren´an animal lover, I would begin to hate sharks after that seeing that image. How about showing thousands of sharks without their fins dying in bloody waters instead? It is just an idea.

  • Marla says:

    I’m watching Shark Week right now and am disgusted by this episode. They tricked a white tip with bait and then lasso him around the tail, drag him back up to their boat, pull him out of the water, tag his tail and insert another tag in his stomach, then throws him back in the water. No wonder sharks are quick to defend themselves when humans get too near. I mean, this shark looked so stressed. He was out of the water for so long, was probed and cut. The next time a curious diver gets too close to him, he may attack in defense. I agree the ad is a little harsh, but in a sense it is payback. Researchers harrass them in the name of science and forget that sharks aren’t stupid, they know what humans look like. They are going to be caucious the next time they a diver is too close to them. Also, there was an episode when these same researchers capture a turtle, sand his shell down, glue a camera to it and then cover it with something to protect the camera. I mean nature is being tainted by our need of knowledge. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I am really torn. I understand the postives of research and studying nature, but at the expense of our animals?

  • Susan says:

    I am amazed by how “sensitive” people are nowadays. Lighten up and get over yourselves! I doubt the sharks would be offended by the billboard. It’s not hurting anyone…unless you were the unfortunate victim of a shark attack, and then I suppose it would bring back some painful memories…maybe some PTSD flashbacks.

  • Dee Dee says:

    I love the billboard and for all you people who think it is too in your face then avert your eyes. Sometimes we need to be over the top to get peoples attention regarding this very important issue. People paid millions to go and watch the Jaws movies so I don’t think it will offend as many people as you think. Well done PETA.Dee Dee

  • Terry says:

    Go PETA! I am presently working in a coastal area in South America. Just off shore are Japanese trawlers on which the workers slice the fins off and throw the still living sharks back into the sea. We see carcasses wash on shore here all the time. All the flesh eaters want PETA to be sensitive to their feelings by not showing a “mean ugly shark” eating a human. I’m sorry, but from what I see every day of what humans have imposed on the flora and fauna of our planet, and the order of magnatude with which we’ve done it, I have little respect left for the human race. We should all be supremely ashamed for what we’ve done to this world. Go PETA! Go VEGAN!

  • Jennifer Parker says:

    I live in a coastal town where shark attacks occur. I’m sorry, but I think this billboard is GREAT! I do wish, however, you would advertise helping out the hsark population rather than veganism. While both are important, to me it’s more important for people to realize that hunting shark is bad for the ecosystem. Like the killing of land predators, the loss os species greatly affects ALL of the environment. Will you make a bumper sticker of this, PLEASE?!! I would love one.

  • beth ann says:

    I remember when everyone was screaming at PETA, but you were the guys delivering sandwiches and having your Russian interns hang out with the woman who had lost her boyfriend and was hospitalized due to a shark attack in Virginia Beach, and SHE didn’t mind.

  • Irene says:

    Well, it might seem offensive, but it shows a completely different side to sharks.

  • Brian says:

    Amanda, great job with the Billboard.I think the most outspoken critics of this campaign are simplifying the ideals about why the media even bothers to watch what PeTa does — they get people excited. They engage and therefore entertain. They get people rilled up, even within the animal rights camp, and this is a perfect example. It gets the dialogue going yet stops people in their tracks. Involvement is key in any cause while silence deafens and ultimately leads to demise. Can an animal rights message be hammered home without such “in your face” presentation? Surely. But how many people would remember it when they next go fishing or sit down to eat? It’s all about the long haul in this movement — it starts with the awareness that humans murdering sharks precedes humans getting eaten by them, which this billboard spreads impactfully.Congratulations, PeTA, on perhaps your most thought-provoking and controversial work yet!!

  • amanda says:

    Wow. After all PETA has done you guys still complain.Shutup already. This ad has nothing to do with scaring people. Its basically being sarcastic. People are freaking out over the 10 people who have been killed in the past year when in reality thousands of sharks are killed every year by humans! Who’s the real threat? M?y god. Sharks are protecting themselves and doing what they can to survive. People are selfish and are murdering these poor animals for selfish reasons…And were afraid of the sharks?????!!! We kill them wayy more than they kill us and to be honest its about time they fight back!!! Stupid people corrupt this world!

  • Michelle says:

    Seriously.I thought this is something my 10 year old would think of to make me angry.Because that’s exactly what this ad did.Im very disappionted. This makes me want to stop supporting PETA. Having an ad with a shark chewing on a person leg; dont you find that wrong. People who get attacked don’t deserve this. It’s not thier faults. And its not like the shark knew it was a person. Sharks are like us; were animals; we eat animals. thats how it’s been since the beginning of time. The shark was doing just what comes natural. Not thinking, “Look at this unaware human! Mwhaaaa”. That doesn’t happen and is wrong for PETA to make it seem that way. And i truely doubt every person that has gotton attacled by a shark has eaten shark meat. Seriously. So they derserve; again; non of this ad. I think PETA needs to prioritize what they want from there ads.

  • Emily says:

    I think that’s terribly inappropriate. As far as I know, the majority of shark attacks aren’t on fisherman or anyone who has particularly provoked a shark. A random swimmer being mutilated or killed for the cruelty of others is a really warped sense of justice. In fact, looking at reports of shark attacks so far this year, it looks like virtually all were swimmers/surfers and many were children/teens who really should not be expected to pay for the suffering of fish.

  • John says:

    I think it’s possible to have a revised picture of a Shark attacking a human. As this one could easily appear to be just some innocent swimmer/surfer in the water. Something more specific like..uh I don’t know like maybe a speargun floating nearby. That would definitely emphasize bad karma being applied to the individual doing the hunting. Of course sharks are being what they are, it’s only looked upon as payback in an AR activists mind (nothing wrong with that of course) I mean we all love to see the bull flipping the “bull fighter” in the air for some type of revenge right? Another option would be to show the stats on the billboard…how many reported shark attacks on humans a year…how many hunted and killed, etc…

  • Cindy says:

    I look forward to watching Shark Week every year as I find it very informative and I love sharks. However I was appalled by the episode aired last night that had Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and a bunch of amateurs in the Arctic catching and killing in the process a Greenland Shark. Mike Rowe and a student said “Oh well now we can cut it open”. I turned it off immediately. How could the Discovery Channel be so irresponsible? I don’t want to watch these magnificent animals killed in the name of ratings!

  • ctr says:

    Agree completely with Sarah. Could not have said it better myself. Amanda, I appreciate your explanation (all of which I was already aware–thanks in large part to PETA). I still urge you to reconsider this billboard. I will, of course, continue to support PETA as a Vanguard and Augustus member. You all do such incredible work. I completely understand the “shock tactics” PETA uses; however, in this case you completely miss the mark.

  • alyssaaa(: says:

    ha thats an awesome billboard. it’ll scare the poop outta like every tourist :D. Keep up the good work, PETA. and wooo shark week.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Amanda,Thank you for speaking on this issue. I’m afraid that PETA is overestimating certiain tactics. People who have such a blindingly short attention span that they are only lured in by images of violence or naked women are not going to have the patience to read an entire educational PETA pamphlet on sharks.Jane Goodall and Martin Luther King changed the world without these dismal ads, and so can PETA. You guys are experts on animals but you sometimes fall short on human psychology.People want motivational speakers. I wish Newkirk were on television every single day, speaking as King did to the public and demanding that we wake up RIGHT NOW and stop torturing animals. I’m telling you, it would make a huge difference.PETA has also made some very clever and cutting edge movies, like the KFC ones and getting celebs to do PSAs. It would be great if PETA could use their funding to get those on major tv programs.The public is smarter than you give them credit for. All you need is more visibility, not more cheap shock value. More time spent on television and billboard visibility would really be huge.I worship you guys especially on your advocacy for animals like sharks, lobsters, snakes etc. These animals really need our love and attention. The ocean animals especially are in huge trouble.In my opinion, the public does not need to pity these animals, they need to learn respect for them. Respectful ads will teach people to respect these animals, and when people respect an animal, they cannot bring themselves to harm the animal. In my experience.

  • Tabitha says:

    OMG! A discussion!!!Thank you for responding, Amanda! And I can understand where you’re coming from about doing what’s necessary to grab the public’s attention…BUT…like alot of ads from this organization, I find myself actually more angry about the AD than the cause. I am not a member of PETA, and I never will be, for several reasons which the blog moderators seem to not want me to post. However, an add like this wouldn’t sway me. What I see in the ad is 1) Sharks go looking for humans to eat (I know that’s not true..but hey, I’ve seen Jaws enough for it to creep me out and 2) YAH! MAN GOT EATEN! RAWK!(Yeah yeah I know PETA is for animal rights, not human rights, as I’ve been told a million times on this board, but if you’re going to show me that little respect as a human, don’t expect me to dedicate my time and money to you.)How bout we focus on educating people on how much they do besides, as you stated, kill ten people on average a year? I personally would love to be educated, as I don’t know much about the creatures.

  • william says:

    shacks go after vagans and meat eaters. to sharks it does not care what you look like or eat.

  • Sarah says:

    sorry Amanda but showing more imagery that sharks are man-killers will not convince parents to support your case which is the most important group to target since they influence the most important group to educate: the kids. This is not an issue you can “shock” people into understanding. I don’t agree with people that think sharks should be driven to extinction and you know what taught me that? I didn’t learn this by seeing Jaw-like images. It was by observing sharks and being shown proof that they aren’t bloodthirsty monsters. I am not stating all this just because I find it offensive. I am calling you guys on this because this is an important issue and you are using the wrong methods to promote this. Would you use images of King Kong films and the first concept drawings of Gorillas to promote saving that species? Would you use Godzilla and Anaconda horror film images to promote reptile rights? You can’t depict animals as threating monsters or else people will see them as monsters (you can’t just appeal to the Einsteins either because the average people far out number them) and fight to have them destroyed.

  • Judith FFFA says:

    I think the Billboard is GREAT!Gets your attention! Love it!Peace for all animals!Most of my heroes wear masks!

  • Amanda Schinke (PETA) says:

    Thank you everyone for your discussion about our “Payback Is Hell” billboard, which is designed to raise awareness about the plight of sharks—100 million of whom are killed by humans every year. We understand that some people have concerns about the billboard; please know that it is not meant to offend. PETA’s purpose is to stop animal suffering, and we use all available opportunities to get powerful messages out to millions of people. This billboard will raise awareness about the horrible cruelty suffered by sharks at the hands of humans. Unlike sharks, humans do not need to eat other animals to survive, making the slaughter of sharks completely unnecessary. Although sharks are obligate carnivores, a shark is far more likely to be attacked by a human than a human is to be attacked by a shark.We have found that people do pay more attention to our more provocative actions, and we consider the public’s attention to be extremely important. Sometimes this requires tactics that some people find outrageous or even “rude,” but part of our job is to grab people’s attention—and even to shock them—into discussions, debates, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action. The current situation is critical for sharks and billions of other animals, and our goal is to make the public think about the issues.Humans have much more of an effect on sea life than sharks do. Members of our own species kill millions of sharks and billions of other sea animals every year. Overfishing—both as “sport” and because of commercial fishers’ seeking shark fins and cartilage—has put shark populations in peril, just as our splashing about and throwing bait in the waves have brought them closer to shore. Humans who line up at “all-you-can-eat” seafood buffets take a terrible toll on sea life as well. Countless fish, along with unintentional victims such as dolphins, turtles, and birds, are drowned in commercial fishing nets. When dragged from the ocean depths, fish undergo excruciating decompression. Often the intense internal pressure ruptures their swim bladders, pops out their eyes, and pushes their stomachs out through their mouths. Many slowly suffocate as they flop helplessly on the deck; others are still alive when their throats and bellies are slit open. For more information about fishing and what you can do to help sea animals, please visit PETA’s Web site Thanks again for writing and for sharing your thoughts on this important issue with us.Sincerely,Amanda SchinkePETA

  • Susan T says:

    Of course the ad is offensive, “in your face”, insensitive, inappropriate, repulsive…its all these things and more but it got your attention, didn’t it?Since our lives are reduced to mere nano-second sound bites or images that flash across our computer screens, actually making me pay attention and READ something doesn’t happen very often unless I’m paid to do it, or I care very strongly about the subject matter.Of course most thinking people understand that sharks aren’t blood-thirsty killers. They’re just like the average human being, concerned about surviving and their next meal.No one says you have to LIKE PETA’s messages–if more people did, half the world would now be vegan or at least vegetarian.Rock on, PETA! When I see the picture, I think of the pathetic sharks who have their fins sliced off and are thrown back in the ocean to suffer horribly and die.Humans always have a choice!!!

  • King of Fiji says:

    Sharks don’t attack people because they are provoked due to the abuse they are suffering by animals. Its because they see something thrashing around in the water and they think its food.On the recent Mythbusters shark special they showed its accutally better to stay still in the water than thrash around as sharks won’t really notice you in the water and will think your food.So using this ad and using the logic that eating fish causes sharks to attack only shows how much of an attention whore PETA is with ads like this.No offense to vegans and vegeterians as I don’t mind you guys and I hate animal abuse. I just hate PETA and its extremis….

  • Tim says:

    We regularly catch small sharks when fishing in the Gulf of Mexico although we do not intend to fish for sharks. They are usually small black tip or sand sharks.We always put them back in the water. In fact, we rarely keep any fish. PETA would do better to go after fisherman who kill catfish and other “trash” fish in a futile attempt to eradicate them. When coming back to the dock after a trip last Satuday, a number of fisherman on the shore were catching catfish and killing them or leaving them on the shore to die.

  • Tabitha says:

    Sensationalism does not always bring the attention you might think it should.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    This is another bad example of anthroporphism. If I were delusional enough to think animals were able to be vengeful I would wonder what on earth all the lady bugs who invade my home every fall are avenging.

  • yvonne says:

    anohter extreme and inappropriate ad by PeTA.. who are the folks that thinks up these ads?.. nobody disapproves of humans eating fish.. afterall they’ve been doing it for centuries untold.. but to call a human being engulfed by a shark ‘payback’ time ie. gloat gloat.. it’s giving out the wrong msg (again).. it’s offputting and offensive.. wrong message.. time to put on thinking caps on agian peta and try to put out less offensive (to humans) ads.. that’s the way to win over people onto your cuase.. and offending them.. will not!

  • jay says:

    Someone should educate that shark about the risk of contracting HIV, Hep, JCD not to mention what it will do to his cholesterol and the risk of ED from consuming meat products.

  • bbr says:

    So you think an innocent surfer or swimmer deserves to be attacked? Your banner shows a persons leg in a great white’s mouth. How mature of you. Really. What grade are we in again? You didn’t say “payback is hell for those that TORTURE sharks.” You just said “payback is hell” and for who exactly? And the only people I saw on last nights episodes getting attacked were innocent people who were just out on a nice day minding their own business. None of them blamed the shark for their attack because they understand that they are in the shark’s territory and not the opposite.I think it is very sad that you get pleasure from someone elses pain. This is why some people look down on PETA because of attitudes such as yours. For you it seems- one mans pain (theirs) is another mans pleasure (yours). Your job is to educate and open people’s minds.Sometimes I think people get what they ask for but I wouldn’t laugh and make fun at someone elses misfortune. But this seems to be the case for you.Shark Week is cool. But you need to grow up. You’re perfect right? And your whole family is perfect, too, I assume. Because some countries that kill sharks for food don’t know any better and don’t hold the same morals and values you do. That’s why you educate instead of assume. Don’t expect people to see your point of view instead help them learn why you view certain things the way you do.

  • ctr says:

    I agree–this ad is inappropriate. Please reconsider it, and place a more appropriate and effective billboard. I fear that this will only reinforce negative shark “press”, and will have the opposite impact desired. In addition, it could very well be another black mark on PETA.

  • ian says:

    At first glance, I thought the billboard was really funny. I actually chuckled out loud. But yeah, probably not the smartest way to raise awareness. I would like it as a shirt though. 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Sadly, I have to agree about the ad being crass. I think it could be more creative and less offensive. We don’t know if surfers who get attacked are veg or not (many most likely are). Could be done better, guys. How about going back to the drawing board on this one?

  • Leigh says:

    I think that really isn’t getting the message across. People who are attacked by sharks while surfing etc. are probably very unlikely the ones eating shark fin soup or killing sharks. I love animals and think sharks are amazing creatures. This is more likely to offend or anger than it is to get people to think or become educated.

  • carina says:

    ok… i support all this “save the animals from cruelty”but do u guys really think that ads like that are going to make other people stop and realize…NOOOthat kind of ad would actually anger some ppl and not get the point!!! i say work more on the ads and make ppl actually stop and think about the situation.

  • Jay says:

    I know this site is “PETA”- people for ethical treatment of animals. But I mean all of us here are human. How about alittle human compassion as well? Posting a billboard that has a shark crunching on persons bloody leg doesn’t exactly scream support peta. I’m pretty sure most people who get bit by sharks aren’t harming them in anyway. This ad doesn’t gather fans and to be honest, it wouldn’t get me or my family to support it. I’d rather kill than be killed. It’s instinct, human or animal. Please consider reaching out more in a less violent, more factual light.

  • S.Q. says:

    Sharks are pretty shy, actually. To put up a billboard that says sharks are out for ‘payback’ is ridiculous. Sharks (and most other animals) do not understand the concept of revenge. That display won’t really teach people to respect sharks. More likely it will cause them to disrespect them. I believe we can share the ocean. Just because we are afraid of sharks does not mean we shouldn’t we able to enjoy it. I honestly think that sharks won’t be swimming around in tourist infested areas anyways. On the other hand, whether a person decides to eat shark meat or not is a personal choice. However, I wouldn’t advise it, if you’re thinking about it. Since sharks are tertiary consumers, their tissues have high amounts of mercury and other toxins. It’s recommended to only have one serving a month. But I wouldn’t waste money on that risk, and I don’t think killing a shark for food is really all too good anyway. The Yangtze river dolphin is now “functionally extinct” due to over fishing in its habitat. God forbid that happens to sharks!

  • Pamela says:

    I am a big supporter of PETA’s campaigns and as a vegan I can understand the point of this ad, but seriously guys I think it’s cruel and it makes sharks seem like they are mean animals, which I think they’re not: they’re just animals living and acting by instinct like many others. I really think you could’ve come up with a more clever ad.By the way, I think Maya is right: If you don’t wanna be bitten or killed by a shark, just stay out of the ocean.Anyway, I only have the best wishes and hope that your ad can open as many eyes as possible. God bless you all!!!

  • Eric Silberstein says:

    I’ve always been a fan of sharks. They’re so fascinating and not as dangerous as the media would lead you to believe.Most shark attacks on humans are due to low food supply due to humans’ over fishing, pollution, etc. The number of sharks killed by humans is insurmountable in relation to humans killed by sharks. Believe me, there’s no comparison.Check out to see an amazing film about sharks and how we can save them from extinction.

  • GrantJohnson says:

    This is a good example of PETA taking an important issue and, through un-intelligent self-promotion, actually making the problem worse. Showing sharks as vengeful “man eaters” reinforces the general public’s fears of this critically important and endangered group of fishes, while at the same time making vegetarianism almost seem supportive of shark attacks as a means for the animals to “get even”. This will do more harm than good…

  • Maya, CVT says:

    SQ, sadly I also think the PSA is very in your face and mean spirited. Ten more seconds and the creative folks at PETA could have come up with a more clever and fun ad instead.The ocean is the shark’s home. If there were a shark in my living room, and I could not remove it safely, I might consider having to kill it if it were threatening my cat’s life. Of course that would never happen.The same thing with sharks: the ocean is their home. Diving into the ocean is a risk. If someone gets bitten by a shark, of course we use all the medical resources we have to save them, and give them tremendous compassion.But we -do not- try to kill the shark. For one thing, we have no way of knowing if we are killing the right shark as there can be more than one in an area.If we want the wild and ocean to be 100 percent safe, why don’t we just kill every wild animal out threre? It’s absurd. If you don’t want to be bitten by a shark, stay out of the ocean.And stay away from palm trees: 100 people a year are killed by coconuts. Shark attacks are exceedingly rare. Also, stay off surf boards and go where there are lots of swimmers – that scare away sharks.

  • Carla says:

    Most people die from blood loss. What the shark sees from below is what it may appear to be their usual prey of seal (fins/surf board). And when they attack it’s usually because of this and not because they are set out to hunt for people!! Remember you’re in their hood next time you take a dive in the ocean!! They need to be respected!! Great ad though!!

  • S.Q. says:

    That billboard is a bit crass, don’t you think? If you want to reach out to people in cities prone to shark attacks, maybe you should put up something less likely to offend people. Especially people who have been affected by shark attacks. And doesn’t it enforce the “ferocious shark” stereotype?