Lots of people, if Twitter is a guide, thought The New York Times Dining section's unusually provocative photo of chicken was good fun. Above the fold and accompanying an article about the allure of eating chicken skin, an uncooked chicken is propped with one wing down, legs crossed, the other wing resting gently on the thigh. "Everyone knows deep down that they are closet chicken-skin lovers," taco chef Sean Brock tells The Times. The article goes on to describe the ins-and-outs of the trend in chicken-skin tacos, but based on the buzz on Twitter, not many people made it past the lead photo. One person called it "magnificent," another "sexy as hell." Tweeted another, "NYT sexin' it up. And I like it!"
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, however, did not. "When I saw it I just couldn't believe that an editor of The New York Times would find it acceptable," PETA's founder and president Ingrid Newkirk told The Atlantic Wire. "It's downright offensive, not just to people who care about animals but almost to everyone. It's a plucked, beheaded, young chicken in a young pose," she said.
Of course, PETA is also a group that knows that sex sells. The group is planning to launch a porn site that will feature sexy people alongside messages about why we shouldn't behead, pluck, and eat chickens.
The Times did not get back to us with a response to Newkirk. But on Wednesday afternoon, its Lens blog provided the backstory of the photograph by Tony Cenicola. "My original concept was sort of a languid nude," said Tina Loite, photo editor for the Dining section. But it took some studio magic to put the sexy back into a dead bird. "Once he propped it up," Loite said, "it became a completely different vibe. The chicken had attitude."
Newkirk sees it differently: "It's necrophilia. It's not amusing. It's just ghastly and sickly. It's not fitting for The New York Times."