‘Disturbing or seductive?’: Vogue Italia sparks outrage with Helmut Newton’s chicken photograph

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Vogue Italia’s post showcasing Helmut Newton’s infamous photograph of a chicken being butchered has sparked outrage from vegans and meat-eaters alike.

An image posted by Vogue Italia, as promo for its October issue, has sparked outrage on Instagram. It’s German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton’s photograph of a chicken being butchered by a woman wearing expensive jewellery.

Newton’s photography, who was known for being graphic and erotically charged, is subject of the new documentary, Helmut Newton: The Bad And The Beautiful. The image, posted yesterday, was originally part of French Vogue’s 1994 issue.

It explicitly shows a woman chopping up a chicken while wearing a luxurious ring and bracelet, which is thought to be a way of Newton confessing that he saw women as props. The caption reads: “Disturbing or Seductive?”

The response from Instagram users has been largely negative; ‘disturbing’ and ‘unfollowing’ are words found in most comments. But while many of those comments are from vegans and vegetarians, even meat-eaters have found the photograph distasteful and criticised the celebrated magazine’s decision to post it.

In a response to a comment asking if everyone who was calling it disturbing was vegan, a user with the handle genzmillennialfashion wrote: “I’m not vegan but I don’t want to see this. This is a FASHION magazine not a poultry section at your grocers weekly ad.”

Another user, cstejedor, replied: “I do not like the picture but I am not vegan or vegetarian.” Summing the sentiments up, nellspamalamadingdong wrote: “You don’t have to be vegan to find this disturbing.”

The section was filled with similar comments, with many saying they are unsubscribing to Vogue, and reporting it as animal abuse. Some criticised Vogue Italia for using its giant platform to glorify such images, like model Crystal Hefner, who commented: “This is horrific!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS. 😢😢😢😢.”

At the time of writing, the photograph already has over 10,000 likes and almost 1,100 comments.

Anay Mridul
Anay Mridul
Anay is journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.