Our pals at PETA found yet another way to offend people who might otherwise by sympathetic to their extremist stance. Only one problem: They got out-clowned by half a dozen other groups.
A couple pet bunnies share the backroom — we prefer, “vestibule” — with the jackets, shoes, backpacks Nerf guns and sports gear tween-agers inevitably scatter in their wake. Although the bunnies live in the equivalent of a rabbit condo, with four levels and multiple “nests,” when the doors open and they get to run around for an hour, it’s the highlight of the day.
But no matter how eager they might be to hop around the room, if you open the box containing rabbit pellets and dried fruit treats, they come racing back to their cage . . . er, condo.
They just can’t help themselves.
That’s pretty much the way the activists onboard PETA’s crazy train of over-the-top street theater participants behave.
Convening an event that attracts the media is like rattling the food box for these people: They come running.
So you just knew that with the sideshows running concurrently in the streets of Cleveland as the Republican convention took over downtown this week, that PETA was going to pull some ridiculous stunt.
They just can’t help themselves.
The convention street scene was already off-the-charts enough. As The Washington Post phrased it, “From the beginning, this has felt like a reality show propped up by a media-industrial complex. From the west, Code Pink activists were carrying antiwar signs. From the east, College Republicans in pleated khakis heckled anyone who dared waste their lives protesting the great and powerful America. From the north, bearded wrath-of-God types advanced with megaphones spouting damnation.”
Or as PETA calls it . . . Thursday.
So when a news release arrived in the inbox touting the group’s contribution to the clown show taking over Cleveland, it was the safest bet in the world that their sideshow would be obnoxious and offensive.
They didn’t disappoint on that score.
A couple, as in “two,” PETA protestors hit town. The organization calls them “passionate about the cause.” However, to most people who’ve seen them in action, they’re more like community theater refugees out drumming up ticket sales for a revival production of “I Can Get It for You Wholesale!”
They set up shop in Public Square downtown, just a couple blocks from the convention center arena, dressed in nun’s habits, walking around on stilts, carrying signs reading, “Slap a Sin Tax on Meat.”
I can transcribe the conversation in the planning meeting that led to that bright idea almost word-for-word.
And I wasn’t even there.
“Let’s see, we need a ‘theme’ for our convention appearance. Okay, we know we’ve gotta condemn meat. That’s a given. So — meat is bad . . . h-m-m-m. In fact, it’s sinfully bad. Wait a second. What about other ‘bad’ stuff? Alcohol and cigarettes. They get taxed, right? A sin tax. Sin . . . sin tax . . . meat tax! Done!
“And let’s go religious, ya know, to make sure people get it that we’re calling for a ‘sin tax’ on meat.”
So convention-goers, local residents, and all of the other protestors got to view a couple of “sisters,” on stilts, ’cause you don’t just stroll around in costume at street level — c’mon! — carrying signs and basically adding little else beyond yet another mildly amusing distraction to the orgy of outrage going on all around them.
But here’s the thing about PETA and their in-your-face campaigns. They never even try to enlighten, or inspire. They always go for the cheap shot, the slap in the face, the deliberate attempt to offend someone, as if that’s how you change hearts and minds.
And by the way, guys: There haven’t been nuns teaching in grammar schools for a good 30 years now. I know the habits are an iconic outfit that stir memories for anyone who endured a Catholic education, but for the young people you’re trying to reach?
Not really resonating.
Nor are the lame slogans they always rip off from advertising or movie titles, or in this case, the equally awful puns somebody stayed up late to dream up, like, “Eating meat is a bad habit,” or “An unholy meat industry is hell for animals.”
The real reason PETA stages these protest events, however, is apparent if you bother to read the conclusion of their self-serving news release:
“Leading medical experts have determined that healthy plant-based fare can even reverse heart disease in people who already have clogged arteries.
“What You Can Do? Order your free vegan starter kit. Pledge to go vegan!”
Followed by that bright yellow button reading, “Donate now.”
End of message.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.