Commentary: PETA’s Alabama bust

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“People walking on the sidewalk outside Dreamland Bar-B-Que on Wednesday were greeted by the sight of a scantily clothed woman lying in a pool of fake blood and wrapped as if she was packaged meat.”

Notwithstanding the misuse of the subjunctive mood, that was the lead of a news story in the Montgomery Advertiser yesterday. As if anyone needed any further cues to recognize who was behind the stunt, the story’s headline helpfully read: “PETA stages anti-meat display outside Dreamland Bar-B-Que.”

Did they really need to include the modifier “anti-meat?”

According to the newspaper’s account, another “PETA person” nearby held up a sign reading “Meat Is Murder” and handed out pamphlets promoting the benefits of vegan diets to passers-by on their way into the restaurant.

PETA protestThe Montgomery Advertiser Restaurant patrons in Montgomery, Ala., are slowing down—not detouring—on their way into the Dreamland Bar-B-Que. That page from PETA’s playbook is about as fresh as Bruce Willis playing a tough guy character who cheats death while killing a couple dozen bad guys—only with way less spectacular special effects (see photo).

The Dreamland Bar-B-Que, on the other hand, is quite the destination in central Alabama. Founded in 1958 (the same year legendary Crimson Tide football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant arrived in Tuscaloosa, as the restaurant’s website proudly boasts), the chain’s eight locations feature a menu loaded with hickory-smoked pork spare ribs, barbecued chicken and smoked sausage—all available to go or shipped direct via online ordering.

Allegedly, the restaurant gained its rather unique name as a result of a dream that founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop had in which God Himself told him to open a barbecue restaurant.

As far as advice goes, other than The Bear, it don’t git no bigger than that.

PETA certainly can’t muster that kind of star power, but the group’s stunt “Certainly managed to grab people’s attention in downtown Montgomery,” the newspaper reported. “Several people stopped and took photos with their cellphones, while some also paused to debate the merits of eating meat with PETA campaigner Matt Bruce.”

A sight to see

Of course, the sight of a woman wearing only flesh-colored panties and a protest placard is guaranteed to stimulate the photographer in many of us. People snapping cellphone pics is hardly an indication that some sort of “dialogue” is underway. That behavior is pretty much ubiquitous these days.

But debating the (alleged) merits of the vegan lifestyle is exactly what the partisan drones PETA sends out into the streets are trained to do. “When they come over and see the display, it actually starts a conversation,” the newspaper quoted Bruce as stating.

I guarantee a lot of those conversations sounded something like this:

Passer-by: “What the heck’s goin’ on here?”

PETA Person: “Hello, and thank you for asking. This display is part of our nationwide campaign targeting barbecue restaurants, steakhouses, slaughterhouses and meat packing plants.”

Passer-by: “Targeting? Ya mean like target practice?”

PETA Person: “No, as this pamphlet will explain, we believe that the abuse of animals in modern factory farming operations is an affront to morality, and by consciously embracing a vegetarian diet, you can reduce needless animal suffering and death.”

Passer-by: “Oh . . . I thought you was giving out free coupons.”

In the end, the good ol’ boys and gals who patronize barbecue restaurants across Alabama (and most other states) aren’t likely to be swayed by some sideshow stunt that’s all sizzle and no steak.

Literally.

For the record, the Dreamland Bar-B-Que’s official slogan is, “Ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere.”

That line could equally be applied to the PETA people (not so tightly) wrapped in plastic coming soon to a sidewalk near you.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.


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