PETA tries to give The Big Apple a new moniker as ‘The Most Vegan-Friendly City.’ But as a former resident of the Upper West Side, I got one word for their award: ‘Fuhgedabouit!’
After I got done laughing at its sheer chutzpah, I had to admit: PETA’s latest stunt actually bordered on being mainstream.
Rather than go off the rails with another “Got Beer?” parody aimed at persuading college students that alcohol is preferred over milk, or staging yet another of its go-to street theater stunts involving young women wrapping themselves in plastic — like they’re a package of meat; get it? — one of its money-grubbing, celebrity-chasing functionaries lined up New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and a few city council members at a pseudo news conference last week.
The occasion was the presentation of a meaningless award given to New York City as the faux finalist in a phony “competition” to identify the town that loves veggies the most.
“Biting into The Big Apple is now healthier than ever before,” the PETA news release accompanying the presentation stated. “Once known for its strip steak, New York has earned the title of Most Vegan-Friendly City 2014.”
To present the prize, PETA enlisted B-list actor Alan Cumming, “who credits vegan eating with giving him the boundless energy that he displays on stage and screen.”
Okay, at this point, like me, you’re probably asking: Who’s Alan Cumming?
Well, he’s no superstar, but he has played a number of movies, TV and stage roles. Cumming is perhaps best known for his appearance in the 1995 James Bond film “Golden Eye,” in which he played Soviet computer geek Boris Grishenko (talk about stereotypical movie names!), whose memorable moment in the movie was shouting out his catch phrase, “I am invincible!”
Which was uttered right before he gets snuffed out as Bond takes down the entire operation.
At the news conference, Cumming mouthed the usual litany of praise for the veggie lifestyle, saying, “Everyone’s realizing that these [vegetarian foods] are delicious and good for you. And I think it’s an indication of how we’re becoming more conscious of what we do to our bodies by what we put into them and what we do to the planet.”
Gotta reference the “meat-is-killing-the-planet” mantra.
According to PETA, this award was so exciting, so prestigious that Hizzoner and several council members were just delighted to attend the ceremony.
Now let me explain what’s really going on.
Scratching each other’s backs
De Blasio, soon after his election in November 2103, latched onto a pet peeve — the “abuse” of the horses that pull those old-fashioned open carriages around midtown and through Central Park. He claimed that the animals were being mistreated (totally false) and that pulling a carriage represented animal abuse. Although most New Yorkers’ interaction with the carriages is limited to swerving around them during a cab ride — they’re strictly a tourist trap — they overwhelmingly support the business as a contributor to Manhattan’s unique charm.
PETA, of course, was overjoyed to have the mayor of New York attacking something related to animals, and they quickly jumped onto the ban-the-carriages bandwagon. A public official denouncing anything involving animals is pure crack for PETA people, and for his part, de Blasio was only too happy to have the publicity PETA provided in support of his crusade, since he was getting boatloads of grief from a different constituency — one that Bill Murray’s character in “Ghostbusters” described to the movie’s New York mayor as “millions of registered voters.”
So PETA dreams up a transparent stunt to award de Blasio with a “Vegan-Friendly City” award, de Blasio shows up at a staged “news event” to ensure that PETA keeps shilling for his campaign to kill the carriage trade, and a handful of council members eager to grease the skids with the mayor for pet projects in their respective districts show up to glad hand the attendees and smile for the cameras.
That’s the back story neither PETA nor its media lapdogs care to discuss.
I mean, after all, a city that prides itself on having hundreds of storefront pizza shops where you can grab a slice to go, hot dog carts at virtually every intersection downtown and thousands of delis, from mom ’n pop shops to landmarks like The Stage Deli, with its six-inch-thick corned beef sandwiches, and the Hello Deli made famous on Late Night with David Letterman, is hardly the kind of vegan-friendly haven PETA pretends is deserving of an award.
Like pretty much everything with which the hucksters at PETA get involved, this entire contest, the award (a vegetable sculpture of the city skyline) and the staged presentation ceremony are nothing more than tools to advance a their agenda and keep the donations rolling in.
Ironically, it was totally appropriate to have an actor on center stage presenting the award, because with PETA, it’s all a big act — just like its partisans pretend to be animal lovers, when what they really are is people haters.
Hating on anyone who doesn’t buy their gospel of the vegan lifestyle.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.