WASHINGTON – A naked animal rights activist wrapped herself up like a cut of meat in a tray with cellophane and a strategically placed label to protest the National Cattlemen's Beef Association' spring legislative conference Tuesday.
Three members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals holding signs that read “Meat is murder” came here from Norfolk,Va.,to promote their views opposing human taste for meat and to promote vegetarianism.
“If you eat meat,you support cruelty to animals,” said Chris Link,PETA's campaign coordinator,who has been a vegetarian for four years.
He said that giving up meat is easy and good for health. “It is just a matter of walking in a different aisle in the grocery store and ordering vegetarian food in restaurants,” Link said.
As often happens in a free country,PETA's demonstration was countered by “pro-meat” members from the Center for Consumer Freedom,a nonprofit coalition of restaurants,food companies and consumers that works to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.
They had two large toy puppies with stickers on them reading,“PETA killed me.” They stood within several of PETA members,and gave away anti-PETA brochures to passersby.
David Martosko,Consumer Freedom's director of research,said PETA takes animals from shelters and kills them.
“They are a bunch of hypocrites that in fact kill animals,” Martosko said.
He said PETA enforces vegetarianism while it is killing thousands of adoptable puppies and kittens. Their activists,he said,were arrested in North Carolina in 2005 after allegedly killing 31 animals and tossing the bodies into a grocery store trash dumpster.
“We are here to make people think twice about PETA,” said Martosko.
Link said PETA euthanized animals in a “more humane fashion” that is better than letting shelters shoot or gas the animals.
“The animals would have had a painful death in shelters,” Link said,adding that animal shelters,which knew of PETA's plans,are financially hard-up and have difficulty taking good care of animals with so many coming in.
While the demonstrators and counter demonstrators handed out their promotional materials,cattlemen from all over the country wearing cowboy hats and boots were talking about their issues in the lobby of Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill. They gave quick glances from time to time at what was going on outside the hotel's thick windows.
“I would ignore PETA,” said Tim Munns,50,a cattleman from Snowville,Utah.
Reporters were not allowed into conference sessions to hear a speech by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman,and his office refused to release his remarks. Steven Norton,a spokesman for Portman,said the meeting was private. He said Portman thanked the group for its work on exports,including dealing with mad cow disease.
Karen Batra,public affairs director for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association,said Portman talked about new free trade agreements with South Korea and asked for cattlemen's support in negotiations.