The group held signs reading “FREE VEGGIE DOGS” and wore pins declaring “GO VEG!”
Koval,People for Ethical Treatment of Animal’s sexiest vegetarian contest winner,was the face of the group’s protest against National Hot Dog Month. He and PETA volunteers handed out more than 400 free veggie hot dogs to people who passed their table outside the Rayburn House Office Building.
“It’s really just a fun way to show people they can pig out on hotdogs without causing pigs to suffer,” said Tracy Patton,PETA campaigner and the event’s lead organizer. “The lettuce bikinis help us show that veggie hot dogs can shed off pounds and lead to a healthy physique.”
PETA’s protest started more than a decade ago as a response to the American Meat Institute annual hot dog lunch for members of Congress and their staffs. Since the 1970s,AMI has hosted its event every July,which was designated as National Hot Dog Month in 1957.
Patton said PETA’s veggie dog giveaway “ran the meat industry out of town.”
“Our veggie dogs – and the sexy volunteers serving them – have been such a hit that the meat industry couldn’t compete,and now their event is held later in the month,” PETA spokeswoman Shakira Croce said.
AMI spokeswoman Janet Riley said the trade association’s annual hot dog lunch has always been the third Wednesday in July and is scheduled for July 18.
“I love their attempt at spin. Our event is more popular than ever. I think they are chicken,” Riley said,making note of the pun. “People are craving the real thing. In recent years they’ve resorted to wearing bikinis to get takers. We are fully clothed and mobbed with interest,which is testament to the continuing popularity of the great American hot dog.”
There were no counter-protesters Wednesday,aside from a group of teenagers who walked by the bikini-wearing PETA volunteers chanting,“Meat! Meat! Meat!”
Josh Ferrell,16,of Corpus Christi,Texas,hurried into line with a group of other teenage boys to receive his free veggie dog. A sophomore at Ray High School,he said it was “obvious” that the free food is what drew him to the event. He comes from a vegan household and said he tries to be vegan most of the time.
“No,but in reality it is an interesting display,” he said with a laugh,eyeing the lettuce bikinis. “I definitely didn’t expect it when I was walking out,but it definitely caught my attention and it got the point across.”
The volunteers’ outfits,he said,weren’t “too far out there,” and served their purpose as attention grabbers. He didn’t think the sex appeal demeaned the group’s cause.
Robin Bowman,though,was reluctant to have her sons,ages 10 and 11,go through the line. Her husband,James,42 a tobacco salesman,collected food for the family.
“I don’t think they’ll get their point across,” Bowman,42,a school teacher from Mount Vernon,Ky.,said. “I didn’t care for the guy’s dress.”
Rebecca Novack,35,of Bloomington,Ill.,focused more on the free lunch than the event’s message but said the scene was fun and family friendly.
“I think it’s fine,” she said. “The costumes didn’t attract us. It was the free food. We have five kids with us.”
The event was more than just a free lunch for Mermel Stein,83,of Miami,who is retired from the dry-cleaning business. He said he’ll start buying veggie dogs instead of hot dogs.
After taking a free veggie dog,people could pose for photos with Koval,of Brooklyn,N.Y.,who has been vegetarian since age 10 and a vegan for more than two years,and lettuce-bikini clad PETA intern Brynn Longenecker. A “GO VEG!” button was strategically placed on Longenecker’s bikini top and another on Koval’s Speedo.
For him,the Speedo was a fun way to get the word out.
“It’s a great kind of innovative way to get people to see us and they say,‘Hey,What’s going on?’ and then they try a veggie dog,and they see that there are options that are cruelty free,” he said. “This is all just a response to the meat industry handing out hot dogs in front of Congress.”
Reach reporter Chelsea Boozer at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.