By Mary Lu Carnevale
Brody Mullins reports from Denver on the Democratic National Convention.
Democrats here don’t like to be called pinkos. But that doesn’t go for one of this week’s biggest attractions: Two people dressed head-to-toe in bright-pink pig costumes who have been driving around in a convertible handing out literature on their pet issue.
Two “pigs” from PETA campaign in Denver to cut Americans’ meat consumption (Photo by Brody Mullins)
The pigs are spokes-swine for a campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to get people to eat less meat. The pigs are one of dozens of public relations efforts by interest groups large and small – serious and silly – to harness the big media spotlight here to shine on their concerns.
Activists are marching to clean up the environment. Gay-rights groups are pushing for same-sex marriage laws. The hotel and tourism industry is trying to draw attention to issues that promote travel and tourism in the U.S.
And a group of jokers are handing out material to pedestrians at the outdoor 16th Street Mall calling for a crack down on bird watching. The group directs people to its Web site (www.stopbirdporn.com), where they accuse bird-watchers of being peeping-toms, among other things.
None of the campaigns seems to be as big of a hit as the two little pigs. When they hop out of the car in front of the convention center here, dozens of men, women and children clamor to pose for pictures. While camera shutters snap, Ashley Byrne and two PETA volunteers hand out flyers saying that the consumption of hamburgers, fried chicken, fish sticks and other meat products contributes to global warming.
PETA wants Congress to slap a 10% excise tax on meat products to discourage people from eating meat. “People are just beginning to learn that cutting their meat consumption has a big impact on global warming,” says Byrne, handing out flyers in three-inch heels, tight black pants and a PETA T-shirt. She and her piggies tell people that pollution by factory farms causes more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry.
“People think that they have to go out and buy a new car or take a drastic step like that, but the best thing they can do is as simple as changing their diet,” Byrne says.
Few of the people who come over for a piggy photo-op have heard of the idea before. It doesn’t always sizzle.
“I never heard of it before, but is seems like a good idea,” says 17-year old Kelly Drumight. Her friend, Taryne Rosetti, 18, disagrees: “There are a lot of difference things that we should tax, like gas. I don’t know if meat is one of them.”
The issue is personal for Byrne, a Colorado native. She’s been a vegan for more than a decade after watching PETA videos of animal cruelty at factory farms. “When I realized I was supporting that with my meals, I couldn’t sit down to a meal. Then I learned the health benefits,” she said.
Byrne tailors her message to her audience. With Democrats, she tells a green-friendly crowd that eating less meat will reduce global warming. Next week in Minneapolis, she’ll tell Republicans to “cut pork” by reducing government subsidies to factory farms. “A lot of Republicans find that slogan cute,” she says. She even thinks it might sell with John McCain, a self described pork-buster.
Back here at the Democratic convention, most of the people who talk with Byrne agree with her. After posing for a picture, 16-year old vegetarian Tyler Hess says, “The amount of methane released by a cow each day is amazing.”
A nearby police officer doesn’t seem to get it. When asked to snap a picture of a passerby with the pigs, he says: “One…Two…Bacon!”
is an activist artist from Moldova. He has been arrested a number of times by the country's police during his street performances. He has protested, using very creative forms of expression, against the corruption of the police and of the government, the infringement of human rights and of the free speech in Moldova. He is free now. This blog is dedicated to him.