Downtown protest focuses on mad cow scare
A light snow fell during the noon hour last Thursday as a group of PETA supporters — one pair in animal costumes — stood on the corner of Illinois and Maryland, hoisting posters and waving at passing motorists as part of their “It’s Mad to Eat Meat” campaign. The campaign is designed to draw attention to concerns about the spread of mad cow disease to animals and humans. -PETA supporters demonstrating in downtown Indianapolis last week.- Because any animal with a brain can potentially develop a variant of this disease, which could then be transferred to people, mad chicken and mad pig disease are potential threats. Other animals, such as sheep, mink and deer, have already been found with the disease.
Mad cow disease was detected in Britain in the mid-1980s after infectious tissue from sheep was mixed in cow feed. This led to a ban on feeding animals to animals in the United Kingdom, as well as a ban on feeding any animal older than 30 months to human beings. Although the U.S. banned feeding ruminants to ruminants in 1997, the U.S. government admitted that as recently as 2001, violation of the feeding regulation was widespread.
Another PETA concern is the legality of feeding cow’s blood to cows; sheep and cows to pigs and chickens; and pigs and chickens to one another. These practices have been banned in Europe out of fear that chickens, pigs, fish or other animals might contract spongy brain diseases and pass them along to human beings.
PETA’s advice? Go vegetarian. “If you eat meat, you already have to worry about salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer, as well as your weight. Now, you can add mad cow, chicken or pig disease to the list,” said PETA Outreach Coordinator Allison Ezell. “The best way to ensure that you and your family won’t get sick is to go vegetarian.”
Braced against cold January temperatures, the small group of Indianapolis supporters handed out PETA’s emergency vegetarian starter kits to passersby, hoping to spread the message that a vegetarian lifestyle is healthy and easy to achieve. As they hopped and paced to sustain body temperature, the demonstrators cheerfully endured taunts, obscenities and sarcastic jibes from some motorists. Ezell explained that it’s all part of the experience, but well worth it if they can save even one life.
Hoping to shoo them off, a Circle Centre Mall security guard inquired if they had permits. Upon being informed that permits weren’t required for a protest on city property, the guard called police. An officer politely cautioned the demonstrators not to obstruct the entrance to the Palomino Restaurant, then sat in his car across the street, monitoring from a warm distance.
The Palomino’s manager was another disgruntled observer of the scene. Ezell said that he confronted her at the beginning of the hour-long demonstration, commenting that he was “just trying to make a living by doing his job” and didn’t understand why they were there. Ezell assured him it wasn’t a personal protest, but the busy corner provided high visibility for the group. “He had his job to do; I had mine,” she said.
Overall, the response from downtown diners was predominantly tolerant, amused or favorable, as pedestrians accepted the literature while trudging toward their lunch destinations — perhaps, said Ezell, with the thought that there has yet to be a single case of mad broccoli disease.
Lori Lovely is NUVO’s “Automanic” columnist and a regular contributor. Among her other non-profit activities, she is a member of PETA.