It was a scene right out of Mean Girls, only it was adults, and supposedly those who are working toward the good of the planet: the billboard from animal rights activism group PETA with the slogan, "Save the Whales / Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian" next to an image of an obese woman in a bikini.
Let's just say that the general consensus was horror and revulsion and that we were recoiling from PETA's brand of vegetarianism, not the unfortunate "love handles" depicted.
The people of Jacksonville, Florida, where the billboard was located, were just as uncomfortable about its message as all of you. So this week, PETA replaced the billboard with a much simpler, less judgmental message: "GONE. Just Like All the Pounds Lost by People Who Go Vegetarian. GoVeg.com."
In a press release, PETA noted that not only bacon-lovers like me had called, written, Twittered, and raised their eyebrows in shock to complain about the whale billboard: it was some of those who were taking the 30-day "Pledge to Be Veg."
According to the press release, "So many people have contacted the group that it plans to chronicle several women's vegetarian weight-loss journeys on its Web site, which will include information for people who are interested in losing weight with a healthy, low-fat vegetarian diet."
I know, this is a press release and PETA is relentless in its upbeat messaging. But I would have loved to see a little "I'm sorry" from those who initially defended the billboard as appropriate. But all we're getting is passive aggressive denial that they'd done anything wrong in the first place. How very Gossip Girl of them.
PETA's Executive Vice President, Tracy Reiman, sums it up this way: "We're thrilled that people have been inspired to give a vegetarian diet a try, and we know that they -- and animals -- will be glad they did."
I'm thrilled that the billboard has been replaced. I'm not thrilled with PETA's attitude, however. Sure: you guys are skinny and gorgeous and you eat plants. But it seems you're placing the well-being of the animals above the emotional toll your catty billboard took on actual people.
People are living creatures, too, PETA, and you'd do well to remember that.
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