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Thursday, July 9,2009

Boobs against beef

PETA demonstration in Lansing incites ogling - but did it make anyone a vegetarian?

by Liz Reyna and Drew Winter
Courtney Baker/City Pulse
There were two naked women showering in downtown Lansing Wednesday afternoon — but, to the dismay of many male onlookers, they didn't want to eat any meat.

The women, Ashley Kemp, 22, and Lindsay Rajt, 27, were showering on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as part of the animal rights group’s “Clean Your Conscience” campaign touring the Midwest.

The showering was a gimmick to attract attention to the fact that it takes 2,463 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat — the equivalent to about six months of showering.

But the anti-meat message may have been lost in a haze of suds and testosterone.

“It makes me think of another kind of meat!” one anonymous man said.

Most of the ogling men, when asked, said the display would not make them switch to a vegetarian diet.

Several men in a Lansing Board of Water and Light truck waved, took pictures and winked at Rajt and Kemp. Then they parked their truck so they could get a better look.

Some viewers said the nudity offended them, and PETA has been criticized in the past for exploiting women to help animals.

In January, NBC rejected a sultry PETA ad depicting women lusting over vegetables, saying it depicted “a level of sexuality exceeding our standards.” NBC didn’t like shots of women licking eggplants or rubbing their pelvic region with a pumpkin, and even “screwing” themselves with broccoli.

Other onlookers said that, regardless of whether it was a good cause, they didn’t understand the message.

“With or without the sexuality, I still wouldn’t get it,” Jackie Wressell, 24, said.

“I think it’s a sensational way to garner attention for a cause, but I really don’t understand,” Kelli Todoroff said. “I’m more offended by the naked girls but I also don’t get the point.”

While the two women bathed, Amanda Fortino, coordinator of international grassroots campaigns for PETA, stood around in a bathrobe handing out “Meat’s Not Green” leaflets, DVDs and “vegetarian starter kits.”

Fortino said the estimate of how much water it takes to produce a pound of meat comes from John Robbins’ book, “Diet for a New America.” The book is based on the idea that growing crops for direct human consumption is more efficient than feeding those crops to livestock, which requires many more crops, more processing, and more water. The beef industry promotes a lower figure for how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef.

“We want to show that you don’t have to give up showering [to conserve water], just go vegetarian,” Fortino said.

Fortino contended that their events do produce results, saying that after demonstrations people contact them asking for tips on being vegetarian for health, environmental and ethical reasons.

“It’s a fun and light-hearted way to share our message. There’s nothing wrong with what these girls are doing. We all have a choice to be here. But unfortunately for billions of animals suffering on factory farms, there is no choice,” she said.

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