PENSACOLA, Fla. – An animal rights group has dropped its attempt to put up a billboard here with a not-so-veiled reference to a shark attack on an 8-year-old boy near Pensacola.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, wanted the billboard to say "Would you give your right arm to know why sharks attack? Could it be revenge? Go vegetarian."
A 6-foot bull shark bit off Jessie Arbogast's right arm on July 6 at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Surgeons in Pensacola reattached the limb once it had been removed from shark's gullet after the Ocean Springs, Miss., boy's uncle dragged the fish ashore.
One outdoor advertising company refused the advertisement before PETA announced it was abandoning the effort Monday because of another shark attack, the one that killed a 10-year-old boy near the group's Norfolk, Va., headquarters. A second fatal attack followed off North Carolina on Monday.
PETA also dropped plans to fly banner planes with the same message over Miami, Galveston, Texas, and Martha's Vineyard, Mass. The group previously flew the banner over Atlantic City, N.J.
"Right now people would just shoot the messenger without hearing the message," said PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. "Children are easy to love. Fish aren't as lucky."
The group was trying to advocate a vegetarian diet and send a message that "humans are much more of a danger to sharks than sharks are to us," Shannon said.
Critics included Monte Blews, general manager of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, which oversees Pensacola Beach, the community nearest to where Jessie was attacked.
"I think it's very inappropriate and it is insensitive to Jessie and his family and not in keeping with the community's concern for Jessie," Blews said.
The boy was still in a light coma due to the blood loss when sent home from Sacred Heart Hospital here last week. Hospital spokesman Michael Burke said Tuesday that doctors there have received no further update on the boy's condition.