WASHINGTON – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the organization known for protesting fur, leather and circuses, demonstrated its aversion to hot dogs Wednesday by featuring a bunny at its meatless dog picnic on Capitol Hill.
Playboy magazine's Miss July 2002, Lauren Anderson, stood outside the Rayburn House Office Building in a stars and stripes bikini, serving soy dogs to lunch-goers and making a compelling case for a vegetarian diet.
"What's all-American about brutally slaughtering and destroying and torturing sweet animals? I don't think that's American," Anderson said as she simultaneously threw off suggestions that PETA exploits women to make its case.
The advocacy group frequently has nude models dressed as animals in its advertising displays in major cities, a practice that has been called exploitative.
"Why would it be exploiting women for me to be out here and promote myself as a Playboy model, which I am, and also as a vegetarian, which I also am. It's not exploiting me at all," Anderson said.
But while PETA protested meat on one side of the Rayburn building, on the other side, plenty of lawmakers and their staffs attended the American Meat Institute's annual Capitol Hill luncheon celebrating National Hot Dog Month.
Former New York Yankee Don Larsen, Los Angeles Dodger Jim Gott and Baltimore Oriole and California Angel Bobby Grich highlighted the event, which also featured 4,000 hot dogs, enough, said sponsors, to circle the U.S. Capitol four times.
Signing autographs and chomping on the dogs, the baseball greats debated whether PETA was out of touch with America by protesting the dog.
"I love filet mignon and barbecued spare ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, I love bacon. I mean, you can have your tofu burgers if you want them, but I'll take my cheeseburger, sorry," Golden Glove-winner Grich said.
Former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott said he too would take meat over veggies any day, but saw no problem with the PETA protest.
"I think the great thing about America is our ability to choose what we want, so it's great that people are vegetarians, and it's great that there are meat-eaters like me," Gott said.
But baseball players may fear that their sport could be PETA's next target. After all, they use leather gloves and a leather-covered ball. And Major League Baseball parks serve up 26.1 million of the 7 billion hot dogs eaten each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.