Save the Cute Animals!

The inside story on protests against dog-eating, foie gras-enjoying, and fur-wearing

A good argument in support of vegetarians, vegans, and animal rights protest groups is: How come it's OK to kill and eat an animal, but it's not OK to, well, fuck an animal? Think about it. Given the choice, I think Fluffy the Sheep would much rather be fucked than eaten -- any day of the week. All you have to do is put yourself in the same situation.

I've decided to become an animal rights protester. Which animal protest is best? What's hot and what's not, in terms of animal rights protests? If you had arachnophobia, all spiders would horrify you. Similarly, it would seem, if you were vegan, all types of animal food production would be horrifying. But most animal rights types come out in force when it involves an animal that is really adorable, rather than ugly. (Example: cats -- cute; cows -- "Hey, that's a sharp belt!") And I'm all in favor of beauty.

Yes, it's time to protest the inhumane treatment of animals -- especially the really cute ones.

Protest No. 1 -- South Korea's Illegal Dog Meat Trade

The ad:

Each year, two million dogs are electrocuted, strangled, or bludgeoned to death in South Korea. Then they are boiled, skinned, browned by a torch, chopped up, and eaten. The Korean Government is even considering regulating and legalizing the consumption of these animals, even though the vast majority of Koreans don't eat dogs or cats.

This seems a good place to start. I honestly can say I would never eat a dog. Really. No argument there. (I heard it tastes like chicken, anyway.)

Level of Adorable-ness of Animal at Hand: 10-plus

Saturday, I venture to the Embarcadero. Among rows of jewelry and T-shirts stands one lone protester. I was expecting a big turnout (perhaps a bullhorn or two). Yes, one woman talking on a cell phone stands in front of a disturbing sign (key to a good animal rights protest!).

Quality of Protest Signs: 4

There basically is the sign -- the one sign. It reads: "Dog's Worst Enemy -- Korea." I'm not a professional protester, but I really think this protest could have benefited from wider variety. Though the disturbing image is very effective, I would suggest more signs and slogans, such as, perhaps, "Korean dogs have something to bark about!"

Approaching the lone woman, I interrupt her cell phone call and play naive, pointing to the sign.

"Is this, like, in the circus and stuff? You know, like, when they make them wear people-clothes and jump through hoops?"

"This isn't about the circus, it's about the millions of dogs in Korea that are electrocuted, strangled, and bludgeoned to death each year," she clarifies.

[Pause] "Oh, that's a lot different."

She hands me a flier.

Quality of Fliers: 8

Very catchy slogan: "Man's Best Friend -- BETRAYED!"

The photo shows a dog looking sad. I assume I would be sad too if in the situation of about to become someone's meal. Great font used on the word "BETRAYED." It's in crimson and sort of looks like it's dripping blood.

She explains: "They have them in cages at restaurants for people to pick out."

"Don't they do that with lobsters?" I ask, suggesting this may just be a matter of cultural differences.

Her demeanor changes as if there is about to be an argument. "I don't approve of that either; I'm vegan."

I try to explain -- lobsters in our country have it tough. It is popular to cook them ALIVE! But no one seems to have a problem with this. Supermarkets have tanks, crammed tanks full of these live crustaceans. Claws rendered useless by large rubber bands -- lobster handcuffs! Shoppers tap on the glass, not even raising an eyebrow at what could be compared to an undersea Abu Ghraib. Animal rights protesters should break into Safeway and set the lobsters free. Reason they don't: Lobsters aren't that cute.

I'm directed toward a very graphic video.

Quality of Protest Video: 3

Technically speaking, the production quality of the gruesome protest video leaves a lot to be desired. It could highly benefit from professional editing, a clear voice-over narration (perhaps from a celebrity advocate), stock footage, and a few different camera angles.

"What if the animals were killed more humanely?" I ask.

"Then I wouldn't feel so bad about it," she replies.

"I've eaten a dog before," I say with a serious expression as a disturbed, tense look forms on her face. I break a smile.

"A veggie dog that is!" I say. Oh, how we laugh.

Protest Extras: 7

Cards, pre-addressed to the ambassador of Korea, await people to fill them out. Roughly speaking, each card tells the ambassador that eating dogs is bad, and if the dog-eating doesn't stop, I -- the signer of the postcard -- will boycott all products made in Korea.

Suggestions for a Better Protest:

Large papier-mâché dogs, hoisted on sticks, by protesters walking on stilts.

Overall Protest Rating: 4

Yes, we should protest Korea's treatment of animals, because it's inhumane, but we should also protest because dogs are incredibly cute, especially when dressed in people-clothes and made to pose for postcards. That, my friends, is adorable!

Protest No. 2 -- Anti-Foie Gras

I had no idea what foie gras was until I decided to protest it. Ducks are force-fed until they are so large they can barely move and can only waddle (kind of like Ralphie May of Last Comic Standing). They are crammed into a pen to wallow in their own filth (again, like Ralphie May of Last Comic Standing). Then their livers become so enlarged they turn diseased. Apparently, when made into pâté, these diseased livers are, according to gourmet chefs, an expensive delicacy and very delicious. (Ralphie May, of Last Comic Standing, must have a very delicious liver.)

Level of Adorable-ness of Animal at Hand: 8

The ad:

Please join IDA, Viva! USA, Farm Sanctuary, and Animal Place at an educational outreach event outside of this "special dinner," the actual intention of which is to justify and promote egregious cruelty to animals.

I'm told via e-mail, "It will be a peaceful event."

Yeah, right. Foie gras protesters have been known in the past to vandalize the cars of chefs, pour cement into restaurant sinks, and leave the water running at food establishments selling the product, as well as videotaping the family of a known foie gras producer, then sending it to him as an eerie warning.

This is going to be great. I love direct, angry protester confrontation. I imagine it to be like a modern version of Kent State, only instead of the Vietnam War, it's foie gras. Dramatic conflict makes for a great protest!

Eighteen people, mostly kindly older women, stand outside the Dining Room restaurant in San Mateo. Are these kindly older women the ones who poured cement into the sinks and vandalized a chef's car?! Besides me, the only other guy in attendance looks like he's here because his wife made him come. Every five minutes he switches to a new protest sign.

Without fanfare, or an introduction, I grab a sign, start vigorously waving it, and file in.

Quality of Protest Signs: 10-plus

The signs are first rate. There's a wide variety -- all mounted on sticks, all graphically gruesome, each offering different sayings:

"HOW MUCH CRUELTY CAN ONE SWALLOW"

"WHY PET SOME AND EAT OTHERS" (Good question, but it brings up others: Why let some run around a racetrack and place wagers on them and eat others? Why ride some at a summer camp in northern Wisconsin and eat others? Those would take one hell of a large sign, of course.)

"IT SUCKS FOR DUCKS" (Nice use of rhyming.)

"They're serving a 12-course meal, consisting entirely of duck," explains the cute protesting girl next to me. "Even the dessert is duck."

"Like duck sherbet? Or ducksickles?!"

Ducks made into dessert. That's going way too far. I start vigorously waving my "No Foie Gras" sign.

People drive by; some slow down, honk, and give the thumbs up. Others flip us off.

"I'd feel bad if we caused an accident," exclaims one of the kindly ladies.

A high school couple, dressed in prom formalwear, walks by.

"I don't want to go by there," I hear the date say as she approaches. "It scares me."

They're handed a flier.

Quality of Fliers: 9

"Foie Gras -- Cruelty Revealed" -- this is good, a tag line that sounds like a Dateline special investigative report.

A Chinatown mainstay is the classic whole duck hanging in the Chinese restaurant window. To add insult to injury, the browned, skin-still-on, dead ducks are hung in the window on a hook, to be viewed like Uday and Qusay shoved in front of cameras on U.S. television. But that form of duck abuse barely raises a protester eyebrow when it comes to the anti-foie gras crowd.

"There's so much violence in the world," a reporter is told by one protester. "This is one step against it you can personally do."

The reporter comes over for my comment on the restaurant serving foie gras.

"It's a delicacy of despair," I say in the perfect soundbite. She jots that down. I continue.

"It's gourmet cruelty." She writes that down.

"Foie gras leaves a bad taste in my mouth! It's a deadly dinner! A plate of hate!" She keeps writing.

"Foie gras is for quacks! Go Niners!" I throw out for no reason.

I tell another reporter, "Not only do we have to boycott foie gras, but also Rocky Mountain oysters. Farmers force the animals' testicles to swell to three times their normal size. Not to mention cow brains, which leaves the animal completely disoriented."

Quality of Protest Video: 9

Great video! It features hidden camera footage, professionally edited with clean, voice-over narration. The protesters from Korea's illegal dog and cat trade could take a page from the anti-foie gras group. Very artfully done in cinéma vérité style.

Really, though, I think the best part of being an animal rights protester is the abundance of cute, flirty, college-age girls.

"Do you want to share this with me?" says one who's holding a newly issued foie gras statement from the restaurant.

"Yes, I do. I do indeed. I'm against foie gras, too," I say and move in closer.

If you were a really smooth player, I could easily see animal rights protests as a perfect place to pick up progressive women.

"Not only do I not eat meat or dairy," I tell another woman holding a sign, "but I don't even eat mock duck, because duck is in the name." She smiles with approval.

During the entire afternoon, I only see one well-dressed couple entering the restaurant. They are politely given a flier. Maybe our protesting works? Or maybe ...

"When does the protest last till?" I ask one of the kindly older ladies.

"It goes to 6:15."

I suggest that maybe it should run later, into the time period when the restaurant actually has customers.

"We probably shouldn't stay later, because it might make them angry," she replies with kindness.

I approach the reporter who'd interviewed me earlier.

"I have one more for ya, 'Foie gras is a faux pas!'"

"You could be a copy editor," she says, writing quickly.

Suggestions for a Better Protest:

Large papier-mâché enlarged duck livers that could be hoisted on sticks by protesters on stilts.

Overall Protest Rating: 7

Though I was disappointed that sinks weren't clogged with cement and cars remained unvandalized, the kindness and organization of the protesters won me over.

Protest No. 3 -- Neiman Marcus Anti-Fur Demonstration

The ad:

This is a weekly anti-fur protest that happens rain or shine. Signs and leaflets are provided. Please also do not wear or bring anything leather or that looks like leather.

This is a classic. It's the granddaddy of them all -- a lovable, old-school fixture in the world of animal rights protests. I can't wait. I hope there will be blood thrown on shoppers!

Level of Adorable-ness of Animal at Hand: With fur, 9. Without fur, 0.

Like Don Quixote, one lone woman protests on her own, on the corner of Stockton and Geary, with a slew of gruesome signs secured to a newsstand. She is smiling.

Quality of Protest Signs: 10

What abortion protesters achieve with the classic bloody fetus shot, fur protesters achieve with the bloody, skinned dead animal signs. The signs sell the protest:

An adorable cat seems to be saying, "I Am Not a Coat."

A fox, with the ability to form human sentences, is made to say, "Does Your Mother Have a Fur Coat? My Mother Lost Hers."

"The Real Face of Fur," announces a bloody animal carcass.

"Fur. No Skin Off My Back," another bloody animal carcass propounds.

The funny sign "Neiman Carcass" features -- you guessed it -- a bloody carcass.

(My ideas for fur protest signs: "My Mother Went to Neiman Marcus and All I Got Was This Lousy Fur Coat," with, of course, a picture of a bloody animal carcass. Or "Got Fur?" with two bloody animal carcasses.)

"Ewww," a shopper remarks, looking at the sea of signs. Another woman joins the lone protester. Then a guy (who, I assume, is protesting in hopes of getting busy with one of the two anti-fur women). Holding signs, smiling, they casually chat, like any huddled group of three friends catching up. This is complete, not to mention utter, bullshit. Where's the angry blood-throwing?! The newly arrived woman, still chatting away, despondently extends her hand, filled with fliers that people avoid as if they were being offered Scientology literature. I stand there for several seconds. Finally, still waiting to be handed a flier, I mumble, "I, too, am against fur." She doesn't acknowledge my presence.

Quality of Fliers: 8

They also say "Neiman Carcass." (Good thing they're not picketing Macy's!) They say the department store is responsible for cruelty, suffering, and death. Instead of the standard, unhappy-animal-in-a-cage photo, the flier goes for a cute cat image: "We speak for those who can't."

Protest Extras: 9

Genuine steel-jaw traps are a nice added touch. Another great addition is actually stringing up some animal pelts to the light post, as if they were a South American president during a rebel revolución.

Quality of Protest Video: 1

More bullshit! There's no video to speak of! Serious points are subtracted.

Down the street, I notice that a leather shop goes completely unprotested. The goods inside could be an animal protester's equivalent to Ed Gein's work shed. I'm sure they could come up with some bloody signs against skinning cows. But then again, leather makes good wallets.

Suggestions for a Better Protest:

Large papier-mâché bloody fur coats that could be hoisted on sticks by protesters walking on stilts.

Overall Protest Rating: 3

No videos, no chants, too much smiling, small turnout. Much like the TV show Friends, this protest has gotten lazy over the years.

What I've Learned

Harming animals is bad; ice cream is delicious!

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