New PETA Billboard Advocating No-Fish Feast Termed ‘Fishy’ By Local Restaurateurs

Dec 12, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

A billboard advertisement for veganism, sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, went up on East Bay Avenue about a week ago, near the Mud City Crab House and Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House restaurants. The sign, part of PETA's national “I’m Me, Not Meat” campaign, is meant to discourage people from having the traditional “Feast of the Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve.

Mud City and Old Causeway co-owner Melanie Magaziner said she tried to use it as a teaching tool with her daughter, Hadley. “At first I didn’t think much of it. Hadley and I had a discussion about it and why (PETA) chose that spot. We discussed advocacy and why it’s OK to have strong beliefs, even if we may disagree.”

As with all of PETA’s ad campaigns, “the goal is to start a conversation, which it certainly is doing,” PETA spokeswoman Kaleigh Rhoads explained on a call from Oregon this week. The organization also aims to bring awareness to “unnecessary violence and environmental destruction caused by the seafood industry,” she added. Based on the idea that fish, and all animals, have feelings, PETA urges humans to “give fish some love, all year ’round.”

Meanwhile, PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien has been quoted comparing fish to humans in their ability to “feel pain and fear and value their own lives – and they deserve our compassion.”

Rhoads said the organization looked at billboard options across the state but ultimately chose Stafford because more than a quarter of Ocean County’s population is Italian-American – the proximity to the restaurants was irrelevant, as the holiday meal is “more of a home-cooked tradition.” Still, PETA hopes people will remember the pro-animal message when they do eat out and see seafood on the menu.

The ad will remain in place through the end of the year, she said. She added similar ads in Williamstown and Roseto, Pa., have prompted several requests for “vegan starter kits,” which are available at peta.org.

The organization’s statement about having chosen the location due to the number of residents of Italian descent struck Magaziner as odd. “That’s when I decided to post (on Facebook),” she said. “‘Seven Fishes’ can trace its origin to Jesus.”

The restaurateurs responded on Facebook to PETA’s message, with a message of their own and an invitation to the public to “come have some seafood.”

“Something smells fishy about the new billboard on Bay Avenue,” read the caption under a photo of a plate of scallops. “We’d like to remind everyone, including our friends at PETA, that we are a Surfrider Foundation-certified ocean-friendly restaurant; we serve sustainable seafood and have worked to be as environmentally responsible as we can be in order to protect our surrounding wetlands and waterways, for the good of safe harvesting, thriving communities and healthy wildlife.

“Also, here’s a plate of delicious scallops. So far as we know, none of them had a name.”

Magaziner said she was aware of a controversy in Maryland back in September over a similar billboard, denouncing crab consumption. “Needless to say, it did not go over well (with crabbers),” Magaziner said.

According to PETA, one person who chooses a vegan lifestyle can save the lives of up to 200 animals per year, including fish and other aquatic animals.

Earlier this month, PETA rolled out its chart of preferred idioms as alternatives to anti-animal language: instead of “taking the bull by the horns,” “take the flower by the thorns”; don’t “bring home the bacon,” but “bring home the bagels”; rather than “kill two birds with one stone,” why not “feed two birds with one scone”?

If the objective is to rile people up and stimulate thought and even debate that could potentially lead to changed behaviors, PETA fulfills its mission, even if not everyone appreciates the methodology.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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