PETA, Paul, Jesus, and an arson charge
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:
ATLANTA, DES MOINES,
KANSAS CITY, MISSOULA, TOPEK
A––Enlisting help from both Jesus and the
Beatles, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals scored a string of media hits against
meat-eating and fishing in early summer.
Thirty-three years after the late John
Lennon provoked the biggest uproar of the
Beatles’ career by speculating, after a Beatles
concert outdrew church attendence, that the
group might have become more popular than
Jesus, Paul McCartney emerged from mourning
his late wife Linda to announce the first
airing of a 15-second anti-fishing TV commercial
that Linda made for PETA shortly before
her death. The commercial was broadcast on
NBC during National Fishing Week.
Telling media he was escalating his
animal rights activity in Linda’s memory,
McCartney also announced a British Union for
the Abolition of Vivisection campaign against
testing household products on animals––reinforced
on June 30 when BUAV revealed
recent findings from an undercover investigation
at Harlan IK, in Belton, Leicestershire, a
leading breeder of beagles for laboratory use.
A 60-by-20-foot PETA billboard
proclaiming “Jesus was a vegetarian” meanwhile
stole the show at the Southern Baptists’
national convention in Atlanta, provoking
public debate over whether Jesus did or did not
eat meat. Greek translations of the Gospels
indicate that he did; other translations indicate
he did not. Prevailing scholarly belief is that
Jesus was strongly influenced by the Essenes,
a Jewish sect who were vegetarians.
PETA gained further mostly favorable
publicity after outdoor advertising firms
in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma,
and Texas rejected as too risque a billboard
showing a bikini-clad woman holding a string
of sausages, with a statement linking meateating
PETA drew additional sympathy
with an appeal to the U.S. Air Force to halt
barehanded rabbit killing as part of survival
training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in
Colorado Springs, Fairchild Air Force Base in
Spokane, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare
Training Center in Bridgeport, California;
and the U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare
Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Air
Force Academy used 438 rabbits in such exercises
during June and July 1998, according to
records PETA obtained.
But PETA campaign literature likening
the treatment of animals in circuses to the
treatment of plantation slaves outraged Keith
W. Stokes, the Afro-American president of
the Chamber of Commerce in Newport
County, Rhode Island. As the controversy
expanded, Representative Patrick J. Kennedy
(D-R.I.) reinforced Stokes’ statements, and
the intended focus on the Newport County
Chamber of Commerce role in sponsoring an
appearance by the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros.
Circus was largely lost.
Another PETA summer campaign
landed newly hired campaign staffer Timothy
Andrew Ray, 35, in jail, facing a potential
25-year prison term for felony arson. Ray was
arrested on June 10 for allegedly igniting hay
bales stacked in front of the main entrance to
the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, as part
of a PETA protest against the World Pork
Congress, underway nearby.
PETA spokesperson Dawn Carr told
Tom Alex of the Des Moines Register that the
fire was not a planned part of the protest, and
that she did not know Ray.
A day later, however, Carr posted a
$6,500 cash bond for Ray, whose bail was set
Americans for Medical Progress
meanwhile pointed out that a similar hay-burning
incident occurred during a January 1999
PETA protest against the pork industry in
Washington D.C., at which 12 people were
arrested on relatively minor charges.
Judith Riddell Messimer, webmaster
for the St. Louis Animal Rights Team and
associate web designer for ANIMAL PEOP
L E, said Ray was a longtime St. Louis
vegan activist who had just moved from St.
Louis to Norfolk, Virginia, to take a job at
Ray’s identity was briefly unclear,
after Carr denied knowing him, as at least four
individuals named Tim Ray live near Norfolk.
Also believed to be in Virginia is
one Timothy Robert Ray, 40, alias Tommy
Burns, who was star witness for the prosecution
in the 1996-1997 convictions of 35 persons
in connection with killing horses––sometimes
by arson––to collect insurance money.