Above photos by Alan Rice
It was New York City's 1997 Easter Parade. And our theme was decidedly eggs--hens' eggs. Seems appropriate. Easter is the day when thoughts are turned to this primal symbol of life.
For the throngs of promenading people, we displayed pictures of imprisoned hens in battery cages in our attempt to heighten awareness of this most shameful implement of commercial-food production. We distributed a small fact sheet about the factory farming of hens. We gave away several hundred copies of the most recent issue of The VivaVine and "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." But if past years are any indication, we would probably have been mostly ignored if it hadn't been for the presence this year of our grand dame of Vegetableland, Penelo Pea Pod. Because of Penelo Pea, our demo was not only not ignored, it surpassed almost everything that VivaVegie has done before.
Granted, most people were only interested in plopping their kid down in front of Penelo Pea to get a snapshot--the Easter Parade is the ultimate amateur shutterbug convention. But those who pushed and shoved against other rapacious, adoring parents to win their children a moment with our voluptuous green and giant mascot were also forced to take in our signs, each one a sobering reality check. Our signs read:
Hens' eggs: EGGstreme cruelty
...and they're not too good for you, either
Egg-laying hens live under extremely cruel conditions
Penelo Pea Pod says: Please don't use/buy real eggs this Easter
Penelo Pea Pod tells of:Innocent sentient beings
imprisoned for life.Outlaw the battery cage!
Our Penelo Pea Pod attracted the media in regular waves. VivaVegie's Pamela Rice gave interviews to The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, Gannett (publishers of USA Today and other newspapers) and Newsday. Ultimately, the VivaVegie Society was written up in the Times and the Post, with both papers including at least one reference to the conditions of egg-laying hens. CBS Radio also mentioned Penelo Pea Pod in a story that ran throughout the day.
The summer seems awfully bright if this is the kind of attention Penelo Pea Pod will bring us and our message. Thank you again, VivaVegie member Janet Bloor, the talented and generous costume designer who donated Penelo Pea Pod. We are forever grateful!
The VivaVegie Society gives special thanks to Rochelle Goldman and Irene Ginsberg for working in shifts to wear the Penelo Pea Pod costume. It got a little hot under there, we know.Thanks very much to Alex Press for holding those signs for four hours! And thank you very much, Carmen Ginsberg, Lenny Morgenstern, Jean Thaler and Jesse Silverman for helping with the leafleting and crowd control at our Easter Parade demo.