PETA protesters dress down for vegan diet

Two nearly nude protesters, their bodies marked up like cuts of beef, strutted and spoke at the corner of Victoria and Third Avenue today (Wednesday), hoping to find converts to vegetarianism.

A clutch of curious onlookers said they'd never seen anything like it. Neither had the staff at the downtown McDonald's on which the demonstration was deliberately focused.

Virginia Fort and Nicole Matthews are touring the country, repeating the same magnetic demonstration as they go. Kamloops is only their second road stop after starting out in Vancouver Tuesday.

"People loved our attention-grabbing demonstration," Fort said after the pair had stripped down to pasties and g-strings. "We'd like to spark some discussion about the treatment of animals and exactly what it is we put in our bodies."

But what reception would they get in the heart of cattle country? Surprisingly a mostly warm one. "Animals have rights, too," said Shane Luscombe from beneath a straw cowboy hat. "Mind you, I do like a nice steak," added the self-described cowboy at heart.

"I think animals are treated very poorly, but I'm definitely enjoying the show," he added.

"I think they've got guts," said Carmen Lachapelle, who said she is three-quarters vegetarian.

"My daughter's vegetarian," said Michelle Mayenburg. "I was brought up differently but I'm changing a little bit."

"It's kind of ridiculous," said one man, who identified himself only as Bo, his nickname. "Cats eat mice. Fox, coyotes eat cats. Cougars eat fox. That's the law of nature."

As further proof, he cited Kirchoff's circuit law - "the algebraic sum of all the components in a closed loop equals zero." In other words, the food chain is balanced, he contended. He wasn't the least bit put off by the protest, though.

"I don't mind what I'm seeing," he grinned. "Don't mind a bit."

Fort hails from Toronto while Matthews grew up on a small farm in Michigan, an experience that taught her to identify personally with animals rather than accept their inevitable slaughter. Video footage of factory farms, shot undercover, led her to become a vegan.

"My health and mental health improved. I want everyone to share in that. The majority of foods are already vegan. It's fun to learn new cooking methods. A vegan diet will benefit the planet."

The nature of the protest is a little chilling in the wintertime, she allowed.

"It's a little nerve-wracking," said a McDonald's employee who watched from the front door.

But is it bad for business?

"It's McDonald's," she replied. "Everyone loves McDonald's."

A few RCMP officers stood back.

"I'm just here to keep the peace," said Const. Rose Dunsmore. "Make sure everybody can get by and the ladies remain safe."

The protest also drew a local PETA member.

"I watched PETA video on horse slaughter and I was sickened for about a month," said Diane Nicholson, an animal lover. "I had no idea of the extent we make animals suffer. As I started looking at it more and more, I didn't want to be a hypocrite anymore."

"They're flogging a dead horse because they're not going to change people," Bo said.

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