The Washington Times - March 31, 2011, 12:07PM

An unexpected group is taking up Gov. Bob McDonnell on his invitation for private entities to sponsor Virginia rest stops.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a proposition: it will sponsor the Interstate 81 rest stop in Troutville and will rename it “Fishing Hurts” in exchange for a reduced sponsorship rate as a nonprofit, reports the Roanoke Times.


McDonnell, a Republican, made good on a campaign promise to reopen 19 rest areas that had been closed by his predecessor, Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Now, he’s trying to find more cost-effective ways to keep the 42 total centers open by allowing private sponsors to advertise in them and manage vending.

Here are some excerpts from PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman’s letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Once upon a time, no one thought twice about fishing, but nowadays, given the research into fish sentience and their ability to feel pain, fishing can only be considered a blood sport that causes significant physical and psychological suffering.

People who fish recreationally might be surprised to learn that the journal Fish and Fisheries cited more than 500 research papers on fish intelligence and concluded that fish are smart animals with sophisticated social structures.

Perhaps it is because of awareness of this kind of information that a bill was introduced into the legislature establishing the “right” to fish, although legal scholars believe that law is unconstitutional. Fish have extremely sensitive mouths and lips that they use in much the same way that we use our fingers.

Clearly, fish suffer when impaled with a metal hook and dragged into an environment in which they can’t breathe and are forced to gasp frantically. Dr. Donald Broom, scientific advisor to the British government, has said, “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.”

PETA’s “Fishing Hurts” Rest Area in Troutville would feature displays about fish intelligence, the pain caused by fishing, and the harm done to water birds and other aquatic life who become entangled in fishing line and ingest lost and discarded bobs and hooks.

Our vending machines would dispense plush Sammy the Sea Kitten toys, which would teach children to have empathy for fish by comparing them to the kittens whom many of us are more familiar with. We would also consider stocking the vending machines with delicious vegan faux-fish sticks (made of healthy plant protein and spices) and other healthy fish-free snacks.

Allowing us to rename the Troutville facility the “Fishing Hurts” Rest Area would send a clear message that all violence is unacceptable, even when it is directed at those who are different from us. Would the Department of Transportation consider a reduced nonprofit rate for the annual rights fee required to sponsor a rest stop? … Thank you for your consideration.”