- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

PENSACOLA, Fla., April 17 (UPI) — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has the religious community in Pensacola upset over a billboard promoting vegetarianism.

The billboard says: "Jesus was the prince of peas. Follow him — Go vegetarian."

Paul H. Welch, senior pastor at the First Pentecostal Church, called the campaign deceptive.

"They are dishonoring the lord," he told the Pensacola News Journal.

With Easter and Passover at hand, Pensacola resident Carolyn Stallworth, 45, is also upset with the billboard.

"I believe in this man here, and they obviously don't," she told the newspaper, pointing to the billboard. "You don't play with Jesus. This is going against the religion of people who actually believe in something."

David Ostrich, a rabbi at Temple Beth-el, said there is no evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian.

"There is no evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian. This is totally out of left field," said Ostrich, who says he is a vegetarian — but only because he doesn't like meat.

The sign also includes a Web site address. It argues that Jesus was a vegetarian, or at least taught people to be nice to all living things, including lower animals.

Bruce Friedrich, director of vegan outreach at PETA, said the message is supposed to prompt serious consideration of the religious implications of being a vegetarian.

"The way that animals are treated on factory farms and slaughterhouses is egregiously cruel and mocks God," he said Thursday. "It's not a political agenda, it's a faith-based, ethical agenda to provoke the thought that if people are eating meat, they are promoting cruelty to animals."

He said the billboard would be up for another month.

The organization has placed an identical billboard in Savannah, Ga., and similar religious-based billboards in Springfield Mo., and Wilmington, N.C.

They show a picture of a pig and say: "He died for your sins. Go vegetarian."

There's another one in Detroit that quotes the Koran and Hebrew scripture with a reminder to practice what is preached.

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