Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Ads taking PETA to task for opposing animal testing have been getting a lot of attention on Metro.

They have been ripped down and defaced since earlier this month, when they began appearing in about 700 Metrorail cars.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington-based coalition of food companies, restaurants and tavern operators, and a longtime opponent of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, paid $60,000 for the ads to run until the middle of next month.

Metro officials have been replacing some of the damaged posters every night.

“Whenever political ads run, if people have strong opinions that differ from the ads, we get people that deface them,” said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“Unfortunately for PETA fans, [Metro] is replacing” the defaced posters, said Mike Burita, a spokesman for the coalition.

The ad has a picture of a lab rat next to a picture of a sick child. It includes a quote from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk: “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.”

The ad also highlights PETA’s boycotts of charities such as the March of Dimes and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation because they may use animals in medical research.

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said Consumer Freedom falsely attributed the quote in the ad to Ms. Newkirk and that part of it was taken out of context.

“The entire attack on us is a false scenario,” Mr. Kerr said. “We take this attack as a sign of our effectiveness.”

Consumer Freedom has received hundreds of e-mail messages — from supporters and opponents. One person wrote: “Kudos for your PETA ad and other efforts. It’s about time people with common sense fight back. …”

A PETA supporter wrote: “I love PETA. Someone has to care about animals. How can anyone agree with animal testing? They should use prisoners. … Leave the little helpless animals alone.”

“There’s a growing awareness among the public that animal testing is unnecessary, outdated and unreliable,” Mr. Kerr said.

The ads direct viewers to Consumer Freedom’s Web site, where they will find a section dedicated to the group’s fight against PETA. In the past year, the group has run anti-PETA TV ads on national cable and in local markets as well as a print ad in Time magazine. This is the first Consumer Freedom ad to run on Metro property.

“People inside the Beltway are well-read and know about issues,” Mr. Burita said. “We thought this would be a good venue to try out.”

Mr. Burita said the ad has generated the biggest response from any of its local or regional campaigns.

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