Anyone traveling past the intersection of Loockerman and State streets during Thursday’s lunch hour would have found something a bit out of the ordinary at the corner. Two girls were soaping up and rinsing off in a make-shift shower, while a banner, which helped leave something up to the imagination, read “Clean your conscience, go vegan, 1 pound of meat equals 2,463 gallons of water.”
Crystina Gaines-Rodriguez of New York and Jackie Cella of New Jersey are volunteers for PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who were protesting the meat industry’s impact on the environment and encouraging people to adopt a vegan diet, which means eliminating not only meat but also eggs and dairy products.
“Facts and figures aren’t always effective, but when they see two women on the street in a shower they stop and take notice and then people are shocked when they see the statistic,” said Ashley Byrne, a PETA representative and the events coordinator.
“A lot of people don’t realize the connection between the destruction of natural resources and agriculture,” said Rodrigues. “It’s something that’s easily tucked away.”
“I don’t think that people realize that the meat on their plate is causing that much destruction,” said Byrne. “When people realize that today’s factory farms are leaving behind a legacy of environmental disaster they realize how important it is to do things like this. When people chose vegan food it makes them feel empowered because they’re doing something to help the environment.”
The protest lasted from noon until 1 p.m. and in that time the group attracted a lot of attention from drivers and a handful of passersby.
Tim Megginson had a simple explanation as to why the protest caught his eye.
“Two naked ladies in a show, that’s not something you see every day,” he said. “I didn’t just look at the ladies. I read the sign, too. I’m pretty much a carnivore though. I don’t support the mistreatment of animals, but I do like to eat them.”
It wasn’t just men who took notice of the protest. Jennifer Stumpf’s husband dropped her off and circled the block so that they could figure out what was going on.
“How did they calculate the figure?” she asked upon seeing the statistics on the banner. “I would need to prove that statistic with further research.”
John Grace was one of the first people to approach the girls during their protest. He said that he took note because the girls were in the shower, but that their protest could “very possibly” change his mind about eating meat.
Page 2 of 2 - According to Byrne, Dover was specifically chosen for this protest because of initiatives on the part of DNREC.
“We heard about the water-saving initiative that’s going on through the department of environmental control, where they’re offering rain barrels at a discounted cost.” Byrne said. “So we thought it was a good time to let people interested in helping the environment know how to take it a step further. By eating less meat they can have an impact with every meal.”
About half way through their protest the group got different kinds of attention. Dover police officers arrived at the protest site to double check that the group had the appropriate permits.
“They just wanted to check on our permit,” said Byrne. “They’re just making sure that we’re following the law.”
The officers confirmed with Byrne that the girls were in fact wearing something beneath the banner. Byrne assured them that the girls were covered as much as they would be while wearing a bathing suit. Officers were still on scene at the close of the protest, as they were trying to ensure that the group had filed the proper permits to hold the event.
As the girls were doing their final rinse, Byrne commented on the protest.
“I think it went well,” she said. “I know that the people I talked to were surprised to learn how much water it takes to produce a pound of meat.”