On Aug. 29, after successfully suing to participate in the Party Animals project, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals installed Ella PhantzPeril—a Party Animal elephant chained to a stake—to protest animal cruelty (“Ethical Animal Snubs Southeast,” 9/6). By the evening of Sept. 9, the Party Animal had drawn a demonstrator protesting PETA.
Brandishing a sign reading “Halloween is cruel to Pumpkins,” a lone woman (who declined to give her name) stood beside the PETA elephant on Dupont Circle. “Go eat meat right now,” she told passers-by. “Meat is good for you.”
Pedestrian responses ranged from supportive to hostile. Some expressed confusion.
“Is this like a satire, or is it serious?” one asked.
According to the protester, it was a piece of performance art—an artistic response, in a different medium, to the painting and sculpture of the Party Animal. She admits, despite her pro-plant lobbying, that she eats corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
The protest, she says, was prompted by the shortcomings of PETA’s Party Animal: The group’s lawsuit, she charges, unnecessarily tied up a federal court. The statue itself is “an inelegant, elephantine…political declaration,” she says in a written statement.
PETA representatives counter that their lawsuit was necessary to secure the group’s First Amendment rights. And PETA legal counsel Matthew Penzer defends the artistic merits of Ella PhantzPeril, which was designed by New Yorker cover artist Harry Bliss. “Art has throughout history been used to express messages,” Penzer says.
Penzer rejects the protester’s claim that plants have rights. “There’s no evidence that vegetables feel pain,” he says. “It’s an absolute fact that animals feel pain.”
After one more set of performances on Sept. 12, the protester ceased appearing by the statue. The level of discourse, she reports, had declined: Someone had hung a sign around the statue accusing the elephant of not being art, and someone else had torn it off. —Joe Dempsey