“And if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me,” belted out the 35 kids gathered in front of a local Safeway supermarket Thursday.
Well, not everyone. Certainly not the 25 grown-ups who screamed back, “Pigs don’t want to be Oscar Mayer wieners.”
The midafternoon confrontation on Stevens Creek Boulevard near Lawrence Expressway in San Jose pitted youngsters auditioning to become TV-ad stars against organized vegetarians waving signs that claimed “Feeding kids meat is child abuse.”
Bay Area members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and members of South Bay In Defense of Animals were waiting when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pulled into the shopping mall for the widely advertised auditions.
But the Wienermobile, a 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels, was parked at the far end of the lot from the auditions and drove off during the singing and shouting. Perhaps the driver knew that a pig-suited protester was arrested for climbing on top of another Wienermobile at one of 34 similar demonstrations that have been held across the country since June 18.
Alicia Broderick, 22, of Santa Clarita, one of three Southern California talent scouts for the wiener maker, never stopped smiling as she said she did not anticipate the protest. But, she admitted, “it’s happened before.”
“We’re just here for the kids,” Broderick said.
That’s exactly what protester Jannette Patterson, 36, of San Francisco said.
“They’re trying to brainwash kids into eating meat,” Patterson said. “It’s pathetic. The Oscar Mayer wiener is a lot like the Joe Camel thing and children smoking.”
San Jose police were on hand Thursday and kept a watchful eye on a 5-foot-3-inch porker parading among the South Bay activists.
“When I’m not a pig, I’m Gwen Fish,” the 17-year-old De Anza College freshman said, her voice muffled by her mask.
Fish, who crossed animal products off her menu in the sixth grade, hadn’t planned to spend the hot afternoon encased in pink plush.
“But we needed a pig fast,” she said.
The teenager talked softly to those who approached her. Other demonstrators were much more strident.
Alfredo Kuba, 39, of Mountain View, a self-employed researcher for PETA and In Defense of Animals, was warned by Sgt. Joe DeBoard not to stand on the benches in front of the market. He held placards against the windows so the kids auditioning inside could see them.
Kuba stepped down when DeBoard asked him to, but he didn’t back off from his contention that “huge companies like Oscar Mayer and Procter & Gamble are abusing animals, the environment and humans.”
He and store customer Chris Wilson, 20, of Oregon got into a heated debate outside the main entrance over the issue of vegetarianism.
Wilson, a martial arts student, finally stalked into the supermarket after delivering his punch line: “So it’s not ethical to eat meat? I guess you must think animals shouldn’t eat other animals, too.”
Before the automatic doors separated the demonstrators from him and others shopping for their evening pork chops, Wilson declared loudly: “I enjoy eating meat. Meat tastes good.”