BANGOR, Maine — As sociopolitical demonstrations go, this one was just plain cold.
Two members of PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, braved below freezing temperatures and snow showers to protest Wednesday outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Broadway.
The catch? Aside from winter gloves, hats and boots, Ashley Byrne, 30, and Krissy Addington, 26, wore only skimpy yellow bikinis.
“We’re two chicks sticking up for other chicks,” explained Byrne, a Washington, D.C., native.
PETA members have targeted KFC for years, Byrne said, because the company has refused to make changes in the way it breeds and slaughters its chickens. PETA claims that more than 1 billion chickens are bred in factories and killed each year in ways that would result in animal cruelty charges if other animals were the victims. The lobbying group alleges that chickens’ throats are slit while still alive and that some are scalded to death in boiling defeathering tanks.
Byrne and Addington have led protests at KFC sites all across the country in recent weeks, including at an Augusta restaurant on Tuesday and at a Portland KFC on Monday.
“So far, this is the coldest [weather] we’ve seen,” Byrne said just after noon Wednesday, when temperatures hovered in the mid-20s. “But it’s worth it to be cold for an hour if it means bringing awareness to this abusive treatment.”
The Broadway KFC, which also includes a Taco Bell, has been open for only a few months. The day manager on Wednesday was not authorized to comment but referred questions to a company spokesman.
Rick Maynard provided this statement:
“KFC is committed to the well-being and humane treatment of chickens. We’re proud of our responsible, industry-leading animal-welfare guidelines. We buy our quality chickens from the same trusted brands that consumers buy in local supermarkets.”
Maynard further wrote, “We don’t comment on PETA’s activities and publicity stunts, which speak for themselves.”
Byrne admitted that the skimpy attire was a gimmick but said it’s important to grab attention.
“We make people pay attention because of the bikinis, but once they get all the facts, they forget about that,” she said.
Some passers-by stopped and inquired about what the two women were doing. Some honked. Some rolled down their windows and shouted.
“Whatever it is you’re doing, I’m all for it,” one man said as he drove by.
“Aren’t you cold?” asked another man who stopped, prompting Byrne to walk over and reply, “Yes, but don’t you want to know why?”
She and Addington handed out DVDs that depict the slaughtering process of chickens and promoted the Web site, www.kentuckyfriedcruelty.com.
Byrne explained that she and Addington had the choice to be out in the cold in their bathing suits but that animals don’t have choices about what happens to them. She said other fast food companies, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, have made changes to their slaughtering policies, but KFC has not. Byrne said KFC’s own advisory panel has made recommendations for changes that have gone ignored.
“We hope [KFC] eventually will follow the lead of other restaurants,” Byrne said through chattering teeth.
The PETA members planned to spend an hour Wednesday outside the Broadway KFC and then call it a day.
“I’m not sure where we’re headed next, but a soy latte sounds pretty good right about now,” Byrne said.