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PETA demonstration turns heads in downtown Bangor

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals volunteers Holly Peterson, left, and Kathrine Johnson, right, sit on the sidewalk in downtown Bangor on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in order to draw attention to the plight of animals harvested for their skins. The pair waved at passing motorist and posed for photos as curous downtown patrons snapped images with their cell phone and digital cameras. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

BANGOR, Maine — There are lots of ways to make a statement or get a message across. You can speak loudly through a bullhorn. You can wave brightly colored signs. You can march through downtown streets.

Holly Peterson and Katherine Johnson took a different approach Thursday. The two young representatives of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stripped down to matching pink bikinis and sat on a sidewalk in busy downtown Bangor holding a canvas sign that read, “Fur Out, Love in.”

“It’s a fun way to bring attention to a serious issue,” said Ashley Byrne, a campaign coordinator for PETA and the organizer of Thursday’s demonstration at the corner of Main and Hammond streets.

The method was effective.

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Dozens of motorists and pedestrians traveling through downtown slowed down, stopped, honked or took pictures with their cell phones as Peterson and Johnson waved.

Byrne said PETA’s stop in Bangor was part of the national organization’s Northeast anti-fur tour. With all the advances in synthetic fur, Byrne said there is no excuse for people to wear clothing made from real animal fur.

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“It’s hard for people to think about the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on to get that fur,” she said. “Animals are skinned alive, they are electrocuted. People need to be reminded of that.”

Byrne said some manufacturers of fur — or fur farms — raise animals in deplorable conditions and then kill them using the cheapest means available. She also said fur that is produced in China is likely from dogs and cats and then labeled as something else.

Although the Bangor area has no fur manufacturing companies or many retail stores that would carry fur, Byrne said the message is universal.

“So many designers have refused to use real fur, but still there are clothing items out there,” she said. “Compassion is much more sexy.”

Lexi Tyler, 29, of Bangor stopped by Thursday afternoon to lend support. She is involved with animal cruelty advocacy locally but said there is no PETA chapter in the area.

“It’s hard in Maine because we’re such a big hunting state,” she said. “But I think if people had more information, they might think twice about their choices.”

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