From the pig that smiled down on Tony Soprano and his cronies at Satriale's Pork Store to Miami Smokers' cigar-chomping mascot, sausage and bacon purveyors have a rich history of using pigs to sell their products.
Now there's a new swine in town, one that's designed to make you go vegan. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has erected a billboard in Miami depicting a pig next to the slogan "I'm ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan."
It's no coincidence the billboard is located at 306 NW 27th Ave. — a mere 300 feet from the entrance to Miami Smokers, a boutique shop owned by Andres Barrientos and James Bowers that specializes in smoked meats made from humanely raised animals.
In a media release, PETA targets the small store directly:
As part of a nationwide campaign to encourage diners to see animals as individuals and leave them off dinner plates, PETA has erected a giant pro-pig billboard near Miami Smokers.
PETA had previously urged the meaty eatery to add a vegan option to its menu and received no reply.
"Intelligent, playful pigs are unique individuals who value their own lives and don't deserve to be killed for a fleeting taste of flesh," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "PETA is urging everyone to stick to animal-free meals — and upping the pressure on Miami Smokers to provide its health-conscious and animal-friendly diners with a vegan option."
In today's meat industry, mother pigs are squeezed into narrow metal stalls barely larger than their bodies and kept almost constantly pregnant or nursing. Pigs' tails are chopped off, their teeth are cut with pliers, and males are castrated — all without any pain relief. At the slaughterhouse, they're hung upside down — sometimes while still conscious — and bled to death.
Reached by phone, Bowers was at first unaware of the billboard's existence. He called back a few minutes later with visual confirmation: "Yep, it's there."
Bowers pointed out that PETA's claim that Miami Smokers has no vegan items on its menu is false; the shop offers one vegan and one vegetarian option for diners.
He said PETA's depiction of animals in factory farms doesn't apply to the animals Miami Smokers uses. "Yes, we make bacon," Bowers said, "but we source humanely raised pigs that are not crated. They are also slaughtered as humanely as possible."
The smokehouse cofounder said he fully supports a vegan lifestyle. "My wife is vegan, and at home that's how I cook a lot of the time," Bowers said, noting that maintaining a vegan diet is far less of a chore than it used to be — as has the process of finding humanely raised products. "Proper Sausages, Babe Frohman — we all source good-quality products. With that quality come animals that are raised more humanely."
Emily Raap, campaigns generalist at PETA, said the organization erected the billboard after not hearing back from Miami Smokers when the nonprofit requested that the shop sell smoked vegan alternatives. "Our ad is to encourage Miami residents to not eat meat. Pigs are sensitive, intelligent animals that enjoy companionship," Raap said.
Raap added that the billboard is part of a larger campaign. "We have placed this ad in literally dozens of cities across the U.S. to remind people that pigs experience pain, joy, and fear."
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Pigs aren't the only animals depicted on PETA's billboards. Raap said other versions include images of cows, turkeys, and even lobsters.
Asked why it would single out a small business that takes pains to use humanely raised meat, Raap said the pork products Miami Smokers sells "still involve the violent deaths of animals that didn't want to die. It's not OK to raise and kill animals for food. They have the will to live just as much as you and I do. There's just no excuse for it."
Bowers said he has no quarrel with the billboard. "Everyone should know where their food comes from," he told New Times. "We don't hide the source. Yes, it's meat. Some people are going to eat meat; some people choose not to."
Miami Smokers Urban Smokehouse. 306 NW 27th Ave., Miami; 786-520-5420; miamismokers.com.