The American Meat Institute held its popular annual hot dog day Wednesday in the courtyard of the Rayburn House Office Building. But that may not have created quite the same buzz as an event by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals a week earlier, when it held its "spice up your life" vegetarian hot dog day on the front steps of Rayburn.
PETA could boast attractions besides food: Playboy model Vida Guerra. She and another model wore scant bikinis covered with chili peppers as they handed out hot dogs, while women employees of PETA and volunteers hovered in short skirts and tight T-shirts.
But not everyone was a fan. Michael Shank, the communications director for Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., wrote that the use of the barely clad models to promote PETA's agenda led seven staffers from four congressional offices to register a protest with PETA.
"The complaint is that PETA needlessly sacrifices women's rights to promote animal rights, overtly objectifying and sexualizing women, limiting their 'Chili Pepper Senoritas' to women who conform to what society has deemed the ideal, sexy body type," Shank said in an email.
"PETA is feeding into ideas of attractiveness that create and exacerbate feelings of shame, which results in an estimated 8 million Americans who suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa," he added. "Incidentally, several staffers who contacted PETA are longtime vegetarians who support less energy- and resource-intensive diets."
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said the protest was "the daftest thing I've ever heard -- unless these people have never been to a beach or have just moved here from Afghanistan."
Shank and others may be in a minority among staffers. PETA reported that it served 600 vegetarian hot dogs, and the line to one from Guerra extended up the street from Rayburn.
This article appears in the July 24, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily.