Firm reels billboard in after controversy
PETA ad with a fishhooked dog shocked drivers, company
By KEVIN MORAN
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
GALVESTON - An anti-fishing sign on Interstate 45 that shows a dog with a fishhook through its bloody lip will be taken down because of numerous complaints, a nationwide sign company decided Monday.
Along with the picture, the billboard, paid for by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, bears the question:
"If you wouldn't do this to a dog, why do it to a fish?"
The billboard went up Aug. 10. It is the first in a national campaign to emphasize the animal advocacy group's contention that fishers inflict torturous injuries and deaths on their catches, PETA spokesman William Rivas-Rivas said Monday.
Pat Murray, executive director of the 50,000-member recreational fishing group Coastal Conservation Association Texas, called the billboard "extremist" and said he's glad it will be removed.
"It's a gross mischaracterization of the sport and the pastime," said Murray, adding that he saw the sign, near the intersection of I-45 and Texas 146, on Sunday. "We're not dog fishing."
The billboard's owner, advertising giant Viacom Outdoor, informed PETA's Norfolk, Va., headquarters Monday that Viacom would exercise its contractual right to remove the sign because of complaints.
Viacom spokesman Jeremy Murphy said he was unable to provide the exact number of complaints the company received before deciding to remove the sign.
But in an e-mail announcing the decision to PETA, Viacom employee Cecilia Yu said the company received "numerous complaints from the community."
Rivas-Rivas said PETA will not fight the billboard's removal but plans to place the same advertisement in the New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio, areas, among others.
He said PETA has received no complaints about the billboard.
PETA paid $2,000 to rent the Texas billboard for a month and $400 to produce the sign, Rivas-Rivas said.
Viacom will refund most of the rent, he said.
The billboard ads include the address for a PETA-run Internet site, www.fishinghurts.com. The ads are designed to spur interest in PETA's advocacy campaigns, Rivas-Rivas said.
PETA maintains that scientific studies show that fish feel pain just like other animals, Rivas-Rivas said.
"Just because fish don't scream out in pain doesn't mean we can do whatever we want with them," he said. "Fish aren't swimming vegetables."
PETA supports vegetarian diets and maintains that â€" aside from the pain issue â€" chemically contaminated fish are dangerous to eat.
Murray said he's not sure whether fish experience great pain.
"I'm sure it's possible, but I don't know definitively," Murray said. "There is a lot of science in a lot of different directions on that subject."
Murray said fishing is a traditional American family activity that PETA will not be able to eradicate.
He said groups such as his lobby for regulations to preserve fish species.
Viacom's Murphy said the company tries to ensure billboard content is "responsible, tasteful and appropriate for public display."
"With this in mind, we decided to take this sign down this week," Murphy said.