L. J. Ulrich
Tuesday October 24, 2006
“Something smells good,” College Republicans Vice President Keoni Medici said, as his club set up across the street from West Virginia University’s Mountainlair Student Union last Thursday.
The College Republicans’ first Animal Rights Barbecue had begun.
On the menu: 40 burgers, 60 hot dogs, 100 bags of chips, two boxes of bottled water, 48 cans of Coke and Sprite, and dozens of paper plates shaped like koala bears, monkeys, and pigs.
“We would have had stir fry, but there was a threat of rain,” College Republican member Chris Mader said. “Oil and water don’t mix.”
The rest of the event, however, involved a whole lot of mixed signals and mixed results. Despite predictions of showers, the West Virginia sky remained blue, with the mercury hovering around 72 degrees. Promises to play Rush Limbaugh on the radio all day never materialized. For much of the afternoon, College Republicans members buzzed that John Raese, the Republican challenger to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, would drop by for some food, but he never showed up.
Whether the barbecue was a success or not hinges on its intent. Did the Republicans’ barbecue, as club President Meghann Wilson hoped, serve to “recruit members and get visibility for the club?” Or was the event held for the reasons that Mader laid out: basically, to poke fun at liberals?
Junior Jim Ashley, wearing a Club Gitmo t-shirt with the phrase “I got my free Koran and prayer rug at Gitmo,” had one explanation:
“We’re here to recruit and get back at those liberal vegans,” he said. Ashley explained that it “got the adrenaline pumping” to stand up and espouse his views.
Mader looked to the animal kingdom for guidance.
“I see PETA fighting for the rights of animals to be treated ethically, when animals don’t ethically treat themselves. In nature, they eat each other. They’re here for our enjoyment,” he said.
If the group’s intent was to create controversy, they may have succeeded: People didn’t get the irony of the barbeque, even as group members handed out flyers depicting the destruction of a dead puppy, while others handed out an “Animals’ Bill of Rights.” Among them: the right to be duly butchered, to be equal beside the mashed potatoes, to be devoured in a sitting of one or more people or other animals, and so forth.