A fund-raising campaign for the Special Olympics heated up a Missouri high school recently, when students put the fate of Larry the lobster up to a vote.
Student council members at Jefferson City High School masterminded the idea to sell votes for 50 cents each to determine whether a lobster they planned to purchase would live--and be left in the grocery store's tank--or die and become one lucky student's dinner.
At a student assembly, where the fund-raiser was launched, a student in a ninja costume chanting, "Kill, kill, kill," and another chanting, "Save, save, save" worked the crowd. The scene was enough to anger a few students into action.
Seniors Marti Palermo and Melissa Petty were steamed enough about the contest to call the Norfolk, Va.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Bruce Friedrich, the international animal-rights organization's vegetarian-campaign coordinator, said it "showed a grave disrespect for the life of the animal."
After an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the school from proceeding with the project, PETA posted an "action alert" on its World Wide Web site, prompting a bombardment of protest calls to the 1,900-student school.
"Although lobsters aren't as cute or as cuddly as kittens, they have the same capacity for suffering," Mr. Friedrich said.
Principal Richard Pemberton said the student council canceled the fund-raiser less than 24 hours after it began; no lobsters were eaten. "In retrospect, we wish the advisers [one of whom attended the planning meeting] would have stopped it." But he added that the students learned a valuable lesson.
Mark Musso, the president of Special Olympics Missouri, the state branch of the national group, said his group worked with the school to identify other fund-raising projects for the students.
Ms. Petty and PETA officials hope to persuade the store to donate a lobster that they can release into the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of Maine. "From our perspective, Larry is a symbol for all animals," Mr. Friedrich said.
Vol. 18, Issue 23, Page 3Published in Print: February 17, 1999, as Take Note