Saturday, September 13, 2008

I think I smell a stunt

Toronto Sun - Friday, September 12, 2008

News Toronto & GTA

PETA wedding at KFC vegan to the cake


Queen West Village at hot, high noon. We're feeling extra crispy. At Augusta Ave. hunkers a KFC, an atoll of fast food in a sea of java, jazz, tattoos and purple hair. Nice day for a white wedding.

A man in a milky tux and bowtie paces before a Family Fun Bucket poster in the window. Colonel Sanders," someone exclaims. No, he's dead. And don't say "milky." Think of those cruelly squeezed teats. No. That's Vegan Outreach leader Jack Norris, 41, of California. He's the groom.

The bride is Alaskan Alex Bury, 38, fundraiser for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She fusses with her gown in the parking lot.

PETA has done some wacko things. I once met a lovely lass who dressed in lettuce and threw fake blood at the fur crowd.

But a wedding of animal activists on the sidewalk outside a KFC? I think I smell a stunt.

The KFC staff look jumpy, like they're expecting a bucket of chicken blood. Fear not. Now PETA likes KFC, or at least its Canadian wing, which has agreed to kill chickens nicely and to serve a mock-chicken wrap. So, it's a friendly stunt.

"We hope that when people visit KFC, they'll choose the Delicious Vegetarian Sandwich," says PETA rep Nicole Matthews, up from headquarters in Virginia.

Sheesh, now PETA is promoting KFC.

Yesterday's wedding may be gimmicky, but it's legal. And (sigh) beautiful. Alex is stunning. And guilt-free. No silkworms died for that dress. I had no idea they boiled those worms alive. I don't know how they kill polyesters, but apparently it is painless.

Makeup artist Sherry Vanstone, 34, tells me the bride's face is free of products tested on animals. Jack's tux has no wool (shearing hurts?), his shoes no leather. The wedding cake is sans eggs or milk.

Alex walks down the aisle - alley I should say. The Alexander Ensemble strikes up The Wedding March. It occurs to me violin strings are catgut, but I don't want to make a scene.

Presiding, is Unitarian lay chaplain Margaret Rao. The usual I dos, but meat-free. Each vows to take the other "to be my partner in work to make this world a kinder place for animals."

A passing firetruck gives the couple a toot. So does one of those goofy amphibious Hippo tour buses. Now, there's a critter I wouldn't mind sending to the meat-packers.

As for chickens, the PETA/KFC treaty ends the Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign. The chain's suppliers must handle their birds tenderly and gas them rather than zap them, slit their throats or other ghastly things. Slicing off their beaks so they can't peck each other is still okay.

"We're not compromising," insists the bride. "I'd love to see the whole world go vegan tomorrow, but I realize it won't happen. "Before we get everyone to go from A to Z, we have to get them from A to B."

So, back to the wedding. Julia Rufo, 26, watches from across the street at the Java House. "I hate to criticize a wedding, but that's the last place I'd want to get married. Better at a McDonald's."

Oh, Julia, don't get me started on what happens to cows.

Alex fell for Jack at a meeting of activists. Both are veterans of the vegan wars. Alex's first skirmish was one snowy day in Anchorage. She took off her clothes to protest furs. Jack's younger brother also had a vegan wedding last week in Cincinnati. In a lovely park.

So, Alex, your big day's at a KFC. Where's the romance, the spice, the 11 different herbs? "I thought this was so romantic," she says. "We met through fighting for animals. It's one of our most important bonds."

I'm a meat-eater of long standing, but I was once wed to a Toronto Vegetarian Association organizer. So I've had my share of tofu.

KFC's new faux chicken wrap ain't half bad. And no bones. They serve it at the reception inside.

I wait for Alex to toss the bouquet, but it never happens.

I guess they're afraid it will land on a squirrel.

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