Seventh-grader organizes animal-rights protest
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It was a Saturday afternoon. While most middle school girls would have been shopping at the mall, 12-year-old Peyton Hull was busy leading a group of preteen animal-rights activists.
Peyton, of Washington, is a seventh-grader at the Washington Park Middle School. But the protest against cruelty to animals was not a school project. It was her own idea and she organized the Feb. 16 protest outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Murtland Avenue in South Strabane on her own.
Peyton loves animals and wants to become a veterinarian. Last summer she volunteered at the Washington Area Humane Society in North Strabane.
"Peyton showed up faithfully every day to help with the kitties," said shelter co-worker Karen Deen. "She loved them. Sometimes she would hold them and brush them. She even adopted one."
One morning, the conversation at the shelter turned to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which has been streaming video on the Internet titled "Kentucky Fried Cruelty," showing undercover investigators entering the facilities of suppliers. The video features graphic details of the inhumane treatment of chickens.
Peyton went home and watched the video, narrated by Pamela Anderson, and asks viewers to join celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, the Dalai Lama and the Rev. Al Sharpton, in supporting a boycott of KFC.
The video horrified her.
"Now she and her friends will only eat free range chickens," said Roni Winters, Peyton's mom.
At first, Ms. Winters believed her precocious daughter was too young to protest. But when she saw Peyton making numerous telephone calls to friends, she pitched in and bought posters and markers.
"Peyton stayed up all night making signs," she said.
"Peyton is a very bright girl who loves animals. Her mother and I have encouraged her involvement in animal rights," said stepdad Fred Sapp. "We are proud of her and want her to be able to express her opinions within the proper channels and proper venues."
On the big day, Peyton gave marching instructions to her squad of 12 fellow activists, reminding them to be careful not to protest on property owned by KFC. They carried their 5-foot-by-5-foot signs to adjacent areas and held them up so that KFC customers would see them.
"People inside KFC were showing us their chicken. Two people waived their chicken at us and said it tasted good," Peyton said. "Some teenage boys in the parking lot threw their chicken at us and yelled, 'KFC is good. Get a Life.'"
With pride, Ms. Winters recounts how an older woman drove up to the kids and asked about the signs.
The young demonstrators told her about the cruelty to chickens and she decided to eat elsewhere. "Mom, we saved one person from going to KFC," Peyton said to her mother.
Rick Maynard, spokesman for KFC in Louisville, Ky., said, the company is committed to the well-being and humane treatment of chickens.
"We're proud of our responsible, industry-leading animal welfare guidelines," he said. "We buy our quality chickens from the same trusted brands that consumers buy in local supermarkets. While we don't own any poultry facilities, we require all of our suppliers to follow welfare guidelines developed by us with leading experts on our Animal Welfare Advisory Council."
Lindsay Rajt, spokeswoman for PETA said, "PETA is just asking KFC to take the scientific advice of their own animal welfare advisors."
First Published February 24, 2008 12:00 am