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PETA Ad Pulled From Yearbook

The principal of Fresno's Roosevelt High had the anti-milk piece literally ripped out, calling it improper.

May 21, 2003|Eric Malnic and Monte Morin | Times Staff Writers

About 300 graduating seniors at Fresno's Roosevelt High School are getting a yearbook containing a photo of a boy spewing milk out of his mouth and nose. Four hundred others aren't.

The photo dominates a full-page advertisement purchased by the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The text reads, "If you knew how dairy cows suffered, you'd spew."

"The picture was gross, but that wasn't it," said Principal Maria Escobar. "I don't want them to use our yearbook as a platform for their politics."

Escobar ordered the ad pulled. Literally.

The first 300 copies of the yearbook had already been sent out, so there wasn't anything she could do about them. But she ordered the offending page torn out of the other 400 before they were handed out.

"You allow freedom of the press," said Richard A. Johanson, president of the Fresno Unified School District board. "But is a yearbook the place to debate whether cows are treated humanely?"

PETA thinks that it is.

"It's an ironic thing for an educator to close the year by censoring a message of compassion for animals and healthful eating," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's national director of vegan outreach in Washington, D.C. "That a school principal would trump the decision of the school yearbook committee by ripping an ad out of the yearbook is unsettling."

Friedrich said the ad was developed six months ago and has been placed in school newspapers and several yearbooks nationwide. PETA targeted areas known for dairy production.

"Madison, Wis., and Fresno made particular sense," Friedrich said. "Fresno sits on top of the highest concentration of dairy producers in the nation, and perhaps the world. And Madison sits on top of the world of dairy products."

Friedrich acknowledged that the principal's actions had inadvertently given the ad more attention than it might have received otherwise.

"Certainly, we'd be crying crocodile tears if we said this wasn't helpful," Friedrich said.

The ad invites readers to log onto a PETA Web site. The site argues that milk production and consumption are cruel to cows, harm the environment and promote poor health in humans.

The ad cost $250 to place.

"It seems only right that if they're ripping ads out of the yearbook, we should get our money back," Friedrich said.

In tearing out the page with the PETA ad, the school also ripped out three ads on the back of the page, Escobar said.

"One of them was for a lawyer," she said. "I can't remember the other two. We'll talk to them and see if they want their money back."

Johanson and another board member, Manuel G. Nunez, said they thought Escobar handled the matter properly.

"It's up to the principal and staff to deal with something like this, and she dealt with it," Nunez said.

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