PETA activist bares skin to help stop snake skinning

01/08/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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Cold weather in Tampa has some people bundling up in fur and leather coats for warmth. But not animal rights activists like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA). In downtown Tampa a nearly-nude PETA model painted to look like a python protested the killing of exotic animals for their skins, hides, and furs.

Out in the cold, and drizzled with raindrops, a woman showed some skin to passing bystanders in bustling downtown Tampa to help save the skins of slaughtered snakes, reptiles, and other animals. PETA is known for their controversial protests. In the past some people have been shocked by PETA displays, but today many were so intrigued by the provocative display of skin, that they took cell phone pictures, and gawked at the painted woman. Others may have missed the model, whose green and yellow painted figure camouflaged into a poster in the background. The painted woman was with Ashley Byrne, a campaign coordinator for PETA.

According to a study by the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, alligator farmers produce 300,000 pounds of meat, and 15,000 skins annually for the multimillion dollar industry. Byrne is concerned that many reptiles don’t receive the same legal protections as other animals in the US, and abroad.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many protested China’s human rights violations, but in this year’s upcoming winter games in Vancouver, PETA will be protesting commercial seal hunting. Byrne says this issue has even been taken up by high ranking government officials.

But some indigenous peoples require hunted game for basic survival needs. Byrne says that hunting for subsistence purposes is not the issue.

According to Byrne, only about a quarter of the 300,000 seals that were expected to be killed this year were actually hunted, due to a decline in the demand for seal furs. Alex Huie also works for PETA, and suggests that people consider alternatives to animal based products and clothing.

The overpopulation of non-native snakes like Burmese Pythons has been such a concern in Florida that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is beginning to issue year-long permits to hunt the invasive species starting this month. If the snakes are not killed on site, permit holders may deposit them to be euthanized by a veterinarian.

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