Animal rights group sizzles over stadium hot dogs

July 27, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

The people who think you shouldn't eat animals were trying to tell anyone who would listen outside Memorial Stadium last night that a wiener made of soybean is a fabulous thing.

Here, in a city with a once-grand history of slaughterhouses and a neighborhood still proud to call itself Pigtown, they arrived two hours before game time to bring down those who are high on the hog, to lay siege to that venerable culinary institution -- the ballpark frank. "Tastes just like a real hot dog!" was the mantra of Jenny Woods, an employee with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as she stood on the parking lot across from the stadium near a sign that asked,"Guess what's in a hot dog?"

But Ms. Woods, wearing a "Meat Stinks" T-shirt, couldn't get her electric wok to work.

And if you can't taste a hot dog made of bean curd, how are you going to believe it's a "tasty, ecologically-safe alternative to the hot dog," as the ethical treatment for animals people promised?

So while Ms. Woods added red food coloring and dry ice to a clear cylinder of bogus pig parts -- plastic hearts and snouts and bones, even a plastic housefly or two for good measure, to make it appear that a dismembered hog was boiling in bloody water -- her colleague, Ann Chynoweth, ran down to Ellerslie Avenue to see if one of the locals would help out and boil a couple dozen tofu wieners.

Waverly being the progressive urban village that it is, she didn't have to knock on many doors before finding a vegetarian family willing to

help out.

Back at the "What's In A Hot Dog?" display on the parking lot, Rick and Denise Kalbach of Harrisburg, Pa., stopped for a moment's education before heading to see the Orioles play the Oakland A's last night.

"I don't like hot dogs so much because they're so high in fat," saidMrs. Kalbach. "Whether they have pig toenails and eyeballs in them, I'm not sure."

Said her unrepentant husband, "Meat's good for you. It's a good source of protein. I was raised on meat. It tastes good."

Mr. Kalbach added, "I know all the junk that's in a regular hot dog. When I talk about meat, I mean steak."

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, with national headquarters in Rockville, were trying to persuade baseball fans to switch to a non-meat diet last night in part because the Athletics were the visiting team. The A's all-star manager, Tony LaRussa, has been a complete vegetarian for six years and in that time has given his money and his name to the animal rights movement.

Before the game, with big signs for Baltimore's own Esskay meats high above him along the first and third baselines, he said his team would most likely be better off if all the players gave up meat.

"It's been tough to break through" to the public with tofu hot dogs, Mr. LaRussa conceded, saying he had mentioned them to the concession manager at the Oakland Coliseum. Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco Giants across the bay, offers the tofu dogs as an alternative to the usual fare.

"I don't think people could tell the difference if they tried one," said Mr. LaRussa.

James J. Boyle, general manager of ARA Services, which handles stadium food concessions, said there is currently no market for tofu dogs. "Ninety-seven percent of the people in America have meat in their diet, and we serve all-beef hot dogs to fill that need. If there's a shift [toward a vegetarian diet], we'd fill that need."

A few folks at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals table in the parking lot, one adorned with a death-black tablecloth, seemed to enjoy the change. "Tastes good," said one man. "Like pepperoni."

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