An animal-rights group deemed its demonstration in front of a Walmart Market on Monday afternoon a success despite some technical difficulties that kept its centerpiece -- a 10-foot tall inflatable pig in a crate that was barely big enough to hold it -- grounded for part of the protest.
Phil Letten, national campaign coordinator for the nonprofit organization Mercy for Animals, and 15 Tulsa-area residents stood along the sidewalk in front of the supermarket at 4404 S. Peoria Ave., holding signs and posters that read "Walmart tortures pigs" and "Walmart profits from animal abuse" and displayed pictures of pigs in gestation cages.
Letten said the pig factory farms that supply Walmart with pork hold pregnant pigs in crates so small that the animals can't turn around or move, causing sores on their flesh.
"Confining pigs in these pens is so cruel they've been banned in nine states," he said, adding that other grocery and food chains such as Costco, Kroger, Safeway and McDonald's have started phasing out the practice in the factory farm suppliers they use.
The group's Tulsa stop is No. 78 on a two-part national tour. The first portion started in August and went through 72 cities, and this second leg started last week, with 39 more cities on the itinerary after Tulsa, Letten said.
Dedra Lapidus, who organizes the Vegetarian Society of Tulsa, was contacted by Mercy for Animals and got the word out for area volunteers to take part in the demonstration.
"It's important to let the people of Tulsa make educated choices about what they eat -- make choices that go with their morals," Lapidus said.
Many people have images of pigs on farms rolling around in the mud, but that's just not true with factory farms, where pigs are kept in gestation crates in which they are unable to move, she said.
"If they knew this was going on, they'd make compassionate choices," she said, adding that a demonstration with pictures of abused pigs gets people's attention.
"They'll go home and check it out on the Internet and make a decision," she said.
Letten said the aim of the tour is not to put pressure only on food distributors such as Walmart but also to educate the customers.
"Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from," he said.
Lapidus said that by going around the country with these demonstrations, Mercy for Animals is gaining support for its cause and causing customers to challenge companies to change their policies.
"Nothing changes unless people stand up and ask for it," she said.
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