Eat your young

The ad is edgy. And, in the not so humble opinion of News Hits, it’s also over the top, rhetorically speaking. But does that mean it should be censored?

The answer to that question, according to the companies that own Detroit-area billboards, is a resounding “yes.” Which is why a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ad showing a blimp-faced youngster biting into a burger and the words “Feeding kids meat is child abuse” won’t be showing up alongside a roadway near you.

Three companies that dominate Detroit’s billboard market recently refused to post the PETA ad. In that sense, Detroit is far from alone. The animal rights group attempted to place the ad on billboards in 37 markets across the country. According to PETA’s Veronica Van Hof, it has succeeded in getting the ad up in only 15 of those cities. Unlike us, folks in New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia and a handful of other cities, have been able to draw their own conclusions from the ad.

The idea, says Chris Link, campaign coordinator for PETA’s Norfolk, Va., office, is to emphasize a study in which scientists from the Centers for Disease Control say obesity is set to overtake smoking as the leading killer of Americans. It is particularly pertinent to Detroit, a city consistently rated as one of America’s fattest by Men’s Fitness magazine.

Obesity can lead to heart disease, some types of cancer, strokes and diabetes; these have been medically linked to eating excess fatty foods, the CDC says.

The billboard’s appearance in Detroit was nixed by Lamar Outdoor Advertising, based in Westland, HFT Management Inc., in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Viacom Outdoor Inc., in New York City.

The billboard was first developed by the animal-rights group, which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, and claims 800,000 members worldwide.

“The damage from a meat-based diet is like a ticking time bomb in kids,” says PETA’s vegan campaign director Bruce Friedrich in a statement. “Vegetarian kids are slimmer, have more energy, get better grades and are all-around better off than their meat-eating peers.”

Some of this may be so, says Richard Rickert, vice president of Lamar Advertising. But does it amount to child abuse? Hogwash. “I feed my kids meat — how do you substantiate that claim?” he asks.

Jodi Senese, a spokeswoman for Viacom, is decidedly more vague, saying only that her company strives to meet “community standards.”

“We must keep in mind what is appropriate for the communities in which we operate,” she says. “We go to great lengths to make sure all our advertisements are responsible, tasteful and non-offensive to the public at large.”

News Hits, on the other hand, lives to offend people. Which is why we’re running for free the ad PETA wanted you to see. Then, just to keep the universe in balance, we’re ordering up a whole mess of sliders.

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