Etheridge concerned about Capitol Police decision to ban PETA pig protest

Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) is concerned that the U.S. Capitol Police’s decision to deny an animal advocacy group’s petition to bring pigs onto Capitol Hill was based on their ignorance of how the human strain of the H1N1 virus spreads.

In a letter sent last month to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Capitol Police cited a recommendation from the D.C. Health Department in their rejecting the group’s request to bring live pigs outside the Capitol with gallons of their urine and tons of their manure.

The letter said the rejection of the proposal was “due to significant health concerns about the possible spread of the H1N1 virus” and it also cited “nuisance concerns.”

Etheridge wrote to Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse, in a letter obtained by The Hill last week, to say he was “disturbed” that the department was misinformed about how the human strain of H1N1 can spread.

It cannot be caught from pigs, and the perception that it can has caused pig farms in his district to lose business, he said.

“It is such misinformation about pigs’ role in the current novel H1N1 influenza outbreak that has helped put pork producers in my state and across the country in dire economic straits,” Etheridge said.

“Coming in contact with pigs is not a significant risk factor for contracting the novel H1N1 flu, and it is not possible to get it by eating pork or pork products.”

But Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that the department had not yet received the letter that was dated week before last.

"[Capitol Police] has not received the letter referenced from Rep. Etheridge, perhaps due to mail delays attributable to screening procedures," said Schneider in an e-mail. "Based on the notification received from The Hill, the Department will contact the Congressman's office in response to his concerns."

Etheridge’s office did not comment on whether it supported PETA, which said it wanted to use giant fans to spread the smells from the pigs and their waste across Capitol Hill as a way to draw attention to swine flu and the mistreatment of the animals.
The group said its aim was to emphasize the connection between the animal-borne strain of swine flu and the production of pork on pig farms. It also hoped that the exhibit would convince people to eat a vegan diet by showing them the conditions in which pigs are kept.