Ex-NBA star John Salley serves up veggie dogs at PETA lunch

Capitol Hill staffers lined up on Wednesday to try free vegan sausages and meet former NBA star John Salley at PETA's 23rd annual Congressional Veggie Dog Lunch.

The annual event is organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a prominent animal rights group, and intended to promote the message that "animals are not ours to eat" and tout what the group says are the benefits of going vegan.

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This year the group teamed up with Salley, a retired NBA champion and a vegan since 2008.

The event provided free sausages from Beyond Meat, a plant-based food company, as well as an array of free vegan cookbooks and mini basketballs. The basketballs, which Salley personally signed, also read “A slam dunk - Go vegan."

The event also coincides with National Hot Dog Day.

Tricia Lebkuecher, a campaigner for PETA, explained that the group is “trying to end speciesism.”

“Animals are not ours to eat, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way," Lebkuecher said. "So, we are here to encourage people to choose compassion, to think about who is on their plate rather than what and to opt for kind choices.”

Asked why they chose to serve veggie dogs, Lebkuecher explained that, “veggie dogs are delicious, nutritious and don’t harm anyone.”

Lebkuecher said that eating veggie dogs allows you to “be a champ for animals, your health and the environment.”

Salley has been a long-time advocate for the vegan lifestyle. In a 2013 interview with ESPN, he recalled his transition away from eating meat. He first became a vegetarian and then a vegan after his playing career.

“I remember when I became a vegetarian and my game changed," he told the sports outlet. "I couldn’t imagine if I was a vegan back when I was playing. The thing about the NBA, any pro sport, is, guys don’t know how to take care of their body.”

Also on hand at Wednesday's event, was Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMichigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states Automakers rebuff Trump, strike fuel efficiency deal with California MORE (D-Mich.), who talked about her friendship with Salley, who won two of his four titles with the Detroit Pistons. Dingell had Salley sign one of the basketballs, but ITK did not see her try a veggie dog.