WASHINGTON — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wanted to take a pretend pig farm with real pigs to Capitol Hill to protest how the animals are treated in big corporate hog farms.
PETA also wanted to fill 3,500 buckets with pig urine and waste, set the buckets on the U.S. Capitol plaza and then, for several days, use fans to waft the scent across the Hill.
The U.S. Capitol Police said no.
Pigs, the agency said, a) have potentially unhealthy effluent and b) could spread swine flu. It cited concerns by the Washington Department of Health.
"I trust you can understand," read the police agency's letter to PETA.
The agency's reasoning raised a minor political stink, however, with a congressman from North Carolina, the nation's No. 2 pork-producing state, after Iowa.
Unsheathing his pen, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge — a part-time farmer who raised piglets as a child — wrote the Capitol Police a stern missive last week.
"I was extremely disturbed," he began.
Pig farms already suffer because of erroneous concerns that eating pork spreads swine flu, he wrote. (The industry prefers the term H1N1.) One North Carolina pork producer declared bankruptcy this month.
"Coming in contact with pigs is not a significant risk factor for contracting the novel H1N1 flu," Etheridge wrote. "And it is not possible to get it by eating pork or pork products."
PETA activists said the Capitol Police denial proved the dangers of swine waste and corporate pig farms. Etheridge disagreed.
"Pork products are not only very safe," he wrote, "but also very tasty."
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