Absurd, pointed and certainly eye-catching to curious passers-by, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought its regional road show to Norodom Boulevard yesterday, drawing a crowd of perhaps 50 onlookers before its two activists were unceremoniously escorted away by police.
At just after 12pm, Jason Baker, director of PETA’s international operations, and PETA supporter Nadia Chalabi planted themselves on the street corner outside a busy KFC location, lowered a tiny cage over themselves and waited.
Within 10 minutes, a crowd of gawkers was spilling into the street. Within 30, the two activists were gone.
The duo’s protest was organised to highlight the slaughter of KFC chickens as well as the use of antibiotics and other drugs they claim cause the birds to grow to unnatural sizes, crippling them from the weight of their own bodies.
Posters stuck to the cage read “Confined, Tortured, Scalded: Boycott KFC.”
How that message will play with the capital’s chicken-loving denizens is an open question, but a poll of assembled gawkers outside the restaurant suggested it may not have had the hoped-for resonance.
Chan Roth, 23, held what seem to be the consensus view.
“The protesters are two foreigners,” he said. “They do not need to say chickens have rights, because chickens are born for eating.”
But, as Baker told the Post yesterday, the point isn’t necessarily to win over the public or push for government regulations, it’s to keep sustained pressure on KFC, which it has dogged throughout the region.
“We don’t look at government standards, because they have proven to be ineffective. That’s why we push for corporate responsibility for international companies instead,” he said.
It was the first time in the country for the pair, although Chalabi said she had taken part in regional demonstrations.
“We’re hoping to raise awareness that the chickens brought here in buckets were tortured since the beginning of their lives,” she said.
Authorities from a nearby police station ended the protest by simply lifting the cage and escorting the duo to the station, where they were released after being told they needed permission to hold protests.
Neither KFC’s regional management in Cambodia nor the restaurant were notified ahead of the protest, said Jerome Benjamin, general manager of Kampuchea Food Corporation, the holding group for KFC nationally, although he did not seem overly concerned.
“The issue is something for the people to judge [for themselves],” Benjamin said. “There are a lot of things to protest in Cambodia.”
Inside the KFC, customer Chan Meas seemed amused.
“I’ll still eat chicken at KFC,” he said. “It is funny to see the protest, but it doesn’t carry much weight in Cambodia.”