Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

PETA, out to pluck Denver, files appeal on McCruelty

"Not a peep," said spokeswoman Ann Williams when I asked last week if the Denver Department of Public Works had heard anything from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after the city declared that displaying PETA's "McCruelty," a 250-pound statue of a bloodied and bandaged chicken, would violate Denver's sign code. But yesterday, PETA started squawking and flapping its legal wings.

PETA's litigation counselor sent a letter to the Downtown Denver Business Partnership, appealing its initial decision not to consider an application to place the statue on the 16th Street Mall -- right by the McDonald's at Champa and 16th streets. The business organization, which runs the Business Improvement District that handles the mall, didn't even need to run the decision by the city, PETA charges, suggesting that there was a "star-chamber" conspiracy to keep McCruelty off the streets.

Denver is the first city where PETA has wanted to display McCruelty, and its attempt is causing plenty of ruffled feathers.

"PETA has learned through a request for public information that the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID) granted permission to a private company to display privately owned works of art on the 16th Street Mall without requiring a permit," PETA's Ashley Gonzalez says in a memo accompanying the legal appeal. "Additionally, Denver Public Works issued permits to numerous commercial sponsors, including Horizon Organic Milk, to place privately owned sculptures in public locations around the city."

In the last case, PETA is referring to the Cow Parade, which indeed placed corporate-supported cows around Denver -- and on the mall -- back in 2006.

Public Works has sent the matter on to the city attorney's office, which has not yet released a response. But one thing's certain: The chickens -- and the cows -- are coming home to roost.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun