"The copy they wanted to put up was offensive," said Bobby Soule, vice president of Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Soule said he has accepted PETA ads in the past.
PETA had hoped that the billboard, which is part of a larger campaign aimed at promoting the pro-vegetarian message the group claims is found in Hebrew and Christian scripture, would encourage Christians to "exemplify the Savior's teachings of mercy and peace by going vegetarian."
Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach, said PETA targeted North Carolina and Iowa in particular because the two states have the highest number of slaughterhouses in the country. A small billboard company agreed to sell space on its billboards outside Wilmington for the PETA ad, but other than that, the ad won't be appearing on billboards in North Carolina.
"Today's factory farms and slaughterhouses are the embodiment of violence, bloodshed and exploitation," says Friedrich. "Christians can extend the message "God is love' to animals by not eating them."
On its JesusVeg.com website, PETA insists that the Bible confirms that Jesus was a vegetarian and that the miracle of the loaves and fishes didn't actually involve fish, but was merely symbolic and that he opposed the sacrifice of animals in the temple.
Last week, PETA sent a press release to local media complaining that the companies had refused its ad. It's difficult to tell whether PETA was truly outraged by the billboard companies' refusal to run their ad or if the whole thing was a stunt to get free publicity. PETA couldn't have tried too terribly hard to put up billboards in Charlotte since the group never contacted Adams Outdoor Advertising, Charlotte's largest billboard advertiser with over 1,700 billboards in the Charlotte area.
Tony Cioffi, sales manager for Adams, said he has put PETA ads on local billboards in the past. Friedrich said the group might have missed some local billboard companies because it tried to book its ad with national billboard companies it found online.