PETA's New, Friendlier Image? Dancing On Graves!

After the 9/11 terrorist attack, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told reporters that it was altering its tactics because the “in-your-face” style of protests wouldn’t be as effective. And, amazingly, not a small number of newspapers bought that nonsense and ran stories about PETA’s new profile. And this weekend, PETA’s less offensive approach including sending a woman to literally dance on the grave of one of PETA’s enemies, the late circus trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams.

Gebel-Williams died a year ago and to mark the one year anniversary of his death, PETA sent Rachelle Thorne, 20, to his grave site dressed in a devil costume. Thorne planned to dance on the circus pioneer’s grave. (Thorne also gave her name as Jessica L. Smith to police).

Thorne was accompanied by PETA spokeswoman Brandi Valladolid who told reporters that Gebel-Williams was “a bully who made a fast buck on the bloodied backs of animals.”

Gebel-Williams’ families got wind of the planned protest and alerted police. They took Thorne into custody while Valladolid split before the arrest took place.

Thorne remained in jail overnight and Valladolid told The Florida Herald Tribune that it was the policy of PETA not to bail out its protesters when arrested. That, of course, is a lie, since PETA has on several occasions bailed out arrested protesters, including an incident a few years ago when it bailed out individuals accused of arson at a PETA protests.

Ringling Bros. issued a press release saying,

It’s shameful that our critics feel that they should desecrate the resting place of a man beloved by millions who ushered in the era of respect for all animals. According to a press release issued yesterday, PETA sent a protester dressed as a devil to dance on the rave of animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, who passed away one year ago today.

While police managed to stop Thorne/Smith from dancing on Gebel-Williams grave, such outrageous protests do help to drive yet another nail in the coffin of the animal rights movement. For a brief second, PETA seemed to recognize this after the 9/11 attack but has apparently concluded that even horrible publicity like this is better than no publicity at all. Lets hope they keep up that policy.


Protest at Gebel-Williams grave foiled. Sun and Weekly Herald (Florida), July 21, 2002.

Devil picks a hot day for grave dancing. Bill Hutchinson, Herald Tribune (Florida), July 20, 2002.

Ringling Bros. Responds to Extremists’ Latest Antics. Ringling Bros., Press Release, July 19, 2002.

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