NEW YORK, NEW YORK — On Wednesday, October 19th, PETA supporters overtook the front steps of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) demanding an end to the exhibit, “Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World.” PETA claimed in a recent press release that the exhibit, which is scheduled to remain open until January 2, 2017, holds crocodiles captive in inhumane conditions and encourages visitors to support the exotic animal skin trade.
Just hours before the museum’s 23rd Annual Family Party fundraiser, masses of museum-goers stopped and stared as two PETA supporters in crocodile masks and business attire, along with other PETA protesters, held picket signs reading “STOP EXPLOITING CROCODILES,” and, “LIVE CROC EXHIBITS: CRUEL AND UNNATURAL.” On the sidewalk area in front of the masked protesters, an open laptop displayed footage of the cruel conditions of crocodile farming condoned by the exhibit, alongside a small-scale crocodile replica.
John Di Leonardo, President of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, Anthrozoologist, and PETA protest organizer, explained that PETA has documented investigations “from the U.S. all the way to Zimbabwe” about the crocodile farms used to capture and breed the animals of such exhibits as AMNH’s “Crocs.” In all of the farms under investigation, Di Leonardo says, “these animals are slaughtered while they’re fully conscious.” The exhibit, Di Leonardo says, “entirely [glosses] over this cruel industry” instead employing “use it or lose it terminology” to justify the sale and consumption of crocodile skin.
Larry Trepel, a local cartoonist and 30-year PETA member, felt it both fitting and disappointing to be protesting the exotic animal skin trade after joining PETA during the 1980’s fur movement. Although surprised to see such little progress in the capitalization of animal skin/fur for commercial use, Trepel had an optimistic outlook on the day’s protest. “Children are going to be the change in these kinds of things,” said Trepel, reflecting on the many young museum-goers passing by the protest.
The shock value of the display, which has become a character element of the association’s public protests and advertisements, surely drew special attention from its target audience, as the costumed croc protesters caught expected rubbernecking from children. While parents ushered little ones in and out of the museum to attend the Family Party, protesters handed them informational pamphlets about the harsh conditions of animal captivity and the exotic animal skin trade.
However, Daysi Michel, Venezuelan psychologist, biochemist, and 7-year PETA member, found a certain hostility from parents towards the protests. “A few minutes ago I tried to give this flier to a child, and the child was very happy to find something to read about the animals,” said Michel, “but the family said, ‘No, you have to give it back.’”
As always, PETA is not letting early signs of backlash or apathy steal their spark. In fact, Di Leonardo thinks that the city’s progressive demographics will be apt to oppose such injustices going forward. “It’s shocking that [AMNH would] be so out of step with New York City public,” says Di Leonardo.
PETA’s voice will remain prominent throughout New York City in coming weeks. PETA members of Wednesday’s protest were already voicing their excitement to rally outside of City Hall on Thursday for the court hearing of a bill proposal banning the performance of exotic animals in New York City circuses.