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PETA Pulls "Got Beer" Ads

An animal-rights group on Thursday pulled its “Got Beer?” promotional campaign, which was aimed at getting college students to avoid milk but brewed criticism that it encouraged underage drinking.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the campaign unveiled on college campuses this week was meant to be a fun, irreverent way to focus attention on its beef with milk. The Norfolk-based group contends milk cows and their calves suffer on factory farms and that the fat and cholesterol in milk make drinking beer look healthy by comparison.

PETA said it halted the campaign because of Mothers Against Drunk Driving concern that the parody of the dairy industry's “Got Milk?” ads encouraged underage drinking. Many college students are under the legal drinking age of 21.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that PETA's efforts come at a time when the percentage of college students going on drinking binges stayed pretty much the same through the 1990s and the percentage of frequent bingers actually increased.

“MADD got their message out; we got our message out,” said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegetarian campaign coordinator. “Our goal was always to raise awareness about the suffering of cows and their calves, and we've certainly done that.”

PETA will give MADD $500 collected from employees and include a link to MADD on its Web site as goodwill gestures. PETA also will take a different approach, using an ad showing a calf. The ad, modeled after the pictures of missing children seen on the backs of milk cartons, will start appearing on campus telephone poles and grocery bags next month.

“As spring break and St. Patrick's Day is upon us, we hope we helped save lives and prevented injuries due to underage drinking and impaired driving by speaking out against the campaign,” said Tresa Hardt, spokeswoman for Irving, Texas-based MADD.

MADD, Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley and the presidents of Virginia's four-year colleges and universities wrote letters asking PETA to discontinue the campaign.

“Their 'Got Beer?' campaign really sent the wrong message,” said Earley, who led a statewide task force on drinking by college students after binge drinking killed five Virginia undergraduates in 1997. “We didn't want to take a step backward. I'm pleased they're going to try to get their message out another way.”

For the campaign, PETA had asked the 2,000-plus students who belong to its college activist network to place articles and letters about the issue in their campus newspapers. PETA also gave away beer bottle-shaped bottle openers that say, “Drink responsibly. Don't drink milk.” and “Save a cow's life.”

As wod spread, PETA received 11,000 requests for the bottle opener but only had 1,000 on hand. PETA's Web site received 41,000 visitors within 36 hours and more than 1,500 new students joined its college activists network, Friedrich said.

Susan Ruland, a spokeswoman for the dairy industry's "Got Milk?" and milk mustache campaigns, called PETA's parody "ridiculous on so many levels. It's kind of amusing."

Cows produce more and better milk if they are treated well, so it would not make economic sense for dairy farmers to mistreat the animals, she said.

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