Don't fling the fish, says PETA

Published online: Jan 20, 2012 News Trade Only Today
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Whenever I need a few laughs to brighten up a day when the fishing is slow and the sky is overcast, I just think about PETA. You remember them - the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - the group noted for wanting all fish to be renamed "sea kittens?"

Perhaps I'm just more sensitive to PETA than others. I once got a letter, as manager of the Cleveland Boat Show, telling me I should immediately cease hiring the famous "Twiggy, the Water Skiing Squirrel" to appear at the show. "Squirrels don't like water," the letter read, "and obviously this squirrel is not being treated well!" It was signed by a lady with the dubious title of "Case Worker for Animals in Entertainment."

I must admit it made me think. Let's see: Twiggy swims like a fish - so much for the water claim. Moreover, her contract says she only skis if her special pool is comfortably heated to about 80 degrees. In addition, she must have at least two hours to rest and play between shows. She travels and has the run of her own 40-foot Class A motor home. She sleeps in a hat of her choosing. She dines on oatmeal that must be sprinkled with sugar and designer nuts. Yup, I concluded, there was a nut in this alright, and it wasn't Twiggy!

Which leads me to my latest laugh - PETA's letter condemning the popular Mullet Toss competition at the 13th annual Mullet Smoke-Off fundraiser for community improvements on Terra Ceia Island near Bradenton, Fla. Tampa Bay Times reporter Jeff Klinkenberg recently noted PETA vice president Trace Reiman wrote: "If it would be wrong to make a game out of tossing dead kittens or puppies into a toilet, then it's wrong to do it with fish. Terra Ceia could easily toss horseshoes, bean bags or bounce balls instead of the bodies of animals pulled from their homes and suffocated."

The response by the organizers: Let the mullet fly! After all, Terra Ceia Island (Pop. 1,000) is where the mullet has been celebrated for generations. In fact, the mullet is celebrated at festivals all over Florida. Why, Terra Ceia babies "cut their teeth on juicy mullet filets rather than Zweibacks," wrote Klinkenberg.

Mullet are honored with T-shirts, cook-offs, dinners and competitions, like this mullet toss that tests a competitor's strength and accuracy flinging the little slimy beauties. There are various targets from 25 feet to 45 feet away. The toilet is farthest out and landing your mullet in it gets 100 points. Said one competitor: "I never practice. It's better that you just drink some beer and go out there!" His name is Read Heath and he's reportedly the best "fish flinger" in west-central Florida.

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