As protests go, this one wasn't much: Three vegans affiliated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) standing outside a Winter Park Burger King on April 22. Two held a crudely scripted banner reading "Go Veg!" The third passed out free Burger King sandwiches to folks in the drive-through lane at lunch -- odd behavior for a group that just last year blasted the fast-food giant for animal cruelty.
"It is slightly unsettling," says Bryan Wilson, erecting the banner on the sidewalk. "Burger King is doing us a greater service than we could ever do."
What has changed is the addition of the BK veggie sandwich. The patty is packed with mayonnaise and comes on a bun that, despite vegetarians' original hopes, isn't all whole wheat and actually has some dairy in it.
So it's not really vegan. But it's a start. "We're not going to bash them for not being 100 percent," Wilson says.
The sandwich brought mixed reactions. One 40-ish woman in a Suzuki SUV decidedly liked hers: "It's about time somebody did this," she says. Most pass on it altogether. Jeff Morgia, the store's manager, says they're "popular" but won't specify how many he sells.
"Burger King's not being cooperative," says PETA activist Andrew Mason, who had to buy the half-dozen sandwiches that he's giving away to promote the burger giant. "When PETA wants to promote [the sandwich], they sometimes won't let PETA promote it on the property."
"PETA did that on their own," says Morgia. "We had nothing to do with it. They just showed up and started doing it." In fact, PETA did it at 18 locations across the country to commemorate Earth Day.
Morgia wasn't exactly thrilled. About 10 minutes into the event, he rushed out of the restaurant and chatted with the sign-holder, who pointed him toward Mason, who had bought the burgers moments earlier, and a reporter, both of whom stood in the drive-through line.
"Are you in charge of these people?" Morgia asks.
No, the reporter replies.
"Are you giving free vegetarian sandwiches away?"
No, says the reporter again.
Looking flustered, Morgia turns and walks away.