This Vegan KFC Protest Has The Internet Divided

To say vegans have a bad public image would be putting it mildly. The only group with a lower reputation than vegans was drug addicts, according to a study cited by Vox. Chef Anthony Bourdain famously equated vegans with terrorists in a New Yorker article, calling them a "Hezbollah-like splinter faction" of the vegetarians. One woman in Australia may not have helped vegans shed this negative image with her recent action at a KFC in Melbourne. Tash Peterson entered the restaurant wearing white clothes stained with fake blood and carrying a megaphone playing recorded animal screams, according to the Independent. For her coup de grâce, Peterson — known online as "vganbooty" — poured a bottle of fake blood on the floor and on the cashiers' counter before lecturing the greasy-fingered diners about their crimes against animals.

"The world's longest and largest holocaust in history is happening right now in the meat, dairy and egg industries," Peterson said during her protest, according to Newsweek. "If you're not vegan, you are an animal abuser," she added (via Independent). The stunt attracted international media attention, so Peterson deemed it successful. "I may have not changed any minds in that moment," she posted to Instagram, but "I have now reached hundreds of thousands, maybe millions via media attention." In the court of public opinion, represented by internet commenters, Peterson's dramatic act was both loved and hated.

Even some vegans disapproved of the KFC protest

The internet was divided over Peterson's vegan activism — pouring fake blood on the floor of an Australia KFC. Australian model Robyn Lawley supported the act. Totally Vegan Buzz reported on Lawley's Instagram post. "This would've taken some nerve! Mad respect for you Tash and the team involved," Lawley wrote. Another commenter quoted by the pro-vegan news site said, "Thank you for putting yourself out there for the animals. It takes so much courage and kindness to stand up and speak the truths." 

On the other hand, even some vegans took issue with Peterson's tactics. "I've been vegan for five years and I think activism is great, but this could deter people from being vegan and sends the wrong message about our image," a TikTok commenter quoted by Newsweek wrote. Other commenters were upset that low-wage KFC workers had to clean up Peterson's mess, but she posted images on Instagram showing her own group wiping the fake blood off the floor.

KFC hasn't commented to the media outlets reporting on Peterson's protest, but the chain does claim to have the welfare of its chickens in mind. Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, says on its website that it works with its own Animal Welfare Advisory Council to improve the health and well-being of the animals that wind up in KFC's buckets and sandwiches. And The Beet reported that vegans soon will be able to order vegan-friendly Beyond Meat fried chicken at KFC restaurants nationwide.