.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hamburger Giant Checkers Faces Threat of Legal Action as the Result of Its Cat-in-a-Bag Promotion

"If you are knowingly trying to put a domestic cat into a paper bag, it's patently ridiculous."
-- Marti Ryan, Hillsborough County Animal Services

Hamburger giant Checkers will do almost anything for a lousy buck. It is bad enough that it traffics in the sale of the flesh of cows, chickens, and fish, but it has gone too far with its patently cruel and abusive cat-in-a-bag promotion.

The ill-advised promotional stunt began last fall when the Tampa-based company transformed its paper sacks into feline wearing apparel. Information printed on the outside of them instructs customers on how to cut out holes for the paws and tail and then to back their cats into the bags. (See photo above.)

The bags are designed in such a manner as to resemble the basketball jersey and gold chain worn by a puppet named Rap Cat who appears in Checkers' commercials.

Once they have their cats inside, customers are urged to either photograph or videotape them wearing the paper sacks and then to send copies to Checkers. It is not clear if they receive any remuneration or prizes for their submissions.

What is clear, however, is that the hamburger chain is selling a considerable amount of Rap Cat merchandise. For instance, both a Rap Cat puppet and an album entitled Look What I Dragged In, which was released on November 14, 2005, are currently sold out. T-shirts, baseball caps, cologne, tire rims, and an energy drink are also peddled for a pretty penny. Rap Cat's latest album, Eight Lives Left, which was just released on February 19th, is also for sell as well as a book entitled I, Rap Cat.

Music videos and commercials can be viewed on the website, www.rap-cat.com, and there is a fan club that customers can join. Wallpaper can be downloaded and soon cell phone ringtones also will be available.

Although the promotional campaign so far has been highly successful, animal rights activists in Tampa are not amused to say the least. "If you are knowingly trying to put a domestic cat into a paper bag, it's patently ridiculous," Marti Ryan of Hillsborough County Animal Services told Tampa's Fox-13 TV on February 20th. (See "'Cat-in-a-Bag' Battle Could Wind Up in Court.")

Outrage over the promotion has led to the prospect that both cat owners and Checkers could be prosecuted for animal cruelty. There is even talk that the Hillsborough County Attorney may seek an injunction against Checkers in order to get it to cancel the promotion.

Although the paper sacks do contain a warning against endangering the well-being of cats, this has not appeased Ryan. "At issue here is the idea that you're asking a pet to do something against its will and forcing it into a bag," she said.

Whereas it is not uncommon for some cat owners to dress up their felines in various costumes for photo opportunities, this is perhaps the first time that a major business has so callously exploited and endangered the lives of so many domestic pets for monetary gain. A few docile cats might not object too strenuously to being treated in such a cavalier manner, but most felines will undoubtedly resist such cruel treatment.

It is after all difficult enough to get flea collars on some cats, let alone trying to stuff them into paper sacks. A video on Fox-13's website provides a pretty good idea of just how stressful this undertaking is for cats. In the video, one cat is shown being roughly handled while another one is pictured struggling to walk while its tiny body is encapsulated in a paper sack.

Quite obviously, treating a cat in this manner is both frightening and stressful for the animal. Moreover, it breeds distrust between cats and their caretakers and is bound to cause other problems as well.

The fact that Checkers would so nakedly exploit cats demonstrates not only that it places a low value on feline health and safety but that it also is lacking in bon sens. Its lust for profits at any cost has quite obviously addled the senses of its bigwigs in management.

Founded in Mobile in 1986, Checkers has more than eight-hundred restaurants nationwide. In fact, it claims to be the largest chain of double drive-thru restaurants. (See photo above.) It is therefore certainly not hurting for shekels.

Moreover, it is also difficult to understand how any conscientious cat owner could force a cat into wearing a paper sack. Cats are valued family members; not objects of cheap commercial exploitation and abuse.

Officials in Tampa are to be commended for voicing their disapproval at Checkers. They should tell the restaurant in no uncertain terms to either stop encouraging cruelty to cats or face legal action. It can still have its Rap Cat promotion so long as it drops the cat-in-a-bag portion of it. There are far better ways for it to peddle its burgers and fries than by endangering the welfare of cats.

Photos: Fox-13 TV (bag) and Checkers (restaurant).