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Welcome to Sea Kitten High School

| January 8, 2009 10:00 PM

PETA suggests school district change name to protect fish — and stop flyfishing

By RICHARD HANNERS

Whitefish Pilot

Whitefish High School principal Kent Paulson received an unusual letter on Jan. 7 from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA, billed as “world’s largest animal rights organization,” with more than 2 million members, asked Paulson to consider changing the name of the school to Sea Kitten High School.

“In early October, PETA launched its Sea Kitten campaign, which suggests a name-change for fish as a way to promote empathy for them and other marine animals,” PETA assistant director Dan Shannon said. “Today, we’re proposing that Whitefish High School adopt a new name to reflect the gentle nature of its current marine namesake.”

David Perle, a spokesman at PETA’s Norfolk, Va., headquarters, notes that the suggestion is “tongue-in-cheek — which beats a hook in the mouth any day.” That’s something Whitefish flyfishermen can surely attest to.

Whitefish is a resort town popular with skiers, golfers and fishermen. Last July, the high school was a venue for the Federation of Fly Fishers’ 43rd annual International Fly Fishing Show and Conclave. PETA would clearly like to change that.

“Most parents would never dream of spending a family weekend torturing kittens, but hooking fish through their mouths and pulling them through the water is just as painful as hooking a cat’s mouth and dragging him or her behind a car,” Shannon said. “We’re hoping that this name change will encourage people young and old to start treating these gentle “kittens of the sea” with respect — and show them the kindness that they deserve.

PETA spokesman Pulin Modi said the idea of calling fish “sea kittens” came out of a meeting with other PETA staff last fall. He said they were aware that Whitefish was nowhere near the ocean and that kittens eat fish.

Information on PETA’s sea kittens program can be found online at www.peta.org/sea_kittens. Modi claims they get “tremendous feedback” from high school and college students, but much of the site looks like it’s geared for pre-schoolers, with suggested bedtime stories and cartoon characters.

“Sea kittens talk to each other through squeaks, squeals and other low-frequency sounds that humans can only hear through special instruments,” PETA’s sea kitten Web site states. “Most ichthyologists — scientists who specialize in sea kitten biology — agree that this is just about the cutest thing ever.”

Modi said PETA’s long-term goal is to protect animals by getting people to become vegetarians. He said the organization receives numerous requests from students who want to learn how to become a vegetarian.

“More fish are killed for food than all other animals combined,” he said.

A second high school received the name-change request letter from PETA, Modi said — Spearfish, S.D. In addition to the suffix “fish,” the two high schools share a little history — Dave Peters, the superintendent in Spearfish, was once superintendent here in Whitefish.

The Rapid City Journal received 48 comments soon after it posted PETA’s letter. While some noted that the name change might be a good fit for the school’s dismal football and basketball programs, others criticized the logic of the name change.

Several pointed out that Spearfish is nowhere near the ocean, and another noted that “kittens kill fish — shouldn’t they have picked something with fewer claws.” One reader wanted to know if PETA couldn’t find “bigger fish to fry.” But some defended PETA — in a way.

“I shouldn’t complain much since I agree with PETA’s attempt to stop eating fish,” one person said. “Then people would eat more beef.”

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