PETA interns' barefaced support of animal rights

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 3, 2009; 11:36 PM

The PETA interns have beautiful skin and lovely teeth. They have shiny hair and the buzzy energy that comes, they'd say, from avoiding animal products and animal byproducts, and from the peaceful belief that through their work, you can be helped, too.

This self-assured knowledge is useful when the PETA interns are naked, which happens occasionally, like at a recent Friday demonstration when Kelsey Jaye stands with another "PETA Beauty" in a makeshift shower on Pennsylvania Avenue by the National Archives. They languidly wash each other with cruelty-free soap and ignore heckles from the gathering crowd.

"Can I get in?" a guy wants to know. (A guy always wants to know.)

"Gotta be veee-gan!" one of the Beauties sings in a sparkly voice.

"Is the water cold?" another man asks. Jaye smiles beatifically, striking a glam pose inside the short, opaque curtain, which reads, Clean your conscience: 1 lb meat = 2,463 gallons of water.

He's so skeezy. All the men here are so skeezy, snapping pictures with their cellphones, pretending to read the literature given to them by Line Moeller, another PETA intern who is wearing a teeny terry cloth robe. "I'm just . . . interested . . . in what they're . . . saying," says the man who wants the water to be cold. He stares slack-jawed at Jaye and her shower mate, who are saying nothing. (Unknown to the men, the Beauties are wearing panties.)

Jaye is used to this. These things happen when you are a PETA intern.

Other passersby decline the fliers, which outline the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Or take the fliers but rush past, as if they're afraid of catching something. A woman in a business suit waits on the corner for the light to change, holding the hand of her toddler son. "Mommy?" he asks, confused.

"These people are crazy," she says. "It's just those crazy PETA people."

Using 'your body as a tool'

The PETA interns, current Washington division, are Jaye, Ryan Moore and Brittany Wortham.

They're new in town. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was founded in Rockville in 1980, but relocated to Norfolk in the mid-'90s. In April, the organization reopened a local office, and began hosting interns in June. Some, like Jaye, Moore and Wortham, are stationed here for weeks at a time. Others, like Moeller, come up from Norfolk occasionally, for a particular event. All go through an extensive application process.

The ones in Washington stay in a sleek, donated U Street rowhouse with dorm-style beds. There is a corresponding house in Norfolk. The interns spend their days doing the things that most interns in Washington spend their days doing -- envelope stuffing, office work -- as well as the things that most interns in Washington don't, like dressing up as bloody seals and writhing on the street in front of the Canadian Embassy.

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