2016-06-30
WASHINGTON, July 20 (RNS)-- Jesus may have been a vegetarian, but the Priests of the Sacred Heart have told an animal rights group to find another picture of him for their campaign to promote the ethical -- and biblical -- benefits of vegetarianism.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has pulled its popular "Jesus Was a Vegetarian" ad campaign after the 122-year-old religious order claimed ownership of the image of Jesus the animal rights group was using in its materials.

PETA, known for its outlandish efforts to promote animal rights, agreed to pull the campaign and is now looking for a "new Jesus to star in its ads."

The campaigns featured a devotional image of Jesus with a lemon slice halo around his head. The priests, who number about 130 in the United States, said they own the copyright to the image and want to keep it for devotional use.

"The image of the Sacred Heart has been tied to the Priests of the Sacred Heart for many years, and for those who have a devotion to the Sacred Heart, we would like to have it kept for use of the priests," said Mary Gorski, a spokeswoman for the order.

Gorski said the issue went beyond the "nitty gritty" aspects of copyright law, but declined to say whether PETA had cheapened the image by using Jesus to promote vegetarianism. "That's not our issue," she said.

PETA, in a statement, said some scholars believe Jesus was a member of a religious sect of vegetarians who rejected animal sacrifice. PETA said 9 billion animals are killed each year, "most eaten by Christians."

Bruce Friedrich, PETA's Vegetarian Campaign coordinator, said his organization will be back with new ads soon. "This campaign has been perhaps our most successful ever," Friedrich said. "We're simply asking that people extend compassion to all God's creatures by becoming vegetarians."

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