A pleasant vegan dinner, a lovely view of the woods—just try to forget you’re dining in the house where one of America's most notorious serial killers dismembered his first victim.
In its latest crazy bid to keep the issue of animal cruelty in the public eye, PETA has declared it wants to buy the 1950s mid-century modern ranch-style house in suburban Akron, Ohio—where Jeffrey Dahmer lived from ages eight to 18—and turn it into a vegan-only restaurant.
“Now that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home in Akron is up for sale, PETA has sent a letter of enquiry to the real-estate agent handling the property, Richard Lubinski, expressing the group’s interest in opening a vegan restaurant on the site,” the group said in a press release. “PETA points out that murderous actions such as Dahmer’s—from binding victims’ limbs, drugging and dismembering them, refrigerating parts of their bodies, and eating them—are still carried out on other living beings who happen not to be human and that one way to turn evil into good would be to convert the home into a vegan restaurant if a zoning variance can be had.”
PETA would call the restaurant Eat for Life: Home Cooking. Although the group links from its website to a new logo for the restaurant, it’s clearly a cheap ploy for some kind of illusion of legitimacy: Copyright credits show the image has been lifted from iStock, and it looks like the whole thing was probably whipped up in about 15 minutes by an otherwise bored graphic designer.
That’s not all to suggest PETA’s move is more stunt than serious (well, duh). Dahmer’s old home, which is on the market for $295,000 and has been bought and sold at least three times since his arrest and subsequent murder in prison in the 1990s, sits on a wooded lot surrounded by...other homes on wooded lots—not exactly the prime location for a restaurant.
And at just over 2,100 square feet, the three-bedroom, three-bath with “a pond and lovely flower garden,” according to one listing, is pretty small digs for a commercial eatery. Using an industry rule of thumb, allocating about 60 percent for dining space and 15 square feet per customer for a sit-down restaurant leaves a measly 20 tables or so. Never mind that zoning variance.
This isn’t the first time PETA has sought to link Dahmer’s heinous and demented crimes to “the violence inherent in the production of meat, eggs, and milk,” to quote the group's letter to Lubinski, the real estate agent. In 1991, less than a month after Dahmer’s arrest, PETA tried to run an ad in The Des Moines Register comparing his killing spree to what goes on at your average slaughterhouse. The newspaper refused to publish it.
Of course, this is the same group that has likened the American Kennel Club to the KKK (for its insistence on pure bloodlines), launched a semi-pornographic (some say sexist) campaign to encourage vegetarianism, and tried to convince the public to associate factory farms with Nazi death camps. Pitching a vegan restaurant in the boyhood home of a serial killer almost seems tame by comparison.
For its part, PETA has always defended its beyond-the-pale publicity stunts. “The fact is that in this tabloid era, the media usually do not consider the facts alone interesting enough to cover,” the group says on its website. “Colorful and controversial gimmicks, however—such as jumping on stage at a fashion show to protest a designer’s promotion of fur—consistently grab headlines, bringing the animal rights message to audiences around the world. Experience has taught us that provocation and controversial campaigns make the difference between allowing important yet depressing subjects to remain invisible and exposing them to the public.”
But do those tactics change public opinion? According to Gallup, while fewer Americans today consider medical testing on animals morally acceptable (56 percent in 2013 versus 65 percent in 2001), 59 percent have no objection to buying and wearing clothes made from animal fur and just 5 percent say they’re vegetarians—numbers that haven’t really budged in more than a decade.