People driving between Madras and Prineville on U.S. Highway 26 may soon see a new billboard, courtesy of the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It will feature a photo of a cow that appears to be thinking the following: “I’m ME, not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.”

The billboard will serve as a memorial of sorts to the 18 cows that perished earlier this month when a cattle-hauling truck crashed about six miles east of Madras. As PETA lamented in a Monday press release announcing the billboard, “More than a dozen gentle cows died after this trailer overturned.”

Unlike PETA, we can’t vouch for gentleness of the cattle involved. But it seems to us that the accident serves as a better argument for safe driving than it does for veganism.

But PETA is an opportunistic organization prone to clever publicity stunts, and it wasn’t about to let this tragedy go to waste. If a tanker of goldfish had gone belly up between Madras and Prineville, PETA surely would have erected a billboard featuring a fish saying, “My life is in your hands. Go vegan.” If the truck had been carrying sheep, the billboard would feature a sheared animal saying, “Looks like someone wants her coat back. Wool is for sheep, not humans.” And if it had been a Thanksgiving rig toting a load of turkeys, the billboard probably would feature a turkey with a dog’s head and read, “If you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a turkey?”

All of these billboards and more appear on PETA’s website.

By the way, this isn’t PETA’s first attempt to erect a memorial in Oregon to farm animals killed in a crash. Back in 2013, the organization proposed a statue in memory of the hundreds of chickens that died when a truck crashed and pitched them into a Salem Honda dealership. The meganugget installation reportedly would have weighed in at 250 pounds and depicted a scowling bird wielding crutches. Both the city of Salem and the Oregon Department of Transportation said “no,” however, as the statue, while perhaps raising awareness about chickens, would have served as a distraction and endangered humans.

The cow billboard stands a much better chance of materializing, at least if PETA can swing a deal with a billboard company. It was hard at work as of Monday, according to spokesperson Amber Canavan. We wish PETA luck. It’s a free country; veganism is a wonderful option for those who are interested in it, and the lucky billboard owner surely will appreciate the business.

And when PETA’s billboard contract expires — likely after a month, according to Canavan — people with alternative views should feel free to share them in similar fashion. There are many such people. Cattle and calves were Oregon’s second biggest agricultural commodity in 2016, with a combined value of about $700 million, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, milk — famously produced by cows — was worth a further $470 million. That’s a lot of moolah.

Given all of the livelihoods at stake, how about a billboard depicting a smiling cow saying, “You can’t spell MEAT without ME”?

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