FRESNO, Calif. In farm-rich Central California, administrators at one Fresno high school can't swallow the yearbook's picture of a chubby teenager spewing milk from his nose.
A team headed by Assistant Principal John Leal has ripped out the page of the Roosevelt High School yearbook that displays an ad warning readers, "If you knew how cows suffered, you'd spew."
The $250 ad was paid for by the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The ad directs students to PETA's anti-milk campaign Web site, www.MilkSucks.com, which shows cows held in pens full of excrement and lists a series of health problems the group argues are associated with milk consumption.
"The district was concerned that the yearbook was used as a political platform for a point of view that neither the district nor the school supported," Leal said on May 20. "We're in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. We have hundreds of dairies all around.
We're certainly not anti-milk."
Cattle and dairy is a $6 billion industry in California, and the state leads the nation in dairy production. In Tulare County, south of Fresno County, dairy generates almost $1 billion a year, making it the highest producing dairy county in California and perhaps the
nation, according to county Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Bill Appleby.
Local producers don't want PETA's no-dairy message anywhere near school cafeterias.
"Free speech underpins our republic, but some folks take advantage of it," said Michael Walsh, CEO of the Western United Dairymen trade group. "It is concerning that they've infiltrated our high schools and are attempting to spread their message of
terror there as well."
PETA officials aren't impressed.
"It is sad that any so-called educator would censor ideas that promote compassion and good health," said Bruce Friedrich, a national director with the group. He said he suspected kids would be even more interested in the message now that an authority figure has criticized it.
Leal said the student who sold the ad didn't know what PETA was and didn't understand the political message. About 300 yearbooks were distributed on May 19 still containing the full-page parody of the "Got Milk?" ads, but Leal and other school officials tore the ad out of the 400 yearbooks that were left.
Friedrich said the ad had been published in other yearbooks and school newspapers, and that reaction from the students had been positive.
The school took action after the Fresno Unified School District alerted administrators about concerns from the community, Leal said. The school will return $1,000 to businesses advertising on the back of the full-page PETA ad and $250 to PETA, Leal said.
At least one Roosevelt student said school administrators were crying over spilled milk.
"They're blowing the whole thing out of proportion," said Tamarra Daniels, a sophomore, who was sitting with her friend looking at the yearbook. "It's not like we're not going to drink milk."