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James Cromwell and PETA want pigs out of our Peeps

James Cromwell and Anna Stuart standing on either side of a costumed pig mascot holding a sign reading "I Love PETA"
Actors Anna Stuart and James Cromwell attend PETA’s 35th Anniversary Party in Los Angeles in 2015
Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images for PETA (Getty Images)

The 1995 film Babe was a formative piece of pop culture for many—who among us hasn’t fondly gazed down at our own pet to whisper, “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do”?—but perhaps for no one as much as the film’s lead human actor, James Cromwell, who notably became a vegan as a result of his work on the film about a gallant pig and the farmer who saves him from becoming breakfast. For the last 25 years, Cromwell has collaborated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on a number of campaigns; just last year, the then-79-year-old actor was arrested during a PETA protest of a Texas A&M laboratory’s dog testing practices. Today, according to a press release sent to The Takeout by PETA, Cromwell has sent a letter to Just Born, maker of Marshmallow Peeps, urging the company to consider a switch to vegan gelatin in its treats, ending its use of animal products.

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Peeps are primarily made of sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin, and gelatin is made from the connective tissues of horses, pigs, and cows. Just Born recently announced that there will be no Peeps for Halloween or Christmas this year, nor any Valentine’s Day hearts next February, because coronavirus-related production delays mean that the company is focusing entirely on getting ready for Easter 2021. This is, seemingly, the perfect moment for PETA to get its message out there loud and clear.

“Demand for vegan food is at an all-time high, and it would be easy to replace gelatin in Peeps with a vegan ingredient such as Geltor’s vegan gelatin when full production resumes,” writes Cromwell in his letter to Just Born president and COO David L. Yale. “Making this switch would broaden your product’s appeal, opening up a whole new market while losing none of its taste.”

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We’ll spare you the brief but gory details of pig slaughter that Cromwell includes in his letter, but suffice it to say that it’s a description designed to leave a lasting impression. Instead, we’ll present you with this rather charming passage, and one that might be just as effective in convincing people that a plant-based diet is the right move for them:

I had the privilege and pleasure of learning a lot about pigs when I starred in the movie Babe. The intelligence and inquisitive personality of these highly social animals were a constant delight. They possess a remarkable capacity for love, joy, and sorrow... Replacing gelatin from pigs with vegan gelatin would allow the company to honor its past while moving forward into the future.

Cromwell also points out that “the world is in turmoil” and, as a result, “we can’t allow our small pleasures to disappear.” He is, in other words, rooting for the continued existence of Peeps. Meanwhile, the Peeps website explains why it uses gelatin in rather straightforward terms: We use pork derived gelatin in our PEEPS® marshmallow to achieve a light, soft texture. Gelatin allows us to incorporate small finely divided bubbles allowing you to bite through the marshmallow cleanly with a creamy mouth feel.”

I must admit, I’m curious to see how a cruelty-free version would taste. Would it lose any of its springiness as a result of the switch to vegan gelatin? And if so, is it even possible to make Peeps any more divisive than they already are?

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Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Thanks Marnie.

Now I have a craving for Bacon Flavored Peeps.