Tardar Sauce, better known as Grumpy Cat, is drawing huge crowds at South by Southwest. But the arrangement — the cat is stationed in Mashable's tent while hundreds of gawkers file by — is making some people queasy. Mike Isaac of AllThingsD finds the whole thing deeply disturbing. "I'm not cool with it," he writes. "If I were a grumpy cat, the absolute last place I'd want to be is stuck in the middle of a 24-hour party for days on end, where throngs of drunk partygoers waited for a chance to take a picture with me."
"Free Grumpy Cat," he demands.
She certainly doesn't look pleased. But PETA campaign specialist Ashley Byrne says there's nothing to be alarmed about, at least for now. "Grumpy Cat is now receiving visitors only two hours a day," she says. Once PETA learned the specifics — from now on, visitors can only take photographs, the event is divided into one-hour intervals, Tardar's owners are keeping a close eye on her — it cleared the event.
"It's important that very few people are allowed to handle him," says Byrne, adding that "the most important thing is to be sensitive to the individual needs of the cat."
"They don't relish being handled," she says.
Grumpy Cat's owners, Bryan and Tabatha Bundesen, told ABC News, "a lot of people think we are exploiting the cat, we limit her exposure greatly. Ninety-nine percent of the time she is just a regular cat. She is not front of the camera at all times, she is a normal house cat and we love her." They've also made a donation to a local animal shelter on Tardar's behalf.
PETA's formal presence at SXSW is centered around a less ambiguous form of animal suffering. The organization will set up a video booth at E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Congress Avenue at 4PM today and tomorrow. "It's a large screen playing a 60-second video of images from behind the scenes of a factory farm, and standard practices in the meat egg and dairy industry, which are common and gruesome," says Byrne.
PETA is offering visitors who make it through the video, called "60 seconds in hell," a free vegan cookie.