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THEME PARK BUGS OUT OF ROACH MUNCH MAGIC MOUNTAIN: OFFICIALS DENY PETA INFLUENCED INSECT DECISION.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro

Staff Writer

VALENCIA -- Cockroaches will be off the menu at Magic Mountain this Halloween.

The Six Flags California theme park had previously offered patrons a chance to munch on live, 3-inch-long Madagascar hissing cockroaches as a promotional stunt for Halloween Fright Fest. Those who took the challenge were rewarded with trips to the front of long lines or promotional T-shirts and hats.

Animal-rights activists protested, saying cockroaches have feelings, too. They took credit for the park's recent decision to abandon the promotion, but company officials say they simply have moved on to other gimmicks.

"The cockroach stunt has been a big hit with guests at all of our parks including Magic Mountain, but as you know, Halloween is big business in L.A., so for Magic Mountain we made the decision to shake things up a bit and do something different," said Sandra Daniels, vice president of communications.

The promotional event, which began in 2006, bugged animal-rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which described the roaches as intriguing animals that, like other insects, value their lives and are important to the ecosystem.

"We are very pleased," PETA spokeswoman Kristie Phelps said. "What we want people to know is that cockroaches might be given a bad rap in society, but they do not deserve to be eaten and used as a gratuitous marketing gimmick."

In 2006, Magic Mountain customers clamored to take up the challenge, describing the six-legged treats as "mushy," tasting of "sour milk" and "nasty."

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are large, wingless African insects with an unusual ability to produce sound. They also have elaborate courtship behaviors and can live up to five years.

At the time, park officials said the bugs were raised for consumption and had been hand-fed a nutritious source of protein.

Phelps said the decision not to bug out this year came after PETA began contacting parks officials within the past two months, urging them to abandon the contest at Magic Mountain and other amusement parks that had done it.

But Daniels said the Magic Mountain decision had nothing to do with PETA, and other parks are still working on their 2008 Fright Fest plans.

"The cockroach stunt may indeed come back at other parks, but if we opt not to include (it) as part of our Fright Fest entertainment package, it will not be because of PETA," Daniels said.

In any case, to express thanks, PETA said it sent a box of vegan chocolate treats shaped like roaches to a spokeswoman at Magic Mountain.

"We want the parks to know that we appreciate the fact that they are no longer potentially causing insects to suffer and feel pain," Phelps said. "We feel that encouraging teens to cause pain and death to even smaller forms of life can desensitize them to the suffering of others."

karen.maeshiro@dailynews.com

661-476-4586

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Photo:

Denise Ramos is shown eating a cockroach at Magic Mountain's Fright Fest in 2006. Park officials are taking the 3-inch-long Madagascar hissing cockroaches off the menu for this Halloween.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 14, 2008
Words:514
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