Livestock on a leash is just one of the unexpected sights you can see at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
While commonly misidentified as a llama, the protester identified as Shay is actually an alpaca on a cross-country journey to spread its pro-local foods and farming message.
The alpaca has been popping up in pictures and videos on social media as he is spotted by various visitors. The Philly city government and police department announced on Twitter proudly that they had confirmed the animal was actually an alpaca.
Chanting “Hill no DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary” outside delegate entrance. “Shay” the llama protests silently. pic.twitter.com/B2ATtzEOaj
— Greg Krieg (@GregJKrieg) July 26, 2016
— City of Philadelphia (@PhiladelphiaGov) July 27, 2016
The Phila. Police Department takes great pride in being able to easily identify all members of the Camelidae Family. https://t.co/6VKLJCamOP
— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) July 27, 2016
— Sam Newhouse (@news_haus) July 29, 2016
It turns out that the man with the alpaca is a farming activist who has visited cities around the U.S. with Shay the Alpaca to raise awareness about food issues and farming culture.
Ethan Abbott, known as Ethan the Farmer, runs “Just Us Riders,” an activist organization opposed to corporate culture, and has been spotted in cities including Chicago and Cleveland.
Why is he in Philly during the DNC? To keep spreading his pro-local food message, he said.
“To take back our farms, food, families and freedom,” Abbot said while leading Shay around the fence outside the DNC near FDR Park where protesters were gathered. “When corporations get involved in our farms, food, families and government, we’ve got a problem … We the people aren’t being heard.”
Abbot, a Strasburg, Pennsylvania native, is on a 4,500 plus mile voyage “from sea to shining sea” to raise awareness, with visits to local farmers and community gardens planned along the way.
Abbot said he trained Shay to follow him and deal with large crowds. She symbolizes his mission, and also attracts interest that helps him spread his message, he said.
“Look how calm she is,” he said. “I don’t need a sign, because they all come talk to me.”