NEW YORK - Finally, someone is speaking up for the beleaguered rats of Pulau Tiga.
Eight demonstrators from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of them dressed in a giant rat suit, protested outside of a CBS office Friday because the contestants on ''Survivor'' roasted rats and ate them.
They protesters chanted, ''Rats have rights! Survive on veggies!''
''You have people who think it's fun to trap rats, cut off their legs, skin them and eat them,'' said RaeLeann Smith of PETA. ''There's nothing funny about that. It's disgusting.''
The rodent dining experience was a part of this week's episode of the adventure game show, which has been a big summer hit for CBS. More than 23 million people watched on Wednesday night.
Hungry contestants have also speared fish for food. Smith was angry that the ''Survivor'' cameras caught them laughing while the fish writhed in pain.
A CBS spokesman said ''Survivor'' participants were instructed not to harm creatures indigenous to the Pacific island, such as monkeys and lizards. The rats were invaders that came to Pulau Tiga from passing ships, Chris Ender said.
''We have tremendous regard for PETA and its cause,'' Ender said. ''However, we truly believe our viewers recognize that hunting and fishing as a means of sustenance has been acceptable since the dawn of time.''
PETA members across the country had urged the protest against CBS's ''archaic and barbaric promotion of animal cruelty,'' Smith said.
If some PETA members had been invited as contestants, they could have instructed the others on ways to find food without killing animals, she said.
''People need to think about rats as they would think about their cats and their dogs,'' she said. ''These rats may not be as cute and cuddly as a cat or a dog, but they certainly suffer the same.''