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I Was a Victim of Vegan Profiling, Your Honor

TicketI plan to tell a traffic-court judge that I was a victim of “vegan profiling.” I’m not sure yet when I’ll have to appear in court, but when I do, I’ll argue that I was pulled over because of a bumper sticker that I have on my car.

The incident happened earlier this afternoon on a main thoroughfare along the Connecticut shoreline. I’d exited I-95 on my way to a work colleague’s house and noticed the cruiser in an adjacent lane as I merged into traffic. When he pulled behind me, I signaled and pulled into the other lane, only to watch him follow suit. Then, when I turned off the main road and onto a side street, he did the same, turning on his red and blue lights.

I eased into a parking lot, turned off my car’s engine, and ran through a mental checklist of things that could make the situation decidedly worse. I haven’t had a drink in years, so I didn’t need to worry about a DUI arrest, and there was no weed in the car, so I didn’t need to worry about that.

“Is there a problem officer?” I asked, my general lack of concern unintentionally making me sound like a smug TV character.

If I had a broken tail light, I thought, the officer will let me know, tell me to get it fixed, and send me on my way.

When he asked for my license, insurance card, and registration, I inexplicably handed him a credit card — perhaps because I’d just used it at a local FedEx storefront where I was charged $40 for one color copy of a 20-page 11-by-17-inch document.

“That’s not your license,” the officer pointed out.

“Sorry,” I said, taking my credit card and handing him my driver’s license, along with my insurance card and my registration.

“When I ran your plates, nothing came up,” he told me, before walking back to his cruiser.

And that’s when I started thinking about why he’d decided to run my plates. I’d been driving the speed limit and using my turn signals. He couldn’t have seen that my windshield is cracked, nor could my general appearance have raised his suspicion.

When he arrived back at my driver’s-side window, the officer told me that my registration had expired, which honestly came as no surprise. He asked if I’d received a renewal notice in the mail, which I hadn’t, and he suggested that I check the “I choose to plead not guilty” box on the ticket he handed me.

As long as I renew my registration before my court appearance, he said, the judge will probably reduce the fine. And that’s something I’ll definitely take care of.

“I could tow your car,” he told me, pointing out that he wasn’t going to do that.

“Thank you,” I said, sincerely, not daring to ask why he’d chosen to run my plates in the first place. I’ll ask the judge why I was signaled out.

“Could it be that I was pulled over for ‘driving while compassionate’?” I’ll ask pointedly.

And I’ll be armed with all sorts of evidence of institutionalized discrimination against animal-rights advocates.

“The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state adaptations thereof, ag-gag laws, and now this!” I’ll exclaim dramatically, asking rhetorically, “Where does it end, Your Honor? Where does it end?”

If the police officer who pulled me over isn’t in the courtroom, I figure, he won’t be able to deny that he signaled me out for being, in his mind, some sort of bunny-hugging extremist.

“Why didn’t the officer pull over the asshole in front of me, whose pickup truck boasted numerous stickers drawing attention to his enthusiasm for hunting?” I’ll ask the judge. “Why didn’t the officer say to himself: ‘This looks like one violent son of a bitch. I’d better check him out’?”

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