Penn is working to identify those responsible for hanging hundreds of “Missing Cow” posters — which some have criticized for appearing to mock posters of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas — on campus Thursday morning.
The posters were seen in many locations around campus, including at high rise field, 1920 Commons, Class of 1949 Bridge, and on light poles and benches along Locust Walk, Chestnut Street, and Walnut Street, according to witnesses.
Each poster includes a photo of a cow silhouette with “Beef Dinner” written on it, offers a reward of “a box of chalk and a can of beer” for finding the missing cow. An email, email@example.com, is included at the bottom of the poster.
The design of the “Missing Cow” posters appear to resemble the “Kidnapped” posters displaying the names and faces of people who are being held hostage by Hamas terrorists. The “kidnapped” posters, created by Israeli artists Nitzan Mintz and Dede Bandaid, are part of a campaign called Kidnapped From Israel. Penn community members have hung up similar posters since the start of the war, and videos have circulated on social media of individuals taking them down — both at Penn and cities and campuses across the United States.
“Penn Public Safety is actively working to identify the individuals responsible for hanging crude, deplorable posters on campus," a University spokesperson wrote.
The posters were immediately removed, and the University plans to take disciplinary action in accordance with university policies.
Department of Psychiatry professor and Director of Penn’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research for Nicotine Addiction Robert Schnoll told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he saw the posters when he ran through campus at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning.
“These signs were everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of them, on every building and on every railing across the 38th Street bridge, on the public art along Locust Walk, the Ben Franklin Statue, and so forth,” Schnoll said.
Schnoll also said that — when he returned to Locust Walk at 8:40 a.m — all of the signs were removed except for a few, and he saw three students putting the signs back up. While Schnoll said he attempted to confront the students about the perceived offensive nature of the signs, the three students “ran off” and entered Gutmann College House.
Schnoll told the DP that he found the posters to be “insensitive and cruel” because they make fun of an ongoing tragedy that involve serious abuse and violence against innocent people.
A post by StopAntisemitism on X accused the series of posters of “mocking kidnapped Israelis and comparing hostage victims to cows.” The post also condemned President Liz Magill’s leadership for allegedly allowing “Jew hatred” to occur at the University.
In response to a request for comment, firstname.lastname@example.org apologized for the formatting of the poster, saying that the poster was not intended to be antisemitic and was “a joke to promote veganism.”
“The format of the poster was an unintentional mistake that we now realize could be misconstrued,” the email read.
The email concluded by condemning the kidnapping of Israelis by Hamas and reiterated that the posters "did not mean to allude to that situation.”
Members of The Anonymous for the Voiceless — which describes itself as an animal rights organization that specializes in educating the public on animal exploitation — were seen on campus the same day that the posters appeared. In a statement to the DP, AV Philadelphia co-organizer Dominique Ruszala said that the organization was not associated with the signs.
Animal rights advocates have been criticized in the past for comparing meat-eating and slaughter of livestock to the Holocaust, such as the "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2003.
Other cut-out posters shaped as cows were placed around campus and hung on telephone poles, reading “Beef Dinner.” A large piece of cloth reading “How’s the cow” was placed on the bridge on 38th Street.
Penn’s Poster Policy states that posters should be restricted to kiosks, and “mounting of posters or use of paint on walls, sidewalks, trees, benches, or other surfaces not intended for posting is prohibited.”