A national animal rights group wants the city of Ham Lake to change its name to the more pig-positive "Yam Lake" and says it will help cover the cost of changing the city's signs if officials agree.

To sweeten the deal, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it would even send candied yams for the whole Anoka County city of 16,800 to enjoy.

"Pigs are smart, sensitive, wonderful individuals, so if we have a heart, we'll leave their legs alone and choose yams over hams," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA envisions a new 'Yam Lake' that promotes kindness and healthy eating."

Last week, Newkirk sent a letter to Ham Lake Mayor Mike Van Kirk proposing to change the city's name, which Anoka County commissioners gave it in the 1870s because of the adjacent lake they thought was shaped like a ham.

Newkirk also sent a photo of the lake southeast of Hwy. 65 and NE. Constance Boulevard, claiming it more closely resembles a tuber.

"When you think about it, Ham Lake looks more like a yam anyway, and yams are super-healthy foods high in fiber, potassium, manganese, and antioxidants — definitely something worth promoting," Newkirk wrote.

Yams, she added, "can boost brain health, reduce inflammation, and improve blood sugar control. They're extremely versatile, easy to prepare, and great to eat alone or include in both sweet and savory dishes."

There was no immediate word whether Van Kirk and city officials might entertain PETA's proposal. Calls and e-mails to the mayor seeking comment were not returned Tuesday.

But the idea of changing the city's name was met with laughter Tuesday by customers and employees at the Casey's convenience store at Bunker Lake Boulevard and Hwy. 65.

"It's silly," said Ham Lake resident Andrew Fuller. "Eating pork is not unhealthy."

Longtime resident Alysa Berry, 26, called the proposal bold and interesting — but amusing.

"I like Ham Lake the way it is," she said as she made pizza in the store's kitchen. "It's kind of funny that they will go to great lengths to do what they want."

Newkirk said she sent the letter on behalf of PETA's 6.5 million members and supporters of the nonprofit whose motto states that "animals are not ours to ... eat."

In her letter, Newkirk said many people have switched to meat-free diets because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because eating meats such as ham and bacon may cause cancer, high blood pressure and strokes.

She added: "Eating meat is an antiquated, dirty, and completely unnecessary habit. By renaming the town, you would seize a great opportunity to demonstrate how easy it is to change with the times."

She included in the letter one of PETA's primary objectives: to stop animal cruelty. She outlined the treatment pigs get while being raised and when sent to slaughter. They deserve to be treated better, Newkirk said.

"They're playful, affectionate, and sensitive, just like the dogs and cats who share our homes," she wrote.

PETA's Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said the organization contacted Van Kirk because it is always looking for ways to promote kindness to animals and to shed light on the meat industry's practices.

"We're also big fans of yams," Lange said.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768