Thursday, May 28, 2009

The National Post has a sense of humour

After Michaƫlle Jean's controversial seal heart eating shennanigans (which, in my opinion, was awesome on several levels) and Europe's heart-stopping horror, and all this being in the wake of the EU's seal product ban, the National Post has demonstrated an understanding of satire. NP blogger Matt Gurney today wrote part one of a (implicitly) series on the horrors committed by Europeans for the sake of cuisine. The first harmless, helpless creature? The snail.
    These helpless creatures' defences have proven no match for the cruelty of man. For thousands of years, they have been hunted and subjected to bizarre tortures before being consumed as a delicacy by heartless and out-of-touch Europeans.

I was as surprised as you and my officemates were to find this delightful bit right of the National Post's yellow banner, but there you have it. If we can expect more of the same from Mr. Gurney, I'll finally have more reason to read the Post than idle wondering about what the right-wingers are saying about things.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stop Banning Baby Seals!

So the EU wants Canadians to stop cruelty to animals -- well, the cute ones, anyway.

The EU has banned seal products, in a sense. They can still be imported and even sold, just not promoted or advertised. Basically, Europeans who want some sweet sealskin or delicious healthy seal oil now need to whisper discreetly to the shopkeeper and take their purchase home in a brown paper bag. The reasons for condemning the seal hunt are about as obvious as it gets: baby seals are freaking adorable.

Condemning the death of adorable animals is about as uncontroversial a statement as you can make (usually), roughly on par with declaring that you are in favour of world peace or fewer reality TV shows. This is probably why so many celebrities oppose the "seal slaughter".

However, the reasons for supporting the Atlantic seal hunt are rather more complex. Canada's 2007 export of seal products was worth about $13M, a small but nevertheless significant amount. An estimated five to six thousand people are to some degree employed in sealing during the season. Some say that the bans are really unnecessary and that a free market should decide the seal hunt's fate. But with its bad press, well, the fate of this industry does not look good. Imagine this:
JANE: Hey, I love your jacket.
SUE: Thanks, it is made from dead baby seals!
Sue may as well hang a dead puppy around her neck. (Also, Jane and Sue are speaking Norwegian since 80% of sealskin goes to Norway.)

Opponents of the seal hunt need to ask themselves exactly what makes the seals so special, other than the fact that they are cute. A (slew of studies) found clubbing to be the most effective way of rendering seals dead, or at least brain dead. The seal population is anything but endangered, with caps being set on how many seals can be caught each year (actual numbers often fall quite short of these caps). No one is issuing a ban on the live boiling of lobsters, a more ugly and delicious source of meat. Most non-Muslims couldn't care less about the cause of death of their hamburger, at least when there are no mad cow scares going around. And if people had decided that the fact that chickens running around after their heads are cut off was indicative of severe pain and cruelty, there would be quite a hole in the fast food industry. Hell, it looks like all these celebrities and Europeans care more about baby seals than, say, waterborded US war prisoners or Tamils caught between terrorists and government armies.

The biggest proponents of the seal hunt ban are, of course, the folks at PETA. For those of you who are unaware, PETA is the organization that tries to convince people that cruelty to animals is wrong because hot naked girls think it is wrong, and also think that using human breast milk as an alternative to cow's milk is more humane. The sophists over at PETA have invested significantly less energy in saving lobsters and political prisoners.

The people in parliament want the Canadian Olympic Team to incorporate sealskin into their uniforms to help the cause. Opponents say that this will unnecessarily politicize the games. Superficially, sure, it is a political statement. But really, while it might be controversial to those who can't see past a whitecoat's big dark eyes, is it really any more "political" than any athlete wearing or using his or her country's trademark products? To anyone who thinks logically, it's about as inhumane as serving maple syrup.