May 27, 2009

Bleeding hearts?

This is Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean, doing as the Romans do.

In case you can't make it out, she's taking a great, big bite of raw seal heart up in Nunavut. Ever since she devoured this bit of fine dining the other day, the media--and the public--has been divided along its usual fault lines, some calling her gutsy and determined, others calling her disgusting and cruel. PETA, of course, has jumped on this bandwagon with a call to boycott Canadian maple syrup. Ho-hum.

Anyway, talk of seal hunts and boycotts reminds me of the dung beetle.

In Africa last year, we saw signs everywhere declaring the lowly, stinky dung beetle has the right of way. So endangered and so crucial to its environment, the dung beetle has the power to stop cars and skitter across the road, rolling its catch of the day along. If you've never seen a dung beetle, it's both creepy and fascinating--big, with a shiny back, and creepy-crawly legs that propel it along. Fascinatingly gross.

However, in all the time we were there, I did not see one dang PETA person holding a dung beetle sign. In fact, I don't even know if PETA gives a crap (ha!) for dung beetles at all. Because, you see, them things is UGLY. And creepy. They don't tug at the heart strings or make you want to reach out and pet them.

Unlike seals, of course.

Now, I'm not saying I'd be able to stomach watching poor baby seals being clubbed to death. I don't even think I could make it dry-eyed through a round of slaughterhouse cow killings, even thought I take my steak medium-rare, thank you very much.

But cuteness is not a criteria for animal protection. The best example I can think of is watching Heather Mills on the news, lying on a ice floe, reaching out to pet a cute, cuddly, furry baby seal. Who just about ripped her hand off.

In life, as in advertising, we tend to focus on the wrong things for the wrong reasons. You can beat the seal drum all you want, and boycott stuff till the cows come home, but that dung beetle still needs to shovel a whole lot of other people's shit if the world's going to work out right.


  1. During the three months we've been in Canada I've been riveted by the various TV channels that cover Parliament, and the seal debate (and the European ban) in particular. It is just such a peculiar juxtaposition of political forces and ancient traditions that I am fascinated.

    And I think you should go to Cafe Press and create an "DON'T ROLL YOUR OWN...SAVE THE DUNG BEETLE" line of clothing and coffee mugs. Stat.

  2. Oh, I think you're on to something there, Jake...

  3. Years ago at the Fine Food show in Toronto I tried some seal sausages. They were black, and not very tasty. It was a booth dedicated to showing what they were preparing as "Canadian" food that they would present to the Queen when she was here on a visit. Fiddlehead soup I could handle, but the seal had a fishy-mammaly aftertaste.Go figure.