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February 22, 2010

Save the Seals — Boycott Maple Syrup

Ad-track-levitra2 There's nothing I love more than celebrities lending their names to wackadoodle things. OK, I do love some things more than that. Like mashed potatoes and slip-on shoes. But when famous folks sign on to a cause or a product, the results can be painful. And hilarious. Like Kathy Lee Gifford shilling for K-Mart, Mike Ditka pitching Levitra or Chuck Norris door-knocking for Mike Huckabee.

Now, with the Olympics in full swing, our nation's best athletes have their turn at trading in their integrity for some greenbacks. Snowboarding's wet dream Gretchen Bleiler is hawking Visa credit cards, soul-patchy Apolo Ohno's face is plastered on the side of an Alaska Air Boeing 737, and just about every American Olympian has traded his or her soul for McDonald's, which is trying to fool people into believing that elite athletes gobble up Chicken McNuggets and Filets-O-Fish every night at their training tables.

22135_1353807046061_1257961954_1021951_1678940_n One of the more unusual endorsements popping up during the Winter Games comes from one of our own. Golden girl Hannah Teter, who nabbed a silver medal in the women's halfpipe and already has a Ben & Jerry's signature flavor, has come out against seal clubbing. According to animal rights rabble rousers PETA, those nasty Canucks are killing baby seals by the score for their pelts. And Teets, who recently posed for Sports Illustrated in her underoos, ain't into it. So she's telling the Canads to suck it. Even though they gave her some sweet sterling hardware.

The cleverly named PETA campaign, Save the Seals, seeks to bring shame to the government of Canada during their shining moment — the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now Teets is in on the clubbing. Of Canada. She joins a pile of other fameballs like Perez Hilton, Kelly Osbourne and Brody Jenner, who have already endorsed the cause by agreeing to wear a T-shirt featuring a cute baby seal in a photo.

600HannahTeter Good for Hannah, making her voice heard on an important issue. But there might be a more nefarious reason for her endorsement. See, PETA wants everyone to boycott Canadian maple syrup to show their disgust for Canada and its cruel, cruel ways. (That'll definitely make them stop.) Hannah Teter has her own brand of Vermont maple syrup called Hannah's Gold, the proceeds of which go to benefit a village in Kenya. Stay with me here.

If people choose to buy American maple syrup instead of stuff from up north because they hate seal clubbing, Vermont, being the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S., stands to gain big-style-y. And by extension, so too does Hannah's charity. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Yeah, I'm talking about a conspiracy.  Call it the Hannah Teter Seal/Syrup Shadiness.

No attempts were made to get a comment from Teter on this issue. However, attempts were made to watch this video of Teets' photo shoot, but were ultimately scuttled due to my inability to see animals getting beaned by men in orange slickers. FYI, check out Hannah's silky bloomers. Nice.

The method of the kill is pretty barbaric. But if the guys who do it are working on subsistence, is Hannah willing to give them her money?

My friend Benjamin grew up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. There is a modest seal hunting industry in Nunavut as well as seal hunting being an important part of the indigenous culture. They made a concerted effort to show the recent G7 summit finance ministers how important the seal hunt is to Canadian culture and economy when they met in Iqaluit this year.

What Benjamin and most Canadian don't get is why people around the world vilify the seal hunt above and beyond the hunting and killing of other animals (except maybe dolphins and whales). Why is it okay for the world to treat chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, and myriads other species so horrifically but everyone gets so worked up about the seals, specifically.

I am a mostly vegetarian person, striving for full vegetarianism for ethical reasons. I don't think we should be torturing and eating other animals for our pleasure. However, I have to say that I totally see Benjamin (and the Canadian government's point). The seal industry is an easy target because seals, especially seal pups, are un-frigging-believably cute. If seals were slimy and had tentacles and exoskeletons and creepy pincers, nobody would ever talk about this.

I applaud any organized, logical effort to move communities away from animal cruelty. But yanking the sealing industry away from Canadian communities who need that export income and food source to survive just because seals are cute and you have a visceral reaction to seeing them clubbed seems really shortsighted and unfair. What happens when the bans are in place? They get to die of poverty and alcoholism while rich Americans and Europeans smugly retire their fluffy seal pup t-shirts?

Canadians have been dealing with this issue for years - mainly with celebrities who are from, or live in, the US.

I saw how angry they got at Paul McCartney (British) and Pamela Anderson (Canadian/American) when they spoke out against the seal hunt. I believe they decided to boycott McCartney - maybe we'll have a double boycott.

They rankle at the idea of Americans dictating morality to THEM.

"They get to die of poverty and alcoholism while rich Americans and Europeans smugly retire their fluffy seal pup t-shirts?"

And, in the case of at least one high-profile, johnny-come-lately protester, sell her body to Sports Illustrated!

Oh, well.

There are plenty of poor people surviving by killing elephants for their ivory, rhinoceroses for their horns, cats and dogs for their fur, etc. etc. Anybody want to say that their industries shouldn't be "yanked away?" Call me cruel, but I think it's high time for those people to figure out something else to do. If they can't and they all croak, I can't say I'd be shedding too many tears. Karma's a bitch.

I think all animals are "un-frigging-believably cute" (even those with tentacles and creepy pincers) and I don't eat any of 'em. Still, I think that if you're going to kill something or someone, you should do it as quickly and painlessly as possible. I don't know about you, but bashing the shit out of a living creature with a club and skinning them while they're still breathing (in front of their family, mind you) doesn't fall into that category for me.

Diane, I commend your passion but you have entirely missed the point of my post. You did, however, rather neatly illustrate the ethical and cultural supremacism of Americans and Western Europeans who like to point fingers from the comfort of their socio-economic stability and declare, "Hey you there, little foreign person. What you're doing is wrong - don't you read bumper stickers? Knock it off or we'll devastate you. Your people have lived this way for thousands of years and you have no formal education and no other way of surviving? Well, boo hoo. Your way of life offends me so you'll just have to figure something out."

The point is not that barbaric animal killing is okay. It's that stopping the practice is not as simple telling them to halt. You have to fund training programs to get them started on another way of life. Everyone wants to wear a cute seal shirt, nobody wants to take on the hard work of reorienting these communities to sustainable, cruelty-free alternatives.

And by the way, there is no killing of BABY seals since 20 years now. :-)

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