Friday, October 14, 2011

It's recycling day at DOH!

OK, I figure if Mark Steyn can do this, so can we--posting old pieces, that is (there, the comparison ends). This column first appeared in the now (sadly) defunct news magazine Alberta Report (also known as B.C. Report, or Western Report, depending on which province you received it in) way back in 2002. Some things never change. Others change for the worse. I am struck by the innocent naïveté we had a decade ago, in such things as thinking that violence and anarchy at demonstrations were unusual; now they are de rigueur. The conclusion also suffers from the delusion that reason and dignity should (and can) prevail in debates. If you believe that, then I have a Wall Street Occupation to sell you. 

Original title: People are focussing on the nudity--who'd have thought?

Many accounts of courage and inspiration have emerged from New York City in the last several months, but this one takes the... cheesecake. What’s more, this story has not only a Canadian, but a Saskatchewan connection.

Not long ago, I read in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix (Feb. 28/02 edition) about how Erin Ruel, an 18-year-old Saskatoon woman, walked around downtown New York clad only in  black panties, kitten ears and “strategically placed black spots” (body paint). She did this on behalf of  --who else-- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who were staging a  protest against an exotic animal trainer’s scheduled TV appearance on Good Morning America.

At the center of the controversy was Jack Hanna, director of the Columbus Zoo and host of his own wild animal TV series. Mr. Hanna also makes guest appearances on other television programs and   --brace yourself for the horror-- actually shows animals to the studio audience.  PETA claims this sort of depraved behaviour puts animals under “enormous stress” from the hot studio lights and “loud alien environments” (as opposed to, say, being pursued and eaten by a predator in a steamy jungle or on a scorching savannah).

So to help save animals from such a fate, Ms. Ruel decided to brave the New York winter weather in the near-buff. However, the Star Phoenix news photo of  Ms. Ruel did not show her strategically painted breasts, since she was holding up a sign which read: “Ban Hanna:” (I presume this website is a PETA information site, and not an online dating service for animal-rights protesters who like to dress up as large carnivorous predators). Ms. Ruel disagreed with the suggestion that perhaps it was she who was being exploited, citing that no one told her to take off her clothes. She volunteered for the job because she felt the cause was important, adding, “It’s a really great way to get people to give attention to what you’re doing.” 

Her mother, Patti Cram of Prince Albert, SK, was reportedly  “proud of her daughter,” as quoted in the Star Phoenix:  “She’s being true to herself. What parent doesn’t want their kid to be true to themself?” What parent, indeed.  “Unfortunately...” Ms. Cram continued, seemingly perplexed, “people are focussing on the nudity and not on the issue.” As if Ms. Ruel doffed her clothing and painted her nipples black for any other reason than to be focussed on. If you believe people would see a naked woman on the street and not focus on her nudity, you probably also know a lot of men who buy Playboy for the articles.

Even PETA spokesman Andrew Butler could barely contain himself on the subject, saying that  Ms. Ruel looked “stunning” and “incredible” in her panties and paint job. He’d described the nubile teen as the “sultry Leopard Lady” in his press release, knowing perhaps that few reporters would have shown up had he billed Ms. Ruel as a ‘serious-minded PETA intern who was being true to herself,’  or dressed her as a three-toed sloth and given her anti-Jack Hanna trading cards to hand out to New Yorkers.

Titillation and degradation have long been effective marketing tools: the only real surprise is that it took PETA this long to get in on the action. PETA in particular is prone to employing pretty wacky stunts, and animal-rights groups in general are usually keen on anything that exalts the mental health of animals above the legitimate interests, livelihoods, and even human dignity of people. (I wonder, incidentally, if anyone asked PETA whether or not it was ethical to impersonate a human-leopard clone --this being beneath the dignity of cats-- and how it might affect the fragile psyches of young felines worldwide, especially those which had recently been tortured under hot studio lights.)

The protest was considered a success, so it remains to be seen what PETA will try next. Perhaps a live sex show to symbolize man’s raping and pillaging of nature. That would certainly get lots of attention, and all that would matter is that the participants did it of their own free will, and really, really believed in what they were doing. As long as the cause is “worthy” (i.e. politically correct) enough, it seems the end justifies the means (how else could we see such luminaries as professional Canadian Maud Barlowe endorse anarchy and violence at economic summits?).

If, as Marshall McCluhan’s saying goes, “The medium is the message,”  what precisely were  PETA and Ms. Ruel trying to say? In her own words: “It was cold and a little...embarrassing, but ... not a lot compared to the stress that they [sic] baby animals go through when they’re taken on TV shows.”  I’m more inclined to think the message is this: “We don’t value modesty, prudence,  common senses, nor even human dignity; therefore, please help us keep parrots and wild kittens away from television studios.” I find this illogical, if not absurd. What’s disturbing is that so many people take stuff like this seriously.

In pursuing various causes, postmodern man has sunk to employing mindless slogans, sensationalism, degradation, and even violence. He prides himself on his integrity and courage, when he ought to feel ashamed for being so foolish and intellectually barren. Once we’ve  lost our  capacity to participate in rational debate and maintain basic human decency in the process, we are far more to be ridiculed or pitied than lauded for our heroism.


  1. I wish you'd go to Wall Street and cover that for us. There must be a million little stories like this among the denizens of the Flea Party.

  2. Recycling helps the earth because it could save animals, it could save birds, puppies and all kinds of them. A lot of the animals that recycling helps to save are the ocean animals. There are a lot of animals in the ocean that mistake trash for food. They're eating things that we could be recycling. Check out this video:

  3. That's the moral of this whole piece! Everyone loves puppies. And ocean animals.