Friday, November 1, 2013

Quoth the Raven.

Starting in mid October, people Halloween-ed their Twitter user names and profile photos. On a whim I chose the spooky alias: Edgar Allan Nan. It seemed obscure, so I changed out my usual avatar:


For this:


Initially, I didn't much about think it, beyond envying other twitter users whose names were much, much funnier.

That was until Anthony Bourdian weighed in on a Humane Society of the United States program called "Chefs for Seals." It is a pledge by famous chefs and two grocery chains (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's) to boycott Canadian seafood to protest the (completely lawful, totally humane, well-regulated) commercial seal hunt that occurs in the North Atlantic in the spring. That an entire  (completely lawful, totally humane, well-regulated) industry would be punished because a minority of participants also find seasonal employment with another (completely lawful, totally humane, well-regulated) industry beggars belief. I assume the chefs' goal is to put economic pressure on the Canadian fishing industry so the fisherman would turn on their countrymen and do the dirty work of lobbying the government to outlaw the seal hunt. However, Canadians are pretty sensitive to foreign pressure and meddling when it comes to the management of our natural resources. Instead the chefs were decried for their callowness and simplistic grasp of the issue.

The shortcomings of this neo-colonialist, smear campaign, spear-headed by a fashion-photographer who doubles as an animal rights activist (Nigel Barker) were quickly apparent. Most of the chefs stayed silent. A few attempted to weigh in on the debate. Cathal Armstrong -- who erroneously believes "baby seals" are hunted --  is sorry that the ban will hurt people, but says "I have to do what I believe is correct for me. For me, personally." He doesn't even appear to be chagrined about his self-absorption. Five pro-boycott tweets were authored by everyone's favourite foie gras hustler, Mario Batali. Then Food and Wine magazine distanced themselves from the organization. Several chefs dropped out (so far: Sean Brock, Daniel Patterson, Craig Deihl) and Curtis Stone back-pedalled.  Chef Michael Smith stood up against the boycott.

Just as things were getting heated, the Chefs for Seals' twitter account went silent.

As is my purview, I sent one or two (or 100) tweets about the issue. I pointed out lies spouted by the person manning the Chefs for Seals' twitter account. I challenged assumptions by seal hunt opponents. I linked to relevant news articles and government documents. I thanked chefs who stepped away from the campaign. I used the hashtag #supportcanadianseafood.

It took a few days before I realized that the tone and substance of my interactions with anti-seal hunt activists was very different from previous years. No one asked how I would feel if my babies were hunted for their pelts. [Clarification: my children are furless.] No one accused me of being unfeeling. [Clarification: I don't think this is an insult.] When I responded with requests for data or facts, I was not called names. Very few people (actually only one person -- a "comedian" from Los Angeles) sent me death porn photos of seals on the ice floes. More often, when I pointed out fallacies of arguments or stuck to the parameters of the current discussion, the anti-seal hunt contingent disengaged.

I suspect the difference between this round of the debate, versus previous years is all down to Edgar. A perusal of tweets opposing the seal hunt reveal that most proponents are:
                              - female,
                              - white,
                              - middle class, and
                              - urban.

My new avatar set me apart from them and they stayed away. It was not my intention to obfuscate my identity in order to explore the gender bias of the anti-seal hunt debate. It makes me feel slightly slimey (in the manner of Mario Batali after a foie gras binge), but more so I am amused.

Now Halloween is done. But I don't want to give up Edgar. He's been so illuminating. Maybe I'll keep him for a few more days. I'm sure Lenore would understand.