Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hear no evil, see no evil...

...speak no evil! How anyone could do anything but coo and gibber over these whiskery charmers I have no idea, but the sad fact is that sea otters were once hunted hard in Alaskan waters, because of their fantastically thick fur. Alone amongst sea mammals (and far too many humans), they don't have any blubber, relying for warmth in the water on the denseness of their fur. That's also why when resting they float so appealingly on their backs, with their paws and tails held up out of the wet. Now they're protected and their numbers are well recovered: in fact, on this Wildlife Quest near Sitka, an optional excursion on our Silversea cruise, we saw far more than we could count, either rafted up in the kelp (mothers with babies on their chests - awwww) or singly in the open water.

I must say, having lived in England and despite having been a Master of Foxhounds' groom there, I was kind of shocked to see so many furs and pelts and mounted heads everywhere we went in Alaska and also in the Rockies in Canada. I couldn't help stroking and fondling them whenever I could, but even the seductive smooth softness of the furs didn't overcome my unease, and I really would have preferred the original owners to be still inside them. It was hard to imagine people wearing these coats and boots and hats as though it was just normal cold-weather gear and not some sort of anti-PETA statement.

But of course that's all it is, there. I overheard a woman in a fur shop in Ketchikan dithering over which beaver pelt to buy to make her next pair of moccasins; and in another one in Whistler (mink bag: just the $250) the assistant there, who was from Christchurch, politely said my attitude was "so 1970s" and that all their animals were humanely and sustainably trapped, or farmed, just like the lamb I ate.

Sheep don't live in cages, though...

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