Here’s a little cautionary tale about address lists, careless protesters and cut-and-paste outrage.
Over the past few days, The Telegram has received hundreds upon hundreds of seal hunt emails from animal rights activists, headlined “Stop the Seal Slaughter.”
That, in itself, is not unusual. Year after year, we steel ourselves for an onslaught of such emails, usually stage-managed by a series of animal rights organizations and their websites.
But this time, there’s a problem — the protesters actually want to get their message to an Australian businessman named Hatem Yavuz and the messages are supposed to go directly to Mr. Yavuz’s email address. Yavuz is described as the “largest seal slaughterer tycoon,” and material in the email campaign says “Mr. Yavuz laughs very proudly that women call him a ‘disgrace’ for what he does by killing baby seals to keep his multi-million-dollar empire going, but he does not care … he ‘loves what he does’ for a living.”
The emails all read like this:
“Dear Mr. Hatem Yavuz,
“i am disgusted to learn about your involvement in the massacre of helpless Cape fur seals in Namibia. The fur industry is a sick, bloody industry that should disappear forever. It does not belong in a modern, civilized society. The butchering of defenseless Cape fur seals, including tens of thousands of nursing pups, is a heinous atrocity.
“There is no excuse for this. I hope that you will cease operations of this kind — with or without a buyout.
“As an experienced entrepreneur, you have infinite options for profiting from ethical businesses. Please, turn over a new leaf today.”
What’s interesting about them is that the emails are word-for-word identical, right down to the lower case “i” in the first sentence, suggesting their concerned authors don’t even read what they’re signing. Not only that, the emails are clearly being sent to a mailing list that was put together to send emails protesting the Canadian seal hunt, even though the hunt that’s being protested — at least in this campaign — is taking place in Namibia, some 10,000 kilometres away from here.
Now, you might not doubt that those who send the legions of emails have at least some passing concern about hunting seals for fur, both here and in Namibia.
But what you can doubt is just how much real knowledge they have about sealing and the seal-processing industry.
And that engenders a more difficult question: how much weight should we give to such campaigns, given that they take so little effort and thought?
And what kind of weight should politicians give them, even when they are properly directed?
In the end, it’s a campaign that highlights not how much people care about the issue, but how little effort they put into publicly establishing their opposition to it.