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On the Edge of Common Sense


Years ago the movie “BABE” was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture. It was very popular and made a lot of money. It stars a pig named Babe. A gilt to be more specific... a feeder pig maybe weighin’ 80-100 lbs. But it was a cute pig. It talked, of course, was kind and brave. And to top it off, it did heroic deeds and yet maintained a sensitivity that would make the Pope blush.

All this anthropomorphism, giving a pig human qualities, is necessary if movie makers expect an audience to relate to the hero. It made me wonder if the movie, BABE had a deleterious effect on the price of pork. I made a couple calls but the Pork Producers were non-committal. They had an up market this spring. But I would not have been surprised if it had. The sheep and veal people have known for years that it is hard to convince the public to eat something cute.

Rabbit raisers are careful to avoid any advertising including the words BunnyBurger or BBQ’d Bunny Ribs or Bunny on a Grill. Even in the frozen north they’ve never developed a market for the Baby Seal Club Sandwich. Australians have never had trouble eating lamb, mostly because they’re so numerous over there they are thought of more often as ants or road kill. Yet in my three trips ‘Down Under’ I saw no Koala Kabobs. Too cute.

The Chinese seem to eat anything under the sun from thousand year-old eggs to objects that crawl on the sea floor but I’ve never heard of a Panda Patty.

The reverse is also true... that it is easier to eat something less cuddly. That may be part of the success of the chicken business. In books, movies and stories, chickens are seldom portrayed in flattering roles. They’re usually stupid or pompous, i.e. Foghorn Leghorn, Chicken Little, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Even the Little Red Hen turns out to be a Republican.

The eel is another good example. The oyster, the goat, fish in general, most reptiles and the Spotted Owl in certain parts of the country.

But I do suspect the Pork Producers were worried about their business while BABE was showing in thousands of theaters to hundreds of thousands of young impressionable kids. Had to be. I know French restauranteurs worried when the BLACK STALLION was showing.

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