Monday, 14 July 2008

Perfect skin

From today's Indy: Smythson's are selling luxury gifts made from the skin of rare lizards, which are allegedly often skinned alive. And their creative director, often credited with revitalising the brand, is....?


The Bristol Blogger said...

That'd be Samantha Sheffield or Mrs David Cameron as she's called these days.

Do I win a prize?

The Bristol Blogger said...

That'd be Samantha Sheffield or Mrs David Cameron as she's called these days.

Do I win a prize?

Jay said...

I should imagine that a doughnut is winging its way to you...

Was that the point of the blog post - in order that someone would oblige and show David Cameron's wife in a supposedly poor light?

Have you been taking lessons from Action on Smoking and Health?

Kerry said...

Seeing as it refers to her in the (linked) Indy article, no prize - and no subterfuge on my part.

The point of the blog post was the same as the point of the Indy article - to highlight that something is 'supposedly' going on that shouldn't be. Are you suggesting she shouldn't come under scrutiny as to how she earns a living? Try telling that to Cherie Blair.

Mr Potarto said...

Why shouldn't it be going on? How is this any different from any other leather goods company?

The Independent article is fatuous. It makes two claims up front and then disproves them in the main text.

It accuses Smythson of "selling luxury gifts bound with the skins of rare lizards" and then admits "...although they are not threatened with extinction..."

If describes the skinning as "barbaric" and says "the animals are often skinned alive", but then quotes their expert as saying, "The hunters will then cut their heads off and skin them. In most cases they are alive when they are skinned."

If the head has been removed, anything that subsequently happens to it's body is not barbaric - the lizard's brain will not be able to feel it. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of biology can see that while this may be gruesome, it does not cause the animal suffering.

Jay said...

I'm not sure, Kerry, whether the something going on that shouldn't be refers to the use of the lizards to make bags or to Samantha Cameron's involvement in the company.

If it's the former, then I agree with the previous comment: it's not illegal and it's nonsensical to assert that the animal is skinned alive after being decapitated or that it suffers: without the connection between the brain and the nerve endings in the body there can be no pain. Would I buy one? No, because satisfaction of a woman's 'vanity' doesn't seem to me to be a good enough reason for an animal being killed. Do I think that no-one should be able to buy one? No because it's a matter of personal morality.

If it's the latter, I don't think that it's anyone's business what David Cameron's wife does for a living unless it impinges on his position as a public servant which working for a leather goods firm doesn't. Cherie Blair's field, on the other hand, is one with obvious political impact. This might not have mattered if Mrs Blair had not taken such a keen interest in the workings of government - and had she not had such a talent for rubbing the electorate up the wrong way(although, of course, it was a respected colleague who called for her to resign her position because her memoirs called the profession into disrepute).

I think that it can safely be said that Gordon Brown enjoys even less popularity than Tony Blair yet Sarah Brown never seems to be the focus of negative attention. Perhaps this is because she has the sense to keep her nose out of her husband's affairs.

Mrs Blogs said...

Cameron has already used his family to connect to the electorate.

He has also connected 'personal responsibility' as contributing to the wider social, cultural and moral milieu.

What kind of wider moral contribution does marketing a product made out of lizard skin make to our culture?

What kind of a nudge does this give to our morality?

Kerry said...

Satisfaction of "a woman's vanity?" I think men use business card holders too!

Cherie Blair got criticised for everything, not just work-related stuff.

I don't think it's just vegetarians who would see the idea of skinning rare lizards(and something can be rare without being on the verge of extinction) while their hearts are still beating (even if they can't feel any pain) to make exorbitantly-priced luxury goods as pretty abhorrent. And I suspect Smythsons know that most people would think that, otherwise why would they keep the products secret? Why do people need these things? Answer - they don't. So why not just leave the lizards alone?

As has been said, Samantha Cameron is a key component of 'brand Cameron' - friends with Tricky, tattoo on her ankle, designer handbags, interviews in glossy fashion magazines, etc, etc. Her supposed 'cool' factor is used to offset DC's toff credentials - although of course she's actually the daughter of a baronet, stepdaughter of a viscount, etc, etc. So, in response to Qs raised - I think it's valid to raise the issue of whether these goods should be on sale in the first place, and valid to raise her role in it.

Mr Potarto said...

Yes, it's valid to raise the question of whether these goods should be on sale, and the answer is clearly a resounding, YES.

First the skinning issue. Why do you think their heart is still beating? Once the connection between the brain and the heart is broken, the heart stops. If they continue to move at all, it is simply a reflex. Presumably you would be OK if they left the lizard lying in the dirt for a couple of minutes until it stopped moving, but as the animal is dead, I can't see the difference.

Second, the issue of rarity. I've looked at the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Red List of 41,000 species that are critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or near threatened and these three don't appear either using their common or Latin names.

Let's not forget that Smythson have permits for the trade in these animals and they got these permits from a UK Government agency. I would expect that if they really are rare or threatened then your Government wouldn't be issuing permits to trade them.

You appear to be using this story as a stick to beat the Camerons without first checking any of the facts. Surely you've learnt not to believe everything you read in the papers!

Mrs Blogs said...

Lopping the head off a lizard rare or otherwise simply to provide a vanity and status symbol is symptomatic of a set of values which wants to commodify everything and set ethical questions aside. It also displays an arrogant attitude toward the natural world.

It is unsurprising that a Tory would be involved in a company engaging in such behaviour.

Jay said...

Why is it unsurprising that a Tory would be found to be involved in such a company?

Jay said...

Kerry, my reference to ‘woman’s vanity’ was made in response to my asking the question of whether I, personally, would buy a product. I am a woman.

If Cherie Blair attracted criticism for ‘everything’ then that was because she invited it. I don’t accept that she was a pathetic soul wrongly maligned by ruthless and insensitive media hacks intent on her character assassination.

Did anyone suggest that only vegetarians would find the practice abhorrent? I’m not vegetarian and I would not endorse it by buying a product for the reason that I gave above. Perhaps the difference is that I wouldn’t demand that I impose my personal view on others.

I completely fail to understand why it matters a jot whether the lizard’s heart is still beating.

"Why would Smythsons keep their products secret?" Are they? Might it be the case that the goods are so expensive that there is such a small clientele that it makes more business sense not to incur the costs of including the products in a general brochure?

Brand Cameron? I’m not aware of Samantha Cameron being used as a marketing tool – I obviously, unlike yourself, don’t read the right magazines. And what is it with New Labour and ‘toffs’ – this coming from an MP of a Party which the working class of this country believes has utterly betrayed them. If New Labour hates 'toffs' then it's even more reprehensible than I've thought, given that it's spent the last 11 years trying to woo the Tory voter.

Does New Labour just hate everybody?

Mrs Blogs said...

I know, all those who disagree with this practice of swaddling products in lizard skin, let's all boycott Smythsons!

Chris Gale said...

I agree about how appalling this use of lizards and their cruel butchery to make this stuff is.

Cherie Blair is another thing altogether though. She never cared a jot for animals and as soon as she had left Downing St the already rich Mrs Blair stabbed the Labour party in the back by making money with tell all gossip which was serialised in the Tory press.

On another issue it would be good to have your comments on Kerry, the government has shamefully just backed China over ivory sales which is the most appalling of decision, condemned by animal welfare groups.

Joan Ruddock and the Prime Minister have ultimate responsibility for this disgrace.

It seems that once again the sentient creatures with which we share this planet are to be slaughtered on the altar of global economics and not upsetting one country or another, in this case the Chinese.

Is it any wonder that decent, compassionate people are deserting our party in droves? By just how big a margin does the party want to lose the next election?

Ms Ruddock can explain to our children why she did nothing to stop elephants being butchered to extinction but in fact actively made it happen.

I note New Zealand and Australia had the progressive vision and decency not to vote for this disgrace whilst Britain voted with.. Bulgaria.

Kerry said...

At £250 for a business card holder I think we'd all find it quite easy to boycott them!

I suppose you either think such things are gruesome and unacceptable, or you don't. I do. Just to come back on one point - a creature can be 'rare' without being 'endangered' or 'threatened'. Rare means there aren't very many of them; endangered means there aren't very many and the numbers are falling to a dangerous level. (And I checked this with the RSPCA today!)

Mr Potarto said...

"...a creature can be 'rare' without being 'endangered' or 'threatened'..."

Yes, that's true, Is it true that your Government allows trade in such rare animals?

Is there any evidence these lizards are rare other than the opinion of Martin Hickman of the Independent?

Here's an interesting quote from Wikipedia (which is on a par with the Independent for reliability):

In Malaysia, this species is one of the most common wild animals around with numbers comparable to that of the population of macaques there. ... Malay "kampung" boys and young working class malay men often catch and kill water monitors for their own amusement although the widespread population of the species causes the lack of conservation attention.

Did you know these animals can be bought in pet shops?,%20Monitors%20Nile.htm

Chris Gale said...

what about the elephant vote?

Kerry said...

Chris, I have a rule that I don't respond to new issues brought up in comments, as people tend to abuse the blog by constantly raising their own topics. But seeing as I had asked my intern to look into the issue anyway, this is what she came up with:

Defra Topical Qs
17 July

Peter Ainsworth: Changing the subject, I am sure that the whole House will agree that it was a great day for wildlife conservation when, in 1989, the international community banned the trade in ivory. I am sure that most of us would also agree that it was a regrettable day when, in 1997, Robert Mugabe led a successful challenge to that ban. Are the Government proud that on Tuesday, acting on behalf of the EU, an official from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs voted to allow China to import ivory? Surely the best way to deal with the continuing illegal trade in ivory is to choke off demand, not stoke it in that way?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): The hon. Gentleman knows, because I have written to him at length, that the decision was taken on behalf of the EU. Ministers were involved in that decision, which was not taken by an official. The decision was originally taken in principle by the international community in 2002 to allow a number of African states that had legal stockpiles of ivory to undertake a one-off sale. The conditions on the buyers in those sales were laid down by an international body that protects wildlife. Japan met the conditions, and China applied to meet the conditions. After a year of inquiry, China was found to meet the criteria, which are about safeguarding the import of legal stocks, ensuring that stocks are only moved around legally and making sure that illegal ivory is not laundered. After the last one-off sale, which went to Japan, may I tell the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must tell the Minister that her reply has taken more than a minute, and that I must consider Back Benchers.

EDM 2073
From 16 July

That this House notes with urgent concern the Government's decision to approve China's application to legalise purchasing of ivory stockpiles from Africa; is concerned that the licence will provide myriad opportunities for illicit ivory to be laundered into legal stock and will increase the already tragic number of 20,000 elephants being illegally killed across the African continent; and condemns the decision to bow to political pressure regarding relations with China rather than using Great Britain's position as European representative on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) committee to make a stand for positive international wildlife protection.

WWF give their reasons for supporting the decision:

- Ivory trading is ‘worse’ in Africa

"The sight of ivory openly and illegally on sale in many African cities is likely to be a far more powerful encouragement to those contemplating poaching and smuggling, than a strictly controlled one-off sale," said director of WWF International's species programme, Dr Susan Lieberman.

- Legal sales ‘help’ threatened elephants

Conditions of the sale direct the revenue into special funds to support elephant conservation and community conservation and development programmes. Purchasing countries have to demonstrate adequate control measures to ensure that the ivory can be tracked and remains within domestic markets.

- Legal sales lead to decline in illegal trade

"Following the last one-off ivory sale under CITES in 1999, it is encouraging to note that the illicit trade in ivory progressively declined over the next five years. We hope a similar result is achieved this time," added Milliken. Director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa, Tom Milliken.

- Illegal market will stop elephant poaching

"The only way to end elephant poaching is through an effective clampdown on illegal domestic ivory markets," Dr Susan Lieberman.

It should be noted that WWF are, as far as I know, the only organisation working in this field to support the decision.

Chris Gale said...

"China was found to meet the criteria" (Ruddock in Hansard)

im sure it and the cosy global club of capital talks, elephants are butchered.

I hope Ms Ruddock, who before she became a Minister showed signs of having principles, is put on a plane to visit those in Africa who will now be fearing what will be heading their way thanks to her decision.

A shameful day for our Labour government.

Jay said...

The country is in economic meltdown with food prices rising steeply by the day, fuel prices rising so fast that businesses are going bankrupt, domestic fuel prices being hoiked so that, come the winter, a significant number in the population, most of whom are the vulnerable, will be unable to heat their homes, a housing market that is stagnant, police forces that a)caution picnickers at Wimbledon for the crime of carrying a butter knife, b)propose that police dogs that have to enter
the houses of Muslims wear leather bootees, c) arrest demonstrators for the crime of inflammatory language because they used the word 'sect' on their banners. Meanwhile we have pensioners who are imprisoned for failing to pay their council tax, people given criminal records for leaving their wheelie bin lids open, children being discouraged from playing by the health and safety police in case they hurt themselves, parents afraid to discipline their children lest they be accused and prosecuted for child abuse, said children growing up without learning how to co-operate with others because they have never learnt that you can't always have your own way, said children sometimes resorting to stabbing and shooting other children. We have a society in which we work the longest hours in Europe yet many can hardly cope with the tax burden, where people are commuting four hours a day because the roads are so congested, in which smokers are denied employment. We live in a country with a third world health service, despite investment of billions, run by greedy incompetents in which elderly people are neglected and many thousands now can't find a dentist; a country in which if you're not an immigrant or single mother you have no chance of housing despite paying tax for years, a country in which, on the other hand, illegal entry is rewarded by a monetary bribe to get you to leave, a country in which legislation passed in the name of the war on terror is abused by official agencies to spy on people, a country whose prime minister raided its coffers, condemning many to an old age of poverty...

...and the issue causing high level angst is...the fate of lizards and elephants.

I have an extremely responsible attitude to the creatures with which we share our planet but I do think that there are priorities.

Chris Gale said...

jay- I think the Daily Mail has taken over your mind.
Much of what you post are right wing sound bites with no basis in fact or reality.
I'm a Labour party member and I am the first to be critical of things I think are not right.
However, your post gives no factual evidence or background or alternative plans.
This country is facing the issues which the rest of the world is at the moment, namely a massive economic time of change and stress. Gordon Brown is not responsible for that, no more than he is responsible for what you had for breakfast this morning.
You seem to advocate some kind of ultra right libertarian view, you blame the government for everything and not doing this or that, then say you want the government to be involved less!
We all have responsibilities, for our health, for our society, for creating a better world. The government does what it can, within the constraints of people like yourself who appear not to want to pay for anything.
I much prefer being governed by people who try to do things to move things forward, rather than where we were in the 1980s and for much of the 90s.

You say 'we live in a country with a third world health service'.
That is total utter tripe and actually deeply insulting to people who work in the NHS.

Try living in a country where they don't have a free health service.

So rather than posting bigoted rants, lets see some evidence and some costed alternatives from you.

Jay said...

You are absolutely right, Chris Gale, it was a hell of a rant! And it was bloody satisfying to let off steam for which I make no apology.

I am not a Tory, nor was I a dyed- in-the-wool Labour voter. In fact, I'm probably exactly the sort of person to whom New Labour hoped to appeal: I have a strong sense of social responsibility coupled with a strong sense of personal responsibility.

I don't form opinions from reading the Daily Mail. My opinions are formed from listening to current affairs programmes on radio four and watching the BBC news (both of which regularly come in for criticism on the grounds of bias towards New Labour), from reading political blogs of all colour (with the exception of Liberal Democrat), from watching current affairs documentaries, from the experiences of my daily life and from using my eyes and ears.

I would genuinely be interested to know which of my opinions have no basis in fact or reality and, if I have unfairly blamed the Government, I will apologise. I would, however, like to know the grounds on which your different reality is based in order to evaluate its validity.

You may not share my negative view of life in today's UK. Many others do, however, and it is patronising and insulting to dismiss us as deluded.

One more point: last week Gordon Brown, unbeknown, it would appear, to the electorate, ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Rightly or wrongly, the British electorate considers the Treaty to be of enormous importance. There have been numerous calls for the promised referendum which failed to materialise. The breaking of a promise on an issue of such concern to the electorate is enough in itself, in the eyes of those who believe in the moral imperative to honour a promise, to justify the removal of this Government at the next election. This isn't an opinion based on cursory acceptance of a politically right wing soundbite, but one based on a value that has been widely respected in our society for centuries.

Jay said...

By the way, Chris, there was nothing in my rant to indicate that I don't wish to pay for anything. I pay for everything.

As for the NHS, as I'm sure you're well aware, unless you believe in the magic money tree, it's not free. I would be perfectly happy to take my share of the (huge) tax that I pay to the Government from the tobacco that I buy and the element of my national contributions which is earmarked for NHS treatment, and opt out of an NHS which now discriminates against me.

My description of a third world NHS was not intended to refer to the abilities or commitment of the clinical staff. If there is blame to be apportioned we could start with the modern model of the NHS. I've had several spells in hospitals over a period of some 40 years and I have noticed a deterioration in standards. The most startling contrast, however, was that between the NHS hospital and the military ward in which I unexpectedly found myself about a year later.

My rant was not intended as a series of lashes on the Government. It was a description of the ills besetting the UK, some of which the Government has contributed to, with the intention of expressing exasperation.

Your criticism of Cherie Blair on the grounds that she doesn't care about animals, encapsulates the reason for it.

I don't post links because I don't have them easily accessible in computer folders; I don't believe that people read them; if they do they will read them without getting a balanced view unless they research themselves for material that doesn't support the position of the linked article; I'm expressing an opinion on a blog, not addressing an academic convention.

Of course I won't provide costings - the Government has an army of civil servants to do this!!

Chris Gale said...

"I'm expressing an opinion on a blog, not addressing an academic convention."

that much is certain

Chris Gale said...

you offer no alternative solutions, so its a good thing you are not addressing an academic forum.

Jay said...


I'm still waiting for you to advise which of my assertions has no basis in fact or reality - if they are chimerical, no alternative solutions are needed.

I wasn't presenting solutions in the first place anyway - as I admitted earlier, I had a rant ie I expressed a stream of opinion, I let off steam in exasperation and I didn't expect that anyone would change their point of view because of those assertions.

Your concern about solutions, however, rather presupposes that I touched on problems that require solutions.

There's probably a fine line between discussing issues on a blog and trading insults. If you have nothing substantive to add, perhaps we should let it rest.