There’s something terribly wrong with this “greet the panda” picture, isn’t it? I mean, they are cute and cuddly, but to welcome them like royalty, that’s a whole different matter.

You are most likely aware that today our Prime Minister and his wife welcomed a pair of panda bears at Pearson Airport in Toronto. That’s right. Aside from the fact that having animals on display in a zoo is a horrifying idea, the fact that a pair of pandas were greeted by the Prime Minister and got extensive coverage in the news is a tad much, no?

As for the zoos and conservation work, I do not care for reasons such as “to educate and instill respect for disappearing species, blah, blah, blah…” There are books, there are documentaries like Planet Earth where dedicated people spent many hours getting amazing footage.

Children and adults alike can learn from that, no need for animals on display. That’s my next blog post topic perhaps.

But back to the pandas for now. The sell-out. It is, and if you think otherwise, please share your thoughts and I’d be happy to oblige by sharing mine.
A while ago Canada signed a dreadful treaty with China that will last for 31 years. Now the Chinese government is “lending” us the pandas. All stand and applaud: Canadian natural resources versus two pandas. Are we selling ourselves cheap?

There’s something awfully wrong with many aspects of this picture. First of all, there is massive elephant genocide in Africa. We’re talking grenades thrown in the middle of an elephant herd in order to kill as many as possible for their precious ivory tusks (National Geographic covered the topic not long ago.) The increased demand for ivory in China is behind it, and “it” has been named the scariest decimation of African elephants yet. Ivory, like shark fin soup, is a social status indicator in China. Go figure.

One cannot help but ask: How come pandas are so revered and have it so good then? If a country or its government do not care about animals in general, but plainly condones the near wipe-out of many other species, what gives? Well, pandas are China’s national symbol. In our case, housing them for a decade is but a “loan” to prove we can take care of their national animal as we are of the treaty signed not long ago, a treaty that bears a sinister echo for the next 31 years.

As for the black and white fluffy bamboo-eating fellows, they are, sadly, pushed into extinction by citizens of the country they are representing. According to the WWF, they can go extinct in two or three generations from now because their habitat is shrinking. The cause? You guessed it: the booming economic development, which comes at a high price for pandas and humans alike. For pandas it really does not look good if nothing changes. Save for the ones surviving in zoos, pandas will be all but gone… As for us humans, booming economies can lead to some or all of the following: increased pollution, dwindling natural resources and, to spice it up, some inhumane conditions for many of the workers that create the “Made in China” goods that might or might not be on sale this coming Easter…

So you see, things truly are upside down: we greet the pandas with much fanfare, spend some good honest Canadian dollars to do so, we will keep them in a zoo on public display because we need to be kept giddy that way, and, being so nice and polite, we do not ask for anything at all in return (say, some environmental promises that might leave our country intact…)

I love animals, I believe we have to respect them and love them, and yes, many species are nowadays threatened with extinction, but let’s not forget that we are after all the main perpetrators of the actions that contribute to their demise. So we should start by observing and changing our life habits perhaps.

What I also know is that our Prime Minister’s “to do” list (for example attending to pressing matters like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline which raises serious environmental concerns) should have the well-being of every citizen in this country, and the wise use of our national resources as a primary concern.

No cuddly animal will ever make up for betraying our interests. Having a good set of principles that ensures that citizens are respected, and our children’s interests too are being respected, that ensures that no resource will be taken from any of our provinces unless we all agree to do so; now that would be, in my opinion, a decent place to start fair negotiations (is that an oxymoron? It should not be) with any bulging economic powers that stop at nothing to increase that bulge.

What’s next? If we stop applauding the arrival of pandas or other critters, we might be able to hear that inner voice that somehow has it right. The (national) gut instinct they call it…Because deep down we know to put things in perspective. We know that we have the freedom to do so and should exercise it.