E Jane Dickson: Some 'gay rights' just can't be infringed

Notebook: Who's to say Pedro and Buddy are not happy to bat for the other side?

Share
Related Topics

All the world loves a lover. When the lovebird in question is a penguin, the world's sympathy knows no bounds. Controversy greeted the decision this week of Toronto Zoo to separate two male, pair-bonded penguins and mate them with females.

Apparently Buddy and Pedro, rare African Penguins bred in captivity, have enjoyed a close relationship for many years, exhibiting classic courtship behaviour and sleeping together every night. Now they are to be wrenched from each other's flippers, and forced to do their bit for the continuation of the species.

The "Aah factor" generated by this tale of thwarted, penguin passion was to be expected. The outrage expressed by activists for animal rights and gay rights in relation to the "Toronto Two" bears closer examination.

The animal welfare lobby is complicated and not easily dismissed. If you believe that animals have exactly similar rights to humans, then everything from the keeping of household pets to meat-eating appears monstrous. If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the more moderate notion of "responsible stewardship", the decision to maximise Pedro and Buddy's genetic potential seems entirely reasonable; there are only 60,000 African penguins left in the wild. On an ecological level, Buddy and Pedro are being asked to "take one for the team".

The issue of the penguins' "gay rights" is, on the other hand, preposterous. One online commentator described the (temporary) separation of Buddy and Pedro as "the most discriminating thing against gays I have seen", which suggests that he is very new to the world of anti-gay discrimination.

The argument, also much rehearsed this week, that the existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom somehow argues for greater respect for gays and lesbians in society is equally unhelpful. If we haven't got it into our heads by now that it's the respect that matters, not the "cause", gay rights are dead in the water.

Let's, for a moment, indulge the flabby anthropomorphism at the heart of the whole debate. Who's to say Pedro and Buddy are not happy to bat for either side? Where does that leave the busybodies attempting to pigeonhole their sexuality? We will never know their complicated feelings on this or any other ideological matter. Because – for heaven's sake – they are penguins. Perspective is called for.

Battery hens are arguably facing a worse future than star-cross'd penguins. Global attention might be more usefully focused on the fact that in 41 out of 54 Commonwealth countries, homosexuality is illegal and cruelly punished, than arguing the toss about forced congress in the penguin pool. For me, Pedro and Buddy's Brokeback moment just doesn't cut the ice.

Tintin and the sinister forces

According to the Vatican's official newspaper, the curbing of sales in British bookshops of Tintin in the Congo is "politically correct lunacy".

In fact, thundered L'Osservatore Romano, the quiffed crusader is a "Catholic hero", on a mission "to save the innocent and conquer evil".

And this in a week when lawyers for the Catholic Church argued tooth and nail in the High Court against compensation for victims of proven sexual abuse by priests.

As the horrific scale of the abuse perpetrated at Ealing Abbey over the past 60 years is revealed, I'd say the innocent were put at risk by more sinister forces than political correctness. Tintin, where are you when you're needed?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions