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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Promoters beware - how I gave a WWF girl a piece of my mind

"Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness?" - Artemus Ward


I was at City Square at Little India and got ambushed by a 21 year old SYT representing the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

Naturally I knew what she wanted from me but I decided to guai lan her because I had a bit of extra time.

She asked me if I knew what WWF stood for. When I guessed "World Wildlife Fund' she high-fived me, before proclaiming I was wrong. Upon prompting I essayed "Worldwide Fund for Nature" and she high-fived me again (apparently they'd changed their name recently and it was somewhere in my brain).

She asked if I were Singaporean and said "You speak very well, I thought you're not Singaporean... [but] Indonesian".

She then went on with her pitch.

She said that tigers were being hunted to extinction, and it'd be sad if our children would not be able to view tigers. I graciously refrained from pointing out that her visual aid referred only to Malayan and Sumatran tigers, and that this would not be a problem if one did not intend to have children.

She asked me if I knew what they were killed for and professed to be a little shocked when I mentioned "penises, skins". She added that they were also killed for their brains, and that it was cruel to kill them just for that.

Then she asked if I were against animal abuse. As good salespeople know establishing rapport through getting your mark to agree with you boosts the possibility that you'll seal the deal.

However she was in for a surprise, since I pointed out that most people have inconsistent stands on animal rights. Specifically, the first of the two key points pinpointing the problem - "cute animals are just as tasty as ugly ones".

I added that factory farmed animals suffer more than poached animals since the former suffer all their lives whereas the latter do so only at the end. I then asked if she were vegetarian, and she admitted that she was not. When I told her I was not either because I didn't believe animals had moral personhood, she didn't pursue the point, possibly because she had no idea what I meant.

Giving up, she asked if I abused animals personally and was satisfied when I answered in the negative, as she said she wouldn't want to talk to me if I did. This was fortunate (for her), as it meant I did not have to talk about utilitarianism and second effects with regard to factory farming. It also meant I didn't have to broach the second key issue - "why is it okay to kill animals for food, but not have sex with them?" Given her reaction to tiger penises, doubtless this would've consternated her even more.

She then went on to talk about another topic - Earth Day. Whereupon I pointed out that Earth Day was Carbon Positive - more carbon was spent in its organization and promotion than was saved by turning lights off for an hour [Ed: I wasn't right about the details but the idea is there]. She seemed to misunderstand, since she said WWF's partners like the Ministry of Environment did publicity for them, and I didn't press the issue. Predictably she said "awareness" was the target, whereupon I countered that studies showed that there was a substitution effect - people tended to stop at small, symbolic actions and not perform bigger ones.

Wisely, she didn't even try and talk about another item in their program - shark finning, or I'd have had even more to say.

She then asked me to sign up for a recurring donation, but I demurred at the suggestion, in the process asking which plan she was on (she said she was on the cheapest scheme), telling her the same thing I told the Singapore Cancer Society promotor a few months back - I preferred to spread my donation dollars around. She said it was just over a dollar a day, and I said if 100 organizations asked me for a dollar a day I would be down a hundred dollars a day. She seemed surprised, and I vaguely added that "you wouldn't believe how many people approach me".

At that she gave up and let me go.

I'm glad I did MY bit to raise Awareness.
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