Back in the late 1980s, a small meat processing firm out West rolled out a “new” product that generated instant controversy: It was called Spotted Owl Sausage.
For those who remember, environmental groups had gone to court back then and filed lawsuits demanding that the thousands of acres of old-growth forests preferred by the owl be ordered off limits to logging, lest the bird’s surviving habitat be put in peril. That made the rarely seen raptor a symbol of the conflict between the proponents of development and the advocates for wilderness preservation.
USDA, when forced to rule on the legitimacy of the product’s labeling, invoked a classic bureaucratic escape clause by determining that the product couldn’t be marketed since it did not contain the proper percentage of actual spotted owl meat.
Of course, it had all been done as a spoof and a protest against eco-activists, and as an Endangered Species, it would have been illegal to actually source any spotted owl meat in order to comply with labeling regulations.
Now, a related development is taking place up in Canada, as a pair of intrepid restaurateurs in Quebec, Kim Côté and Perle Morency, have added a seal-meat burger to the menu of their popular bistro Côté Est, according to the National Post.
That alone is controversy enough, but they “decided to have some fun with the name,” as the Post phrased it, naming their new creation “The Phoque Bardot Burger.”
If French isn’t your native tongue, it probably loses a little something in translation, but the name combines the French word for seal with the name of the famous French movie star and bikini model-turned-animal-activist Brigitte Bardot, well-known for her campaigning against Canadian seal hunting.
The Bardot Burger has become one of the restaurant’s top sellers, according to the story—only in this case, it actually does contain seal meat from the Magdalene Islands, which fits with the restaurant’s mission of showcasing the foods of eastern Quebec.
For that reason—and because customers love it—the two Quebecois restaurateurs are determined to keep the Bardot Burger on the menu. But Ms. Morency said they are considering dropping the Bardot name from the dish.
In calling it the Phoque Bardot Burger, “There was some provocation, but our intention was purely humorous,” she told the Post. “There was no malice.”
That was not the case with animal rights groups, and Morency said that she and her partner have received warnings and disturbing threats. She said they got phone messages calling them “crazy, inhumane,” even “assassins.”