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PETA looks for seal of approval from bar flies

PETA takes axe to seal-clubbing cartoon ad

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals apparently has discovered what bar-hopping hopefuls have known for centuries: It's easier to persuade someone who's been drinking.

This week, the animal advocacy group known for its in-your-face tactics kicked off a new campaign against Canadian sealing with an unconventional come-on, targeting tipplers in a couple of dozen Toronto bars with a droll New Yorker-style cartoon postcard designed to tickle the funny bone rather than trigger a gross-out visceral reaction.

The cartoon depicts a seal requesting a drink from a bartender: "Anything but a Canadian Club." On the reverse side of the postcard is a black-and-white photograph of a hunter raising a club above a prone seal, accompanied by text that argues the annual Canadian seal hunt, which is to begin shortly, "doesn't support a subsistence trade but rather is an example of extreme government waste." It adds that world leaders, including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and the Dalai Lama, "have spoken out against the massacre," and refers people to the campaign website CanadasShame.com.

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Harry Bliss, a New Yorker contributor, donated the cartoon.

"It doesn't look like an ad that's against the seal hunt, it just looks like an interesting cartoon," suggested Dan Mathews, vice-president of PETA in New York. "And there's so many cartoons like that, that promote booze, that it just seemed a perfect way to sneak up on people and introduce the debate where they're least expecting it."

Mr. Mathews said that, while PETA was not backing away from its notoriously confrontational tactics, it recognizes the benefits of trying other approaches. "We wanted to reach more of a mainstream crowd," he said. "There's so much attention on social marketing and social media, that people forget there's a lot of value in having something in your hand, and introducing something in a public place for debate that's not just among like-minded people online."

Representatives of Beam Global Wine & Sprits, which distributes Canadian Club in North America, said simply: "This postcard campaign has nothing to do with our brand."

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Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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