Today I’m speaking about a particular organism that is beloved by a great number of people. And my intention is to expound upon why I do not find this particular organism cute or lovable or worth revering, especially when one beholds the myriad other wonderful organisms found—and are being found—on this planet.
I know not everyone may be familiar with the name Ailuropoda melanoleuca. However, I am fairly certain the reader has undoubtedly guessed that I mean to refer to the giant panda. Some people might not like what I have to say about the panda. But remember dear reader, these are only my opinions. Feel free to disagree and protest. I welcome it.
Over the weekend, several major news outlets reported that Mei Xiang—a female giant panda ostensibly trapped in a perpetual cycle of reproduction in order that the wild giant panda population can be crossed off the endangered species list—gave birth to twins. A neuron in my head explodes every time I see such silliness in the news. (I suffer a massive cerebral hemorrhage every time the name Kardashian appears in the news.) It is stupendous that giant panda births make headlines when American politics, the Greek economy, the lives of black Americans, and the public’s scientific literacy are being undermined, ruined, and destroyed. But those are for another time…
If the panda is supposed to be a bear, I am truly disappointed. I don’t think bears should be cute.
Okay. These little guys are cute. These three exceptions notwithstanding, once giant pandas reach adulthood, they shall receive my complete dislike.
When I think of a bear, I think vicious omnivore that I probably shouldn’t fuck with. I think claws, sharp teeth, threatening growls, all delivered in several-hundred-pound majestic body; the product of millions of years of evolution. The giant panda fails in all respects. It trades in strength and ferocity for sloth and pusillanimity. Perhaps not strength, for I wouldn’t wish to test it in combat; I’m sure we could all predict the victory in such a scenario. Nevertheless, the giant panda is significantly more docile than it’s other bear cousins.
I don’t think pandas are good at life. A genomic analysis of giant panda DNA (published in Nature) indicated that it “probably has all the necessary components for a carnivorous digestive system.” The article further stated that because no genes for cellulose digestion were found (the exact words: “[w]e did not find any homologues of digestive cellulase genes—”), it is likely that the giant panda’s dietary decision are dictated by its gut microbes rather than its genetic endowments. Hence, bamboo.
Unless one has some medical reason that necessitates dietary adjustments (or if one’s bowels can’t handle the magma poured on chicken wings anymore), why would anyone base their food selections on what their gut bacteria thought?
Microbe: Hey, Ephraim?
Microbe: We would really love to ravage some celery down here, if it’s not too much trouble.
Me: Nah. I’ve been craving this bacon double cheeseburger all day.
Microbe: We would really appreciate it if you—
Microbe: But, it puts the cellulose on its—
Me: No! Fuck off!
Screw that noise. My body, my rules. Granted, I can go to the supermarket or any fast food joint to pick out precisely what I desire and my microscopic tenants have to deal with it. I posit that the panda has more choices than the nutrient-poor bamboo. I have a suggestion: Hunt! You’re a bear. Run after something, grab it with your powerful jaws and eat it. Search for some fruit, that stuff is delicious. Nuts, tubers, literally anything that doesn’t require one to sit down to eat 99% of all conscious hours just to meet one’s caloric demands. The world is your oyster, giant panda.
For the record, animal conversation isn’t to be mocked. The National Zoological Park reports that a mere 1864 giant pandas remain in the wild. Alarming is perhaps too weak a word to encapsulate the gravity of the giant panda’s situation. But it should come as no surprise because humans tend to leave disease, famine, rape, torture, and destruction in their wake. As tenuous as life already is, humans populations soar, always finding a way to exacerbate the homeostatic balance in pursuit of a comfortable place to live. The giant panda’s habitat has been severely encroached and amputated by humans and now they only exist in zoos and within a tiny dot on the map. Insofar as I personally dislike giant pandas, accuse them of sucking at life, and the lack of cuteness I see in them, the giant panda cannot be held accountable for these barbarous acts.
How many species have gone—and will go—extinct as a direct result of human interference?
One distinction I would like to emphasize: I don’t hate giant pandas. I truly don’t hate them, nor do I wish for their extinction. In fact, I don’t wish for the extinction of any organism, except spiders. Would it be too much to ask for an amen?
I dislike the giant panda. I find them annoying and it seems like everyone I know is obsessed with pandas; panda hats, panda cell phone cases, pandas everywhere! Hell, for me, would be if every demon wore a panda costume. Or worse yet if they were all pandas. I shudder at the thought.
If I saw less of them (giant pandas, not demons) in the media and on merchandise, I would sleep more soundly. Saving animals from the cruelty, caprice, and negligence of humans is an admirable thing to do. But should we revere the giant panda as we currently do? As a cultural symbol? As the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund? Should we smear the panda’s face on lunch boxes, stationary items, and clothing? Does a panda’s face on a lunch box actually raise awareness of its imminent extinction and the imminent extinction of other species across the world? Or does it just sell lunch boxes?