Controversial Gophers

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Art and Culture

Who knew that Torrington, Alberta, population a whopping 184, would be the site of international controversy. And all over a critter weighing no more than 600 grams.

Torrington is home to the now world famous Gopher Hole Museum which features over 30 dioramas of 54 taxidermized gophers. The critters pose as townspeople in handmade costumes enjoying various aspects of small-town life.  

In rural Alberta, gophers are considered a pest and a danger. Farmers often shoot these pests as they dig holes in which livestock trip and break their legs. The town decided that if the critters are going to be shot anyway, they may as well be put to good use and draw in tourism.

So far so good. Until word of the museum spread internationally. Suddenly, letters poured in from animal activist groups all over the globe protesting the cruelty (and perhaps loss of dignity?) perpetrated against these cuddly creatures. How dare this town commit critter-murder and call it a cultural attraction!

Meanwhile, the town is slowly making money off the bus loads of visitors coming to see what all the fuss is about. And the town is now world famous.

What do you think, is this art or animal cruelty?

Image source


Today’s 4 Minute Writer  


Couldn’t resist this 47 second clip of the talking marmots. Enjoy!  

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11 responses to “Controversial Gophers

  1. V

    I would say it’s just plain ignorance. I mean, The Richardson’s Ground Squirrel (aka Gopher) is an incredibly important part to the ecological integrity of these “farm-lands”. They are the staple food in the diet of various bird’s of prey whose habitat is in southern Alberta. These “pests” are merely pests because humans de-value or choose to ignore the value of these little creatures. I don’t think God would have created “pests”.

    I think it’s a disgrace to treat them as such and display them in an inhumane manner as is done in this “museum”.

    • And the controversy continues in the comments section…
      While I don’t actually mind the gophers on display, what I have a much harder time with is the Body Worlds display that travels worldwide. It’s real human bodies, cut up, plasticized, and hung on display like beef jerky. It’s supposed to be a science/art exhibit, but I just can’t get past that being someone somebody once knew…

  2. Both art and cruelty. I’m not an animal activist, but I do get a little grossed out at taxidermy. I don’t care for mink coats either. Do I think it’s morally wrong? Not sure about that. I doubt that is it morally wrong to kill pests so that farm produce may be grown. If you have to kill them, you may as well stuff them, I guess. On the other hand, maybe it is morally wrong to kill them unnecessarily. God told Adam to tend the garden. I think that meant to keep the population of species controlled. I don’t think it meant to exterminate a species to make stuffed animals. While the world is writhing in pain, we talk about gophers. Alas. The gophers are cute and I enjoyed the video. Blessings to you, Zoe…

    • True that while the world is writhing in pain we talk about gophers, but this issue matters to the gophers, and they have no ability to blog, so we must do it for them 😉
      I’m with you in not caring for mink coats and the like. The idea of wearing a carcass does not appeal to me. But I do have leather shoes and leather boots.
      Perhaps as long as the issue is taken lightheartedly no one gets hurt. Except the gophers. But I think their death is painless, so not even they get hurt.
      From what I know, the gophers in Torrington are merely culled as their population is extremely large in number.

      • I stand corrected and rightly so. Gophers are important because God made them and they are for us to enjoy and protect. Culling the population is protecting them, so Torrington is off the hook for their tourist business in my mind. Others may disagree. We don’t all look at things from the same perspective. I respect the animal rights activists. I understand their tender hearts for the creatures of the earth. They are to be commended, and they do a lot of good things. There are some horrid abuses of animals that they fight against faithfully. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

      • The beauty of controversy is that there will always be someone who will disagree, no matter what you say. And what fun that can be. On behalf of the gophers, thank you for caring about them 🙂

  3. Well, its not art. But as the owner of a most bizarre sense of humour, while I don’t appreciate the direct trajectory of the gestures in the museum I do have a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not incredulous grin on my face….sorry…..

    People are strange and they have some odd preoccupations. My time in Cornwall, UK taught me that. There is something anthropologically glorious about appraising what they find entertaining.

    The fate of the gophers….I once walked round a similar museum in Cornwall and they are frankly creepy and unsettling. A Victorian preoccupation, taxidermy, an attempt to preserve existence even after death. Beyond bad taste, to the land where weird is king….

    • As a vegetarian with a soft spot for animals and appreciation for the work of PETA and Greenpeace, this exhibit should horrify me. However, I must confess that I find it hysterical (don’t hate me, V). It’s probably the absurdity of the thing- who thinks to stuff gophers and dress them up in handmade suits? That’s just crazy. I can appreciate crazy…

  4. V

    Displaying them as they are in this museum in Torrington is not Taxidermy. No where else would you see a taxidermist’s collection dressed up in top hats and dresses. Taxidermy is used for a scientific purpose. Dressing up dead animals in human costumes from what I know is not all that scientific.

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