Gas Mask Removed from Cow at Aquarium's Controversial Global Warming Exhibit

Humans in gas masks just aren't the same
A cow in a gas mask is a memorable image. That's probably why it was deployed, to great effect, in a recent exhibit on climate change at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While this is the sort of thing that would doubtless please André Breton, dairy farmers -- never known for their surrealist leanings -- were livid, and have successfully lobbied aquarium officials to unmask the cow.

At issue was the display's premise that the livestock industry contributes substantially to noxious emissions that thin the ozone layer and heat the earth. This is true, as far as it goes. As KQED reported over the weekend in a feature on the exhibit, a 2006 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization asserted that the raising of cows, pigs, and chickens accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gases. But a more recent study states that the dairy industry is responsible for only four percent of emissions.

Had the exhibit's organizers picked out a bovine of modest Angus stock, the story might have ended there. But the cow's mottled black-and-white hide, indicative of a Holstein, spurred outrage from the dairy industry. The aquarium promptly removed the mask and issued a statement saying that the topic of climate change can be discussed "just as effectively without putting a gas mask on a cow."

The aquarium also stated, "Offending dairy farmers was never our intent and we regret the distress the mask has caused. We've removed the mask, and are modifying nearby exhibit graphics so they specifically tell an alternative energy story."

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