I went to see Werner Herzog's documentary about Antarctica the other week. The film is called Encounters at the End of the World and was originally released in 2007. I loved the film but there was a sequence in it that made me emit a startled Eek!
Herzog filmed a pair of research scientists out in the field, one of whom is Olav Oftedal. The research involves taking milk samples from female seals nursing their pups. The scientists do this by creeping up behind a seal and her cub, putting a big hood type thing over the seal's head and extracting some milk from her. They insist that it has no adverse psychological effect on the seals, but it's hard to believe that because of the sudden and apparently traumatic nature of the hooding and milk collection.
Seals lose about 40% of their body weight when they are lactating, and their milk is extremely rich. Herzog's voiceover explained that Oftedal's research related to the search for weight loss in humans.
Now then, the voiceover could have been wrong and I could be mis-remembering it. It could be that 'weight loss' is a cover proposed by Oftedal and his team so that they can nab some funding and go to do their thing in Antarctica. I've done a quick search and still have no idea if or how this research relates to weight loss.
I suppose my Eek! was that, despite these hesitations, it is entirely possible that lactating seals could be being studied to provide yet another possible magic solution to the problem of obesity. I continued to go Eek! with the awful realisation of just how obsessive the scientific search for weight loss might be. Lactating seals. If Oftedal's research is really about human weight loss then I might as well give up my work in Fat Studies because there's no way I can compete with that depth of obsession. Just so you know.