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Some pig

A rescued piglet and a seal gutting put the spotlight on animal treatment in Canada.

A Canadian piglet escapes a gruesome end, humane society officials speculate ... and other animal-related news. Here, a piglet swims in China. (Jianan Yu/Reuters)

TORONTO — This is a story about a piglet, a gutted seal and a shelter for animals. They each made news last week and together revealed the ambiguities in the debate about the treatment of animals.

It began with the Monday morning rush hour in Toronto. Computer engineer Brian Bowes was driving to work on Highway 401, the city’s busiest, when he spotted a piglet “shivering like crazy” on the side of the road. He pulled over and picked it up.

Fears of swine flu weren’t going to deter Bowes. He was moved by what he described as a more powerful force: “I’m a regular animal lover.”

The piglet was two or three months old. It weighed about 10 pounds and had a broken leg. Bowes, 31, placed it on the back seat of his car and drove it to the Toronto Humane Society, a well-established and independent animal shelter. The media, always ready with a label, dubbed Bowes a good samaritan.

Officials at the humane society speculated that the piglet must have slipped through the breathing slats of a truck transporting livestock to a “factory pig farm,” where it would have been fattened for slaughter. The piglet, society officials made clear, saved itself from a gruesome end.

It will undergo surgery and, once healed, will either go to a hobby farm or petting zoo. To the media, it was fodder for cliches: “Great escape means she won’t be the B in your BLT,” said one newspaper. “This little piggy didn’t make it to market,” said another.

The humane society named it Wiggles.

The next day, another animal story got the whole country talking.

Governor General Michaelle Jean, Canada’s acting head of state, was in the north for a week-long visit of nine Inuit communities. A former journalist, Jean is Canada’s first black governor general. Elegant and intelligent, she’s as comfortable chatting with U.S. President Barack Obama as she is gutting a seal with Inuit elders. The latter activity, however, got her far more international attention than the former.

In the Inuit community of Rankin Inlet, Jean attended a festival and was presented with the carcass of a seal. Jean dug in. First, she used a traditional ulu knife to cut away at the skin. Then, an elder handed her a piece of heart. She ate it, proclaimed it “absolutely delicious,” and wiped her bloody fingers with tissue.