The Order of M.L. Project consist of a small team of mustelid enthusiasts from across the globe, who seek to promote a more accurate representation of mustelids for both art and education. All team members are volunteers and work to provide content for this website when able. As a nonprofit organization, we exist for the purpose of commentary, reviews and education. We at Genuine Mustelids are not an authority or animal rights organization, and will never attempt to force our views or persecute anyone to portray or treat mustelids as we see fit. Outside our personal goals, we exist publicly only as a guide for those who wish to learn or consider what is being less commonly taught.
What are the issues?
There’s a common frustration among those who love mustelids which often prompts the question “Why do most mustelids in media look nothing like mustelids?” Or “My ferrets are sweet, why are they often portrayed so negatively?” Unfortunately well into our modern times, society still has a tendency to believe myths and popular depictions about mustelids without questioning their legitimacy. If we were to ask ourselves “Why are most mustelids singled out as vicious monsters, when there are other animals with similar behaviours that are admired?”, we’d come to the classic conclusion that there’s really no in-depth explanation other than “That’s just the way it’s always been”.
Sensationalism in media
Throughout much of the twentieth century, mustelids were subjected to a range of media propaganda and sensationalism; imaginative minds taking advantage of society’s fear of the unknown. It doesn’t take much effort to make an elusive animal appear more savage or dangerous than it commonly is, if you take an unflattering photo of the animal while it’s being purposely agitated, or present a poorly made taxidermy. Some mustelids can indeed be quite formidable, but too often these labels of “assassin”, “murderer”, “blood thirsty” or “cold killer” are given based on human-attributed emotions, and are just overstatements of something we’ve known all along—that all wild predators must hunt and be fierce or clever to survive. Any predator that didn’t or couldn’t acquire this skill isn’t here today, so why must they be superficially defined by these labels? Beyond their evident predatory skills, mustelids are very intelligent (some are even known to use tools), bold and adaptive animals that don’t require sensationalism to be impressive. We should be giving more attention to these less obvious traits to promote respect, rather than fear.
It’s difficult for people to simply view mustelids… as mustelids
Frequently whenever a photo or video featuring a species of mustelid is shared online, you’ll come across numerous comments claiming that the species is some type of cat, rodent, fox or small bear; just to name a few. Though often unintentional, mustelids are practically viewed and labeled every animal but what they actually are, giving rise to popular behavioural and characteristic misconceptions. It may be human nature to find ease in categorizing an unfamiliar animal with a more familiar one, but little knowledge is gained from this practice. In order to truly learn about mustelids, we must respect their distinctive characteristics. To be fair, some zoologists haven’t exactly made distinguishing species easier for the average person, considering they often misleadingly give animals names that have been commonly associated with other animals.
There are double standard for less “attractive” animals
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but mustelids are rarely considered “majestic” or “beautiful”, unless they’re being worn as fashion. From time to time some mustelids have been classed vermin, while in contrast being valued for their fur, or hunting skills to control rodent populations. The word “vermin” has been used as a label for any animal deemed to be destructive to crops, farm animals, game, or that carry disease. By this definition wolves, deer, eagles, tigers, bears, owls, rabbits, humans, and even some dogs and cats would fall into that description. That being said, what is and is not a vermin is subjective depending on how a person or community is being effected by the animal. Although we are impartial enough to acknowledge many mustelids can indeed be destructive (particularly for farmers), all of the formerly mentioned animals have one thing in common that mustelids are unlikely to be credited for—their natural ‘living’ beauty.
How we help
Having a website that describes real-life species of mustelids, listing educational literature and documentaries is one thing, but how does a list of games, fictional literature, animated characters and anatomy tutorials help mustelids in the real world? Such content is merely fiction and doesn’t represent reality, right? Fictional media shouldn’t reflect on mustelids in the real world, but it often does. People tend to form opinions about elusive animals like weasels, polecats, and other mustelids at an early age based on what they’ve learned from cartoons, games, and other media, and these early beliefs tend to stick with people through adulthood, regardless of accuracy.
While there are great conservation organizations that both help educate people about mustelids and protect their habitats, few take advantage of media to help inspire more people care about the existence of these misunderstood animals. While we the average people are not zoologists and do not personally study the science behind mustelids, we have the most influence when it comes to improving their reputation; because after all, it was average people who gave rise to the reputation they have. How mustelids are viewed in society is important if we want more of the general public to value the information conservationists provide. There are many people you cannot inspire or teach through educational books or documentaries alone.
We find there are generally three types of mustelid enthusiasts: Those who simply like the look of mustelids and enjoy seeing them in visual media, those who take things a step further by representing them in art or conducting their own amateur research, and lastly professional conservationists who aim to study and protect mustelids. For some people their interest stem from a born passion for wildlife, but for many others it all started with a favorite childhood or young adulthood character. Memorable characters such as Taggerung the otter, Kine the least weasel, and Bill the badger are among a few that have inspired people to learn more about these amazing creatures.
It is also not uncommon for people who admire a certain mustelid species in media to not know much about the real-life animal, or even know their beloved species is endangered. For this reason we believe combining both educational and fictional media to be a good way in helping people become more interested in mustelids; perhaps even inspiring a few to become future conservationists.