Monday, April 02, 2007

from deep in a beaver's arse

If you idly flick through a copy of the Animal Free Shopper you learn that amongst the other things a good vegan should avoid is a substance called castoreum. It's a fixative in perfumes and a flavouring in chewing gum. It's made from the anal sex gland of beavers.

Surely the compiler of the Animal Free Shopper left their desk for a while and a prankster just put that one in for a laugh.

But no. I've checked and it exists. It's an anal sex gland in the sense of it being a sex gland in the anus, rather than a gland for anal sex.

someone pulled these out of a beaver's arse

Appropriately enough for such black magic sounding ingredients, one contemporary perfume that uses it is Magie Noire. What chewing gum uses it? It'd certainly give a whole new meaning to 'Juicy Fruit'.

It all sounds unbelievable, but then again people think I'm making it up when I tell them the hormones for contraceptive pills come from the urine of pregnant horses kept in abominable conditions on special farms.

According to Wikipedia, not only is castoreum real but

until the 1700s, castoreum was used to treat many different ailments, including headache, fever, and hysteria. The Romans believed the fumes produced by burning castoreum could induce an abortion; Paracelsus thought it could be used in the treatment of epilepsy; and medieval beekeepers used it to increase honey production.

Whose idea was all that?

'Hmm this chewing gum's missing a certain tang. It's nice and all, but I wish it tasted a bit more like a beaver's arse'.

'This perfume evaporates a bit quickly, but hey, what can you do? Ooh, here's a thought; hold this beaver firmly and squeeze its bum all over my pulse points will you?'

Where do they get a reliable source of castoreum from? Are there farms somewhere out there? Are people breeding beavers than attacking them from behind with an apple corer?

go away, my arse is my own private kingdom

[beaver picture courtesy of the good people at Great Plains Nature Center]


Gyrus said...

Reminds me of Ambergris: "a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color ... It possesses a peculiar sweet, earthy odor similar to isopropyl alcohol. Now largely replaced by synthetics, it is occasionally still used as a fixative in perfumery."

Where from? "Ambergris occurs as a biliary secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale, and can be found floating upon the sea, or in the sand near the coast. Because giant squids' beaks have been found embedded within lumps of ambergris, scientists have theorized that the whale's intestine produces the substance as a means of facilitating the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale might have inadvertently eaten."

merrick said...

Jesus Gyrus!

You've gotta pity an animal that has solid and - yikes - flammable gut discharges. Haven't had that feeling since the aftermath of a mixed veg phaal.

Who'd have thunk that castoreum wasn't the weirdest animal substance used for perfume fixative. It does point towards my notion of there being some very weird person doing experiments to find what works. Someone who just can't keep their hands out of animals digestive tracts. What ones are there in use that we've yet to hear of, I wonder.

Anonymous said...

What gets me is the idea that the phrase "you smell like a beaver's arse" could actually be a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Cat likes to point out that Preparation H contains an oil obtained from sharks liver. OK, so piles bloody hurt, but slapping a shark's liver on them isn't the first thing that springs to mind. How bloody desperate would you have to be to try that?

Anonymous said...

Your "sampling" of the beaver picture from our website without attribution is not acceptable. Either take down the photo or give us online credit. - Jim Mason, Great Plains Nature Center

merrick said...

I'm extremely sorry to have caused any offence, Jim. I've now attributed the picture and made the name of your seemingly excellent organisation link to your site too.

Anonymous said...

I got the Preparation H story from a stand-up routine by John Dowie, also available in a comic version, in "Hard To Swallow" ilustrated by Hunt Emerson. The pic for that story was, well, striking...

Paul said...

The bollockless BBC bottles it about bumholes...

"Beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th Century and disappeared from the rest of the country 400 years later.

They were hunted for their fur and throat glands, which were believed to have medicinal properties."