From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2004:
The 350,000 baby harp seals who were clubbed or shot and
often skinned alive on the ice floes off eastern Canada this spring
had more in common with the thousands of bull calves who were
abandoned at temples in India during the same weeks than just being
days-old mammals subjected to unconscionable mistreatment.
Unlike the much smaller numbers of seals who were killed off
Russia, Norway, and Finland, and unlike the somewhat smaller
numbers of bull calves who were shoved into veal crates here in the
U.S., Canadian harp seal pups and Indian surplus bull calves are
victims not only of human economic exploitation, but also of their
roles as icons and idols.
The words “icon” and “idol” have a common origin in the
ancient Greek word that means “image.” Yet they mean such different
things–and have for so long–that two of the Judaic Ten
Commandments, about setting no other God before the One God and not
worshipping graven images, sternly address the difference.
An icon is a physical image representative of a holy concept,
usually but not always depicting a person who is believed to have
exemplified the concept in the conduct of his or her life. Icons may
also depict animals, abstract symbols, supernatural beings, or
deities. A icon may be venerated for being symbolic of the holy
concept, but to venerate it for its own sake is considered idolatry,
and therefore wrong in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths,
as well as in some branches of other major religions.