On January 19th, 2017 we learned about

Making a political or personal point by pitching your poop

Poop Week!

The first, and most important thing my kids need to know on this topic, is that we do not throw poop. It’s yucky, you shouldn’t be touching it, much less throwing it, etc. That said, humans actually have a decent track record of throwing poop, particularly as an act of angry protest. The reasoning is probably obvious— if someone is going to go against the very important warnings their parents told them about handling pathogen-carrying feces, then presumably whatever they’re upset about is important enough to risk exposure to say… cholera, maybe? There’s also the ick factor, the shock value, and the fact that some of this behavior may be sort of built into our brains.

Forcing an issue with feces

Effective protest usually requires that the aggrieved party knows what they want, and that they can get someone else to listen to them. Poop probably can’t help with the first point, but if other outreach methods don’t work, anecdotal evidence suggests that properly-employed poop certainly captures people’s attention. Sometimes this has meant covering symbolic statues, such as at the University of Cape Town, in feces. In India, a rally of 30,000 people was somehow overlooked, but when protesters publicly defecated on copies of the land bill that had caused the uproar, more attention was given to the matter.

Unfortunately, not every poop gets thrown with such clear purpose. In some cases people have used feces mainly for the sake of offending others, with very little justice in mind beyond their immediate gratification. Documented cases of smearing abandoned dog poo in it’s negligent owners hair, or throwing turds at a neighbor’s house, usually lead to little more than criminal charges. Even with something as viscerally arresting as unexpected piece of poo, there are still nuances to be protesters need to appreciate in order to wield them effectively.

Scat and the beginnings of self expression

The weirdest details about tossed turds may be what they say about the evolution of our brains. We’re not the only animal to fling our feces, but we might want to feel proud to be counted as members of this unhygienic club. A study of chimpanzees found that the chimps who threw poo more often had more brain development between the their motor cortex and a speech-oriented structure called the Broca’s area. Chimps that didn’t throw poop didn’t show the same degree of connectivity in those locations, or the left brain hemispheres in general.

Researchers aren’t suggesting that throwing poop boosts language ability, or that human evolution was set to its present course when an ancestor threw their feces. Instead, they suggest that throwing any object, even cleaner ones, may have arisen at least partly in thanks of primates’ drive for self expression and communication with their peers. It wasn’t so much that the poop-tossers were better athletes, but that they had something to say, and tossing a poop was sometimes the best way to say it.

Source: ​A Brief History of People Protesting Stuff with Poop by Mark Hay, Vice