Friday, July 31, 2015
RIP Cecil, et al . . . & the making of animal advocates
Cecil the lion, whose cruel death has dominated recent news, and deservedly so. Like so many animals, lions are endangered, their numbers steadily dropping. Not even Cecil’s protected and studied status were enough to save him from a throwback big-game- hunting . . . dentist. An ignominious end of a majestic creature by a far lesser creature. Isn’t that too often the way?
And yes, the elephants and rhinos, poached almost out of existence for their tusks and horns. The lure of money breeds still more lesser creatures, who have no sense of history, no compassion for fellow beings and probably no regrets. It is an awful world when money talks, as it does so often.
Cecil’s death was wrong and horrible. But so are the deaths of billions of chickens, raised only to be slaughtered, and often tortured on their way to that. Unlike Cecil, who at least had a (short) lifetime in a natural habitat, chicken on factory farms do not. It’s seen as a great humane victory when corporations agree to enlarge their cages or – wonder of wonders – allow them to be “cage free” (which often still doesn’t mean in the sunshine or able to do barnyard things chickens have done for eons).
Pigs, known to be intelligent and social, may have the worst of it: “purpose bred,” they are seen as nothing more than potential food. Were pigs ever allowed just to be born and live out their lives?
And on and on. So yes, R.I.P. Cecil, only the most visible right now of all the world’s animals who are mistreated, abused, tortured, slaughtered, eaten.
And this related thought: Animal advocates often wonder how most other people seem able to ignore the short, horrible lives of so many animals at the hands of humans. During the last month or so, when I’ve missed going regularly to the animal shelter to care for the cats, I’ve realized how that can be.
Frequent proximity to animals in need, such as the shelter cats, increases my wish to help them. The more I help, the more I want to help. Maybe “vicious cycle,” as negative as that phrase sounds, describes it. It’s like being (voluntarily) caught in a spiral that keeps growing. More contacts w/ animals leads to more thinking (worrying, brooding . . .) about them, and a firmer resolve to do more.
Innocently breaking that pattern by freeing myself on weekday mornings has had the effect of cutting down on the time I spend thinking and worrying about the animals I’m not seeing as much. Reading about the shelter cats, in Yahoo and email, has less of an effect on me.
Transfer all that to humans at large. In general, they don’t see animals in pain or desperate straits and they don’t physically work to make a difference for animals in need. So whatever they hear or read on the subject is much more abstract and more easily forgotten. They probably have a store of good-sounding platitudes to get through a conversation about animals in need, and move on to something more pleasant and less demanding.
So to turn people into more sensitive animal advocates on a practical level, it may take somehow putting them into a live situation where they must see and hear and take positive action . . . which as I said above, can become a habit that keeps growing.