On Respecting Our World’s Creatures

Look at that, two rants in a week.  Lucky you!

This rant comes a little late in the game, as this issue reared its ugly head earlier this summer. But I wanted to address it nonetheless. I read all about this when it first happened, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since. It’s a prime example of why I hate people (as a general rule).

In Alabama (sorry to call ya’ll out, bless your hearts!), beachgoers descended on the shores and, without so much as a care in the world, not only destroyed a colony of protected birds by invading their nesting areas, they used the birds’ eggs to “decorate the beach,” ensuring their path of death and destruction was complete. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

These birds are not placed on this beach for entertainment.  They are going about their daily lives, just trying to survive, and in this case, you know, trying not to become all extinct and what-not.

Which brings me to another aspect of this rant that I want to address. I’d like to go on the record as saying that I have an amazing capacity to be outraged by any number of things at once.  Yes, I’m concerned for the African girls who need to be educated, yes, I’m also concerned for America’s vast population of homeless that include veterans who fought for this country, and yes, I am concerned about immigration reform and all the pictures I see where kids are allegedly being kept in cages.  Don’t try to tell me there are bigger problems in the world than colonies of endangered little birds; believe me, I am well-aware there are other issues. Sadly, we don’t have to pit one atrocity against another as there are more than enough to go around.

The difference is, the people who donate time, money and effort into charities that help people do not share the stigma that animal advocates do; if you defend the welfare of animals and fight for the humane treatment they deserve, you are a nut case (unless of course you’re talking about dogs and cats … then you’re right in line with other mainstream advocates).  How did we become this divided in our view of world priorities?

Why does it have to be your concerns versus my concerns?  In my mind, they are all our concerns. Not only that, we can care about more than one thing at a time.

Animals are a gift to us.  We need to take responsibility for their welfare as we are most often the cause of their demise.  In some cases, like this one, it is senseless stupidity.  In others, it is deliberate; safari hunts, eating endangered animals for the thrill of it, wiping them out so we can expand our own flawed human needs… these are ongoing issues that need to be addressed.  Sometimes, animals suffer because of our thoughtlessness and complete lack of awareness of the “bigger picture,” like the humble honey bee.

Will my own personal day-to-day world be impacted by the extinction of this tiny feathered critter?  No, not one bit.  But sadly, their world will be, and ours as whole will be.  Unlike Jurassic Park, these animals and many others like them will not be cloned back into existence. It seems a simple request:  can’t we respect all breathing beings and accept that they have a place on this planet, too?

The ego of humanity is simply astounding.  We mistakenly believe that we are the ultimate culmination of evolution; realistically, you know, we’re not.  A thousand years from now humans will be only another link in the chain.  No doubt, we will do something to cause a mass extinction event to ourselves.

I want to believe that we will wake up from our selfish ways and start to care for all living creatures.  Guess what?  Respect for life, whether human or animal, starts at home.  If our offspring is raised to have so little value for life, we need to look in the mirror and place blame where it belongs.  It’s really not that big of a stretch to think that people who can destroy a colony of protected birds (or any birds) without so much as blinking an eye, in general think so little of life that destroying fellow humans will, within a few generations, become a familiar way of life.

Doom and gloom for a Friday night perhaps, but that’s just the way I see it.  Come on, people; we need to do better.  We MUST do better.

When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?

 

 

Caution – Rant Ahead

Do any of you remember when I wrote about Marius, the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo that was killed when he was only 2 years old because he was deemed to be “surplus?” If not, I urge you to click on this link for a refresher. If you don’t have the time to read the full article, here’s the short and sweet version: The Copenhagen Zoo encouraged their giraffes to breed… lo and behold Marius was brought into the world. However, after zoo doctors found Marius’ genes to be too common (common, not inbred) for breeding, they shot him in the head, dissected him in front of a crowd (of mostly children) and fed his meat to lions. Who cares that nearby wildlife parks offered to take him off their hands? Who cares that there was a public outcry? Who cares that it seems hypocritical that a breeding program would decrease the population of a species it is trying to save? And what about the four lions who ended up feasting on Marius’ remains — which included two young cubs — this same zoo killed them not long after they offed Marius, because they had to make room for just one incoming alpha male?

Who cares about those trivial little questions? Well, let’s just move on to what’s going on at the Copenhagen Zoo NOW, shall we? Oh look, a brand new baby giraffe was just born there (in September 2016). Yes, you read that correctly. A mere two years after one giraffe was killed because he was a “surplus animal” the zoo breeds another of the exact same animal. You’d think this means that they have their surplus problem all figured out and this latest birth is guaranteed a long, healthy life. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. As a spokesman for the zoo states, there’s no guarantee that this new baby giraffe won’t end up with the same fate as Marius. They’re admitting that, yeah, they might kill this one off as well if things don’t work out the way they want them to.

But that may not happen. This giraffe might make it to the ripe old age or 3, 4, maybe even 5! It just won’t be at the Copenhagen Zoo. When the little guy hits 2 years old he might get shipped off to another zoo like a product ordered off Amazon. Although that’s not a guarantee.

Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that there are some zoos that do a great job at saving endangered animals, but it’s a Catch-22 because most zoos, as they are now, are simply not great for the animals. They’re having success in breeding, but look at what the animals are being bred into. They’re pretty much led straight from the womb to a guillotine. You might say this cycle of systematic culling is simply a European practice I cannot abide, but it’s not. Zoos right here in the US regularly sell surplus animals or euthanize them. Which begs the important question, why? Why breed so-called surplus animals in the first place?

Okay, yes, strides for bettering the treatment of animals are being made. Take circuses for examples. Their animal acts, if not wholly banned, are much more tightly regulated now than in the past. However, Barnum & Bailey just sent their elephants to a “sanctuary” that also happens to run experiments on the animals in the name of science (cancer research). So, while they’re not chained to posts or crammed into claustrophobic train cars or forced to do stupid acts for a crowd, did they really win? Who knows the extent of the research they are subjected to. All I know is that the phrase “testing on animals” rarely means something good is going on. While perhaps the research facility may not be a house of horrors, I can’t imagine it’s as good as living on an actual sanctuary where they have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and be all elephant-y.

Barnum & Bailey got rid of their big cat act, too. Don’t applaud just yet. In an effort to make a final buck on these animals, they’ve been sold to other circuses and events who DO still perform animal acts. God knows what their living conditions will be. So, it’s really just trading one set of terrible owners for another. What gets me is that with all the millions of dollars Barnum & Bailey have made off these animals, they could at least have given them a proper retirement. It’d be a nice way to say, “thanks for making it through the years of abuse.”  But no. Instead, the circus, yet another greedy corporation, milked every last penny they could out of their elephants and tigers, their well-being be damned.

Say what you will about their diet and environments, but animals in captivity are just that, captive prisoners. When humans decide to interfere with wildlife to such a degree that the animals are entirely dependent, with their very existence depending on the whims of bureaucratic policy, whether it’s a circus or a zoo, then those humans have a solemn responsibility to those animals – their lives should not come down to being deliberately bred into “surplus” only to be cut short or being exploited for a lifetime only to be sold into yet another version of servitude.

At what point are they allowed to simply be a lion, a giraffe, an elephant? By the looks of it, in many cases, the answer is never. To me, that is just an unacceptable answer.

So You Got a Dog

Okay, so you guys have had a free pass from my rants for far too long. Brace yourselves. What brings this one on, you ask?  Well, long story short – dogs.

I saw an ad for a dog someone is trying to rehome for $100. The dog has been with the family for a little over a year. Supposedly he came to them neglected and abused and they had wanted to provide him a forever home. But, BUT, now he’s just too much. Too active for their busy schedules. You know how things go. Oh, he’s a great dog.  Doesn’t mess in the house, doesn’t need to be crated any more, excellent with kids, presumably up to date on his shots, etc. Great dog. Simply a great dog. It’s just he no longer fits into the scheme of things for their family. You know how things go. Shit happens.

So after writing this wonderful ad for him online and posting it on several different boards along with the requisite adorable (and he is adorable) photos and receiving numerous comments of “Oh he’s wonderful…” and “I’d like to have him, but…” and “Check out this rescue if you can’t find a home…” and “I’d like to visit him…” and “I would love to have him…” and the like, the owner responds somewhere in-between: “He’s such a sweetheart. I don’t know. Going back and forth on whether or not to just keep him. I can always just get rid of him later if it still doesn’t work out.” With a cute little smiley face emoticon and everything. Seriously, what the hell?

Either you want the dog or not. I mean for God’s sake. Is he a family member or not? Is he too much? Or is he great? Does he fit into your schedule or can you make time?  Yes, yes, it’s a big decision, I know, I know. But for fuck’s sake, MAKE IT. Make the decision instead of leaving this dog’s life in limbo, because sure as anything if you decide he’s great now you’ll keep him, and next week he’ll suddenly be “too much” again, and here we go, back up on the online local town boards.

And this, folks, these people who can’t figure out that an animal is a sentient being, a pet that should be a family member, this is what drove me to advocacy. Sure, the dog’s not being abused, but how much do you want to bet she does a home check on the next new family?  I wouldn’t take that bet.  So who knows where he’ll end up?

Things change and life happens and sometimes you have to rehome a pet. I try not to judge. But what I AM judging is the flippant attitude of “do I want him or don’t I?”  I mean, she might as well flip a coin at the rate she’s going. At least then the dog would have a chance.

Complimentary Insults

Are you familiar with “blocking” on Facebook? It’s a special filter you can set up on your profile that can, as Facebook works it, “prevent them [certain people you choose] from seeing things you post on your profile, starting conversations with you or adding you as a friend.” Normally, blocking happens when someone gets super pissed off at someone else. It’s a pretty severe move.

I can count on two fingers just how many times I’ve been blocked on Facebook, which I do like to pat myself on the back for just a little. It means I’m “playing nice” for the most part, or at least not angering others enough that they starting trying to do social media’s version of Eternal Sunshine. Overall, it’s an indicator that you like me, you really, really like me…sorry, channeling a little Sally Field there a minute. At any rate, just so you know, I can play well with others (gasp! It’s a shock, I know.) and generally endeavor to do just that.

I found out that blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though. The first person who ever blocked me was a now ex-in-law who was really better off blocked anyway. That particular instance of childlike behavior (and not on my part) made for a very welcome respite in my life that I have enjoyed ever since.

But recently, I got blocked a second time and this one isn’t going down so smoothly. Oh, I won’t dwell on it for long and the so-called punishment is not likely to change my behavior. However, it did have me shaking my head.

The person who blocked me is someone I thought I knew well – as well as you can know someone you’re only friends with online (and yes, online friends are still friends). We were more than just casual acquaintances even if our conversations were limited to text and emails. In fact, I had supported her through numerous “life is crazier than fiction” issues over the past two years.  I was there for her through a neighborhood bullying problem that got so bad she had to move out of the home she had just moved into only a few months before. I gave her a shoulder to lean on when her pets died. More importantly I stayed true to her when she was blindsided with a completely unexpected divorce.

After being there for her through all that—personal turmoil, death, the disintegration of a marriage—this person blocked me on Facebook. Do you want to know why? The reason she blocked me was over…wait for it…rehoming fees for pets.

You heard me right. Rehoming fees. I’m not using slang that you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about rehoming fees as in “an amount asked for by a pet owner or rescuer when they are adopting or readopting a pet to a home.”

Before going any further, let me say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s what makes the world go round. But, is it too much to ask that opinions are formed after doing a decent amount of research and communicating with experts who have been in rescue or in the field doing investigations? I’m sorry but if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand why you have a certain stance, if you’re basing your opinion on nothing more than air, you put animals at risk and that frankly, is unacceptable. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Well, you would be wrong.

You might think that because I am a) pretty passionate about animal welfare and b) able to be a teensy bit hot-headed when I’m on a good rant, that I was rude or sarcastic when arguing my case to this former friend. Fair enough. But you’ll be happy to know that that wasn’t the case in this instance.

I coolly and calmly provided my friend with verified information, links, research, and encouraged the person to write her paper — which was her intent for this whole mess — on the truth, rather than simply stick to her baseless opinion out of stubbornness. I won’t even get into the fact that she started claiming industry experts were of the same opinion as her (not saying I’m always right, but…) which was purely and simply a falsehood.  I gave her a good out, but she didn’t take it. Instead, she labeled me an “activist” of the wood boring variety (because I came out of the woodwork just to argue – ha!)  and summarily blocked me, giving me no chance to respond to her ridiculous claims. Isn’t that always the way?

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Oh, I’m not an activist.  But I don’t necessarily consider it the horrendous and belittling insult she meant it as either.  What I am is an advocate.  Hell, I’m proud to be an advocate. Her attitude towards me doesn’t change the truth or skew any of the concrete facts. She can keep her faulty beliefs and maybe one day she’ll be unable to avoid the fact that she’s telling a lie. God help the animals who get hurt in the process though.

And seriously, in hindsight, maybe this whole “being nice” thing is just too damn overrated.

 

common sense

Idiot Hunter (No, Not That One)

I know I rant a lot about trophy hunters, but the subject fires me up, so bear (pun!) with me because my blood is boiling yet again from the actions of another bloodthirsty member of the human race.

By now I think we’ve all heard about the killing of Cecil the lion by the fearsome loathsome Minnesota dentist who lured the lion out of his protected area so he could be slaughtered. I’m not going into that. I have someone else I want to talk about.

If you haven’t heard of Sabrina Corgatelli, well, she’s a piece of work. Her hunting philosophy is so riddled with holes you’d think that she hunted it herself.  She’s been jumped on by quite a few people due to her outrageous activities, so she felt the need to defend herself. The article about her “defense” can be found here and, wow, is she delusional. So delusional in fact I don’t even know if she is of sound enough mind to even own a firearm.

Let’s go through my top three complaints with her hunting philosophy:

1) As she says, “…giraffes are very dangerous animals. They could hurt you seriously very quickly.” Yup, that’s always been something that’s kept me up at night. How many kids in Africa are killed each year on their way to school because a horde of maniacal giraffes decided to go on yet another one of their notorious murderous rampages? Sharks, velociraptors, king cobras. They’re child’s play compared to what we all know about giraffes. I guess that’s why they have such thick glass at the zoos we all visit. These homicidal beasts that attack without provocation must be eliminated before they can cause more harm to the human race! Please, Sabrina, end their tyranny over the African savannah once and for all. What a load of BS. I’m sure they could hurt you. Hell, most anything could hurt you. But outside of leaves on tall trees, I’ve never heard of anything being terrified of a giraffe.

2) Quoting the Bible was one of her go-tos. Now, I’m not anti-religion at all. Please don’t think I’m speaking down at the Bible. I’m just not so sure that a passage from Genesis should be taken so literally. Besides, even if it is taken literally, it doesn’t even say that we should be hunting for fun. In fact, it very clearly states that hunting should only be used for survival purposes. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” “…go out to the field and hunt game for me.” I have a tough time believing that it was hunger that drove Sabrina to kill a giraffe, an impala, and a wildebeest. She’s never heard of Safeway? Until I see photographs of her eating every last morsel of meat off that giraffe I’m calling B.S. on her Bible excuse.

3) Last but not least, check out the caption for her one photo: “My Impala I got today!! What a beautiful animal!” So beautiful that it’s gotta be removed from the planet!? How does this make sense? Does her brain seriously work in a way where when she sees something “beautiful” the first thought that follows is how great it would be to erase it from existence? That’s like finding a never before seen Monet painting and immediately burning it. Why? Because it’s beautiful! Was the impala butt ugly when it was alive and only death released its beauty? I simply don’t understand how beauty and death go hand in hand. Or more importantly, how beauty and life DON’T go hand in hand for her.

She also claims that she respects the animals she kills. What the hell? I respect a great deal of people. I don’t think I’ll be killing any of them. In my mind killing is the ultimate form of disrespect you can perpetrate on another living being, animals included. How exactly is killing something showing respect? Exactly how does that make sense? Go into work tomorrow and tell your boss, “Why yes, I have the utmost respect for you sir, so I’ll be shooting you with a high-powered rifle while you enjoy your lunch today. Because I respect you so much. Oh, and you’re beautiful. You’re just so beautiful and I respect you. So you must die.”  Why not just be honest with yourself and say you enjoy killing for killing’s sake? Which is what it all boils down to…

Long story short, Sabrina is an idiot. Why? Besides what I already wrote above, this quote from Sir Roger Moore (a man whom I respect, but will not attempt to kill) says it best:

“In a world with boundless opportunities for amusement, it’s detestable that anyone would choose to get thrills from killing others who ask for nothing from life but the chance to remain alive.”

If only everyone shared this view.

Of Haunting Images and Hope

Okay, so time for a more serious post.  I hope you’ll stick with me long enough to read this one through.

I’m sure everyone has seen those horrific photos on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet. The ones that show an animal starving or abused or neglected.  They’re horrendous and just who the hell wants to see them anyway?  Ye Gads, once they’re seen it’s difficult if not impossible to un-see them.  It just ruins a person’s day (I had someone tell me that once).  Honestly, I understand just where those people are coming from.  I hate the photos for the very same reasons.  I’ve always had a problem with getting images out of my head.  Some people can’t stand to see horrible things, but I take it further in that once I see something horrific or disturbing, I can’t seem to get rid of the image…ever.  It stays with me, in my head, and pops back up at the oddest and most inopportune times.   Of course, it’s the emotion that is behind the image that stays with me….but it is the visual that truly haunts me. Forever. It’s like a kind of demented eidetic memory.

But you know what?  These photos are necessary.  It’s easy to say “I know what happens; I don’t need to see it.”  That really isn’t true though is it?  I mean, being told “that dog was starved to death,” isn’t nearly as moving as seeing a dog that had been starved to death. Sometimes words just aren’t enough.  And of course that’s what makes people so angry….the photos hurt their heart.

I support the fight against animal cruelty in all forms but I especially work towards ending horse slaughter.  It’s such a needless and inhumane business.  And I know that by supporting animal advocacy groups I’m helping to keep animals from being exploited and slaughtered and I realize that raising awareness is the key to change.  But I’ve often wondered if I can continue to deal with the constant horrific images floating around in my head and in my heart.

I had a revelation one night and it came, as they usually do I guess, through a dream. I dreamed of watching a horse slaughter transport truck go down the highway from a spot high above on a rocky hill, and seeing a horse, a splendid fawn colored, spotted horse, falling out of the truck thru a gap at the top of the side wall.  In real life, this would of course be physically impossible…but then…this was a dream.  And in my dream, the truck was so completely overloaded that it caused her to fall out, to basically be forcibly shoved out through a small gap in the sidewall of the truck.  In my dream I sat there gasping in horror as the horse fell completely out of the truck. I was just sure it was dead because there was no way it could survive the fall, let alone make it off the busy highway without being hit. Instead, to my absolute delight, it ran across the highway and up the hill where I was sitting. It came to my vehicle and leaned down to look in the open window as if to talk to me. I looked into its sensitive eyes and face, knowing that it was free of the horrors that had awaited it, that it had escaped, and I was inspired by the hope I saw there. I awoke with this amazingly beautiful image in my mind.

And that, people, is the image that will be sticking with me from now on, regardless of anything else that I might see. That horse, that one magnificent horse, can turn into hundreds and into thousands and then tens of thousands of horses that are saved from future slaughter, from future horrors that they do not deserve. That image of hope in her soulful eyes, of future, and of survival moved me far more than the horrific pictures I’ve seen.

It moved me more because that horse represents everything animal advocates, myself included, work towards.  Her heroic escape from an overloaded truck headed for a slaughter-house, gallant run to safety, and entrance into freedom represents a journey.  It is a journey that we must all take to stand up for the rights of animals who cannot stand up for themselves.  It is a journey that requires facing our fears and standing up to evil itself.  It is a journey of hope and hope is what gives us all the strength to fight animal cruelty every day.  Hope is so much stronger than evil.  Hope can move mountains and save horses.