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?

 

 

Abandonment Issues

Okay, I know I’ve been quiet the past few days – the only excuse I have is, it’s been a bit chaotic on my side of the world. As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby. But have no fear, you’ll soon be regaled with the craziness that is my life. Lucky you! In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a rant. I haven’t ranted in a while, so face it, we’re due.

I have to say that every now and then, something comes along that makes me wonder if humans are truly the most evolved species, as experts claim.    Take this incident, for example … dogs abandoned on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, by their despicable owner.

This hurts my heart on so many levels.  Those dogs are terrified, and looking to their owner for direction.  You can see the confusion in their eyes when she leaves them.  How heartless do you have to be to take an innocent animal who depends on you and dump them on the side of the road?

The look on the woman’s face speaks volumes about her personally.  She doesn’t have an ounce of regret in her expression.  The only thing she regrets, I’m sure, is being caught by the Good Samaritan.

Was it a boyfriend, making her choose between the dogs and himself?  Sorry, sir, you would lose that gamble every time if it was me. Maybe she just got tired of caring for them or couldn’t afford to feed them any longer.  Was she too proud to take them to the shelter?  How did she think leaving them on the side of the road was any better?

I find it interesting that she took one of the dogs to the local shelter after she had dumped them.  I’d like to think she had a twinge of conscience, a moment of humanity, or a sense of guilt and went back to find them.

More likely, though, she probably was afraid that she would be caught and punished for her thoughtless, selfish behavior if she didn’t turn herself in voluntarily.  I am not sure anything close to a soul exists in someone who would do this. Quite frankly, I also blame the driver … not as much as the owner, mind, but still. How could they witness what was happening and say nothing, do nothing?

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, well, yeah, I am.

I can’t imagine living in a world where people leave babies in dumpsters, kill each other because one driver cut off another on the freeway, and abandon animals.  This is not the world I want to wake up to.  Every morning I turn on the news, open social media, or listen to a morning show on the radio hoping that the day before would be free of atrocity and heartbreak.

And every morning, I am thoroughly disappointed.

I find comfort in the fact that two out of four of these dogs have already found forever homes, and I know the other two will as well.  But I wonder if they ever miss the woman who abandoned them.  I wonder if they watch for her out of the window, tails wagging, hoping to see her car pull up in the driveway of the place they now consider home. Or maybe they realize all too well they’re better off now, without her.

Mostly, though, I wonder if the woman who dumped them like so much garbage at a dead-end, on a cloudy, grey day feels regret, and I wonder if she ever replays the moment when she closed the car door and saw them looking at her in fear, confusion, and expectation before she left them.

I hope she does, and I hope it haunts her dreams.

Because it sure as hell haunts mine.

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.

Money to Burn

So, apparently, a woman, who happened to be a model, was fat shamed by an Uber driver this past week who, from looking at his photo, was in no good position to fat shame anyone. Not to be content with his behavior, the woman took to Instagram to tell her story. Which is where I came across it.

In her post, this woman said that yes, she knew she was fat but her wallet was even fatter and she would no longer spend money on Uber. I don’t believe she was calling for an outright boycott, just that she herself, personally, would no longer spend money on their services due to the treatment she received. The story in and of itself was not all that new or interesting – things like this happen to women each and every day, to varying degrees.

What I did find interesting was a comment by another person that said while they guessed it was a shame what happened to the woman (because really, who doesn’t like a little body shaming with their car ride?), they couldn’t understand just why Uber should be held accountable for their driver’s actions. They went a step further and said if a cashier at Target had been rude to them, they might not go through that person’s line again, but they wouldn’t stop shopping at all Targets. Given their statement, however…and just for the sake of clarity here, it would appear they wouldn’t even stop shopping at the store in which the incident took place. They would simply choose a different cashier in the future.

Now maybe this commenter is a glutton for punishment or maybe they just have a low bar for how they’re treated. Personally, if I went to Target – or anywhere, for that matter – and was body shamed or insulted in some way, I wouldn’t be seeing more of that particular cashier either, because I wouldn’t continue giving money to a store that allowed such behavior. I don’t expect red carpet treatment, but on the flip side of that, I work too hard for my money to give it to someone who is rude, doesn’t appreciate my business, or makes me uncomfortable.

So. I have a better question for that commenter. Why shouldn’t an employer be held accountable for its employee? Especially those in the service arena who, on some level or another, depend on their quality of customer service to promote their business.

The woman from this Uber incident has every right to withhold her money from a business that, if not actively cultivating rudeness, at the least allows it to go on. Uber has control over their drivers’ actions and like any employer, should be accountable for what their employees do on the job. If they want this woman’s business, or anyone else’s business who happens to sympathize with her for the treatment she received, they should institute rules regarding the treatment of customers – and if they already have those rules in place, then they should enforce them. I mean, that’s just good business sense.

Choosing where we spend our money is one of the greatest strengths consumers have. Why on earth would someone want to give perfectly good money to a company that insults them?

Socially Unacceptable Social Media

If I look at one more picture of a dinner plate on my Facebook pages, my next status update will be from jail for assault.

Social media is simply out of control.  I wish it was as mundane as posting dinner pictures, but people are getting a little too comfortable sharing their most personal, intimate thoughts on their Facebook pages. These pictures of their innocent children on the first day of school, their vacation plans, or their real feelings about neighbors, religion or politics seem harmless on the surface, but consider this.

The average Facebook user has 338 friends. Okay, don’t ask me how I figured that out. It’s a terribly complex and difficult formula that I came up with all on my own. Out of those friends, only a handful are people these users actually know; family, coworkers, and real life friends account for an astonishingly small percentage of those 338 people.  That leaves an alarming number of people they really do not know on a personal level that subscribe to their page.  Friends of friends, people who pop up because of a shared interest or mutually “liked” page or TV show, and downright strangers make up the rest of the 338 people.

Many studies have been conducted regarding the various Facebook or Twitter users who feel it is necessary to inform everyone of every action they take throughout the day.  “Going to the bathroom, brb.”  “Taking out the trash.”  “Just woke up.”  “Going to the gym. Again.” And the selfies…good God, the selfies.  These are people who try to validate themselves through social media.  No one gives a damn about your carefully orchestrated duck face as you post that must-see picture of you holding your teacup poodle…all carefully filtered of course.

Yet, the people who make these posts really do think people care.  As if people are waiting with bated breath to see what they might post next. They randomly friend people who comment on someone else’s posts, and just as routinely unfriend people who don’t like that adorable selfie they took by the beach.  To be unfriended by someone is apparently devastating to the extreme, and they will take to their media of choice to cry about being unfriended.  In fact, in one astonishing case, being unfriended was a reason to commit murder. I mean, WTF?

Want to bet they duck faced for the mug shot?

This is all pretty frightening, but it hardly even scratches the surface of the social media lunacy.

People, mostly females for some reason, become so obsessed with actors that they post their reaction to every move the guy might make.  I’m not entirely sure what they hope to accomplish with this; perhaps it gives them a cachet and makes them feel important. Maybe they think this ultra-rich, ultra-handsome, ultra-everything will notice their post or tweet or whatever and simply appear from his island getaway to sweep her off her feet.

This was brought home to me a couple of days ago when I was watching an excerpt of a British talk show featuring host Graham Norton reading Facebook posts from women talking about their lust for actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock, Doctor Strange.) Poor Cumberbatch’s acting skills were really put to the test as he sat there and pretended that he was amused and not revolted or uncomfortable at all to hear someone say, “Just bury me in a Y-shaped coffin,” or “I can get pregnant just looking at him.” “I look at him and my ovaries explode.” Those were the “decent” ones. I could go on, but my mother reads this blog, and I try to save the ensuing lectures over my…ahem…colorful language…for rants I’m truly passionate about.

Oh, and just so you know, we have recently found out what makes women pregnant, and let me be the first to reassure frightened women everywhere that eyeing up Sherlock’s junk does not in fact contribute to pregnancy. Whew!  I know, right?  That was a close one. And by the way, get a grip. It’s one thing to have your private fantasies about an actor whom you like – there’s nothing new in that. We all do it. But to look at him solely as a sex object? Yeah, I suppose you could say it’s tit for tat as men have been looking at and objectifying women’s bodies since forever; long before the advent of social media. But still. Do two wrongs ever make a right? And to blast it out lewdly for all the world to hear see? That’s a little much if you ask me.

What’s the common phrase men write on message boards? “I’d do her,” referring to some actress whom they might not like in a role, but who looks so good that they’d “do” her anyway. I hate to burst that bubble, boys, but chances are the actress in question would never give any one of you the time of day. They’re on a whole other level from “normal” people. I’m also willing to bet my next Facebook picture of a baked potato that if 90% of the guys who say “I’d do her” on these message boards ever actually met the actress in question, they wouldn’t be able to muster up the nerve to say word-one to her…at least not coherently.

So, although I was somewhat revolted by this…psycho-gushing is the nicest term I can call it… it got me thinking about people who post things on social media of this nature. Do they expect the actors they’re talking about to read these posts? Do they secretly hope they will? Do they think the actor in question will actually want to meet them after reading this stuff? “Oh my goodness, did you read that!?  I just have to meet that revolting amazing person ASAP!”

These actors are real people, for goodness sake. They’re not just characters on a screen or a photo op in a magazine. They. Are. Real. People.  It is actually possible for them to read these Facebook and Twitter posts and what’s equally disturbing, so can their families.  These real people have wives, children, mothers, and fathers. People on the actor’s staff have to read this garbage, too; someone from Graham Norton’s staff obviously monitors the web very closely to find anything written about the actors he’s about to interview, for one.

Now as regular readers of my blog know, I’m a serious Marvel movie and TV fan. I like to think that if I ever met any of the actors who star in these creations (I’m looking at you Loki Tom Hiddleston), I’d act like a mature individual, say, “Hi, I enjoy your work,” and let them get on with their lives without 1.) thinking that they’d be so taken with me (one fan out of a thousand to greet them on any given day) that they’d even remember me 5 minutes later, or 2.) be that lewd, babbling stalker they do remember and recount as a “you’ve got to hear this one!” story on Graham Norton. That is if I’d be able to talk at all instead of just stare. But “Here, sign my boob!” I would never utter. At least not sober. It’s enough that I can enjoy their characters on the big screen, and know in real life they are totally different with lives of their own.

Long story short, Facebook posters and social media users everywhere, get a freakin’ grip.  Now, excuse me while I go post this incredible picture I just took of my lunch.

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