About 10 years ago, I attended my first humane-education conference in Denver, Colorado. There were about a dozen people in the room, and the topic of the day was “The Cycle of Violence.” We learned a lot about the link between cruelty to animals and violence to humans.
Each of us described incidents of cruelty to animals in which police and prosecutors took a “ho-hum” stance and did nothing. We commiserated on how hard it was to get the authorities to take cruelty to animals seriously. The prevailing attitude was “It’s just an animal.” And this seemed to be the mindset nationwide. The solution, we were told, was to show the authorities how unpunished incidents of cruelty to animals can affect society. Show people how stopping cruelty to animals will help people, and they will take it more seriously.
I remember thinking then that it was a shame that we couldn’t value the lives of animals simply because they were animals. No, we had to find a way in which helping them benefitted us.
I am having feelings of déjà vu. While watching news coverage of the oil spill crisis on television, I heard only one person—a tearful female wildlife ranger—talk with great emotion about how these were her dolphin, pelican, and fish friends being killed as a result of this fiasco. Her point was that it is her responsibility (and ours) to preserve and protect animals and the environment—not because of the benefit to people, but simply because they exist and deserve the right not to be destroyed by our arrogance and greed.
Other people, it seemed, were more concerned about helping the animals who were suffering in the oil spill so that the animals could be exploited and killed later. And Rush Limbaugh made a statement to the effect of “Who cares about a few dolphins?” I may be asking the same thing. Who?
The fishers, the shrimpers, and the people who make their living catching oysters are upset because their livelihood is being wiped out. I’m sorry that they are in financial trouble, but when you decide to make your living by depleting our natural resources and killing millions of animals, don’t you think that something, such as an oil spill, might happen one day? It was bound to happen—either through a human—caused disaster or a natural disaster. Is there no Plan B?
I watched the now-famous footage of the destroyed marshes and the oil-soaked pelican with my grandson. He didn’t understand why the bird was walking funny. Try explaining the connection between the gas in our cars and a dying bird to a 5-year-old. It is not easy for a mind that has not yet been corrupted by all the evil in this world to understand why such suffering exists. As Denzel Washington said in the movie Philadelphia, “Tell it to me like I’m a 6-year-old and help me understand.” Please. Help me understand.