Are we overlooking an important part of our humanity?

This past weekend marks the beginning of a controversial program sanctioned by the government in Western Australia which permits the culling and killing of Great White Sharks.  This “culling and killing” program, which uses hooked lines attached to floating drums to cull sharks in its waters, is the Australian government’s response to a seven fatal shark attacks over the past three years off the coast of their country.

In Orlando, Florida, a woman walking her two small dogs along the eastern boundary of the Wekiva River Buffer Conservation area was mauled by a black bear who had unknowingly wandered outside the perimeter of her heavily treed home with her young cub at her side.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s response to what they are calling an “unprovoked attack” was to trap and then kill two black bears a week later, both of whom “fit the description” of the bear involved in the attack.

In Africa, an estimated 20,000+ elephants a year are illegally killed by poachers who look to profit financially by cutting off their tusks to sell the precious ivory in the black market.  The widespread slaughter of these majestic creatures is triggered by greedy hunters looking to capitalize and fueled by the demands of people who are willing to pay top dollar for the disturbingly coveted body parts.  With an estimated 90 percent of its elephants lost to poaching in the last half-century, African elephants may one day be facing extinction.

The examples of abuse and massacring of the animals and mammals who occupy this beautiful planet earth with us is distressing and creates an opportunity for meaningful discussion.  We seem to have done a fairly adequate job of understanding how our relationships work with each other on a human level, at least in a broad sense.  So why are we having such a difficult time understanding how to be in a relationship with these magnificent creatures?  How is it that we seem to be missing entirely the intended purpose for our cohabitation and coexistence? I suppose the argument could be made that their presence in our lives is merely for our consumption, our comfort, and our amusement, but I’m sensing that there is something much more important going on here than simply that.

After the release of the “Blackfish” documentary, people began protesting and boycotting Sea World for the capture and captivity of killer whales; yet at the same time we are killing sharks in their own natural environment for doing what they naturally do.  We run the sharp blades of our recreational motor boats over the backs of gentle manatees in their native home, the warm rivers of Florida, severely maiming or killing them, and then turn around and sharply criticize the organization who has rehabilitated and released thousands of these wounded peaceful mammals back into their natural habitats:  Sea World.

What the heck are we doing?

If we continue to expand and build upon the lands where so many of these animals live and eat and breed, if we continue to squeeze them out of their natural environments to accommodate our desire for another strip mall or more high-rise condominiums, where do we expect them to go?  What do we expect them to do?  What will happen if we continue to adorn ourselves with the furs of minks, fox, and chinchillas?   What will happen if we continue to train pit bulls to fight to the death or if we continue to frequent and financially support the local Greyhound dog track, hoping to win big on the next race?  What will happen if we insist on continuing to be entertained by rodeos where harsh handling practices, such as twisting calves’ tails or painful electric shocks and tightly cinched bucking straps, are implemented to make animals run faster or buck harder?

I’m just wondering.  Because it seems to me we are truly missing an important part of our humanity here, some aspect of who we really are that is being overlooked or misunderstood or unawakened.  Might there be a much larger reason, a more divine reason, for why we have been given the extraordinary opportunity to share this thing called Life with these furry, scaly, finned, and feathered friends?  And if so, what might that be?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida.  To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • Wendy Quenneville

    Thank you, Lisa, for mentioning the news story about the execution of the black bears who happened to look like the black bear who was protecting her cub when they wandered out of their Acceptable To Humans Area, and came across a lady walking her dog, who proceeded to startle, irritate, and appeared dangerous to her cub. The woman was probably screaming making the situation worse. Though attacked the woman and dog survived, but the two black bears (who did nothing wrong) were executed.

    We tend to forget that animals were here first. We don’t just encroach on the land, we over-run it until we say, ‘Kill the animals. There are too many.’ Or we move them out of their homeland, and stick them in a zoo in a small cage. Oh yeah, that’s so much better.

    I live an hour away from Orlando, and was appalled when I heard this news. Thank you, again.

    • I appreciate you joining the discussion, Wendy. It’s heartbreaking that we haven’t found a better way to harmonize with the animals of our planet, one that doesn’t involve simply eating or wearing them. Perhaps we can carry forth the wisdom imparted to us by Albert Einstein: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

  • Therese

    Thank you, Lisa, for this article. I have had the same thoughts. As a dog mommy I am appalled by how humans treat animals…and in some ways I know I continue the paradigm in my daily life by eating meat, and using all of the by-products of animals. I am doing my best to become more conscious of some of these things, and also being more consciously grateful to these creatures.

    However, I believe that even this discussion goes back to the very premise of this site…the core of what is not working in this world, and with animals is still our relationship with God, more precisely what/who religion says we are. The Bible tells us that man was given dominion over the earth, yet, at the same time it tells us that we are sinful and less than and not really to be trusted with that dominion…soooo, how do we act towards those we have dominion over?? Yup, as God treats us. God kills people for being people, so we kill a dog for being a dog, or a bear for being a bear. The earth is there for us to wisely have dominion over, but, just as with whose version of God do we believe, whose version of “wisely” do we use?

    We are just all confused little children, and I thank you, Mother Lisa, for guiding us in this and other things.

  • Erin

    Of the many ‘others’ that share Life…Of the few that have made it their mission to bring Nature’s message to humans through relationshipping closely within Our boundaries…There is great consensus: We are slow Seers…Disturbingly slow.

    And just as We are finally tiring of the weights of the chains that bind us to present ways of human beingness, so are ‘the others’ tiring of being leashed by Our chains. We rant of Our ‘elite’, while being ‘the majority’…How they, the 1%, are stifling Freedom, Wellness, Knowledge, Security of the 99%. But ‘the others’ are bombarded by the 99% of those who do not Understand Nature Itself…doing the same unto All Else that their 1% is doing to them. Great Golden Rule going on here…NOT! Sad, tho.

    If it is not given, it is not going to be given. This is not a chicken/egg question, rather, it’s an ‘IS’ statement…Give THEN Receive. Stuff here just doesn’t work well otherwise…Obviously.

    Humans have some pre-disposed notion that We are ‘the elite’ of Life…Pure silliness! Arrogance at it’s finest! Hardly a grip of own Home, own Family, own Self, let alone an inkling of Understanding of anything else that abounds. ‘Others’ are for testing, playing, venting, distorted ideas of entertainment & competition, and very much to express love of control. Sorry, but those who think this way would only by Grace survive even moments in a truly “Natural Habitat”. There are ETs who deem Us as ‘Others’, just as there are those that are compassionate of Our ‘slowness’.
    (Isn’t it always a comical thought that Dog is God backwards? The patience & compassion of saints have these ‘others’!)

    Great subject, Lisa…We ‘Other’ Lovers could go on for days with it! Keep an observing eye on the moves of Elephants, Whales & Porpoises…and those we tend to ‘trust’ most. I have a feeling we will be Seeing them expressing their displeasures of existing with Us quite clearly in these days…Much to Our chagrin, but hopefully effecting Our Changes toward wiser ways, yes? 😀