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

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