I like animals. I like to pet dogs. I play with cats (when they want me to.) I attended a “wolf camp” at the Wildlife Science Center when I was a kid. I once buried a turtle that got run over in front of my house. I like animals.
But I think we place them on too high a societal pedestal. Last summer, when Cecil the Lion was killed, I immediately knew that it was going to be a trending topic on Twitter for weeks. While I thought the guy who shot it was an asshole who probably should have spent his money in a better way, I don’t think he deserved the death threats or the harassment.
I’ve avoided reading just about anything on the gorilla that recently got shot at a zoo when a kid fell in the pen. Internet arguments about animals are rarely rational. All I know is that if it were my kid, I’d definitely want the zookeeper to take the utmost precaution when getting my kid back. Yeah, that really sucks that a gorilla had to die, but I think there would have been a lot more shit if a kid died instead.
The thing that bothers me about our culture’s abundance of love towards animals is that, while well-intentioned, it just seems excessive, when the love could be spread around. I once went on a date with a girl who just got back from picking up a rescue dog in California. Good for her, but I’m positive there could have been a rescue dog in Minnesota that could have benefited from her love and affection.
It bothers me that animals are one of the few things we can get into a national lather about. It’s one of those issues like illegal immigration and abortion that just sets something off in people. Animal issues are also the kind that don’t really have a solution. Did people want Cecil’s killer arrested? (He was just following his guide.) Did they want big game hunting outlawed? (Well, there goes lots of funding for conservation.) Do gorilla protesters want zoo management fired? (OK, well let’s have someone else’s child’s life put in your hands and see how you react.) It’s an emotional issue, but there are few perfect solutions.
And I’m guessing there’s an intersection between people who protest these animal issues and who get really close to wildlife at national parks. Just like those people who thought they were rescuing a baby bison, but it ended up having to be euthanized later.
I hate it that we want action on the killing of animals, but killing by drones or death at the border of our country elicits no where near as much social media outrage. It just bothers me that the life of an animal has so much more currency that (most) human death.
I’ve wrestled with this. I was an environmental studies major after all. I’ve come down to this: pay reverent respect to wildlife and don’t let your heart overtake your head. Be smart about it.