Thursday, February 25, 2010

What can we do?

Usually, my animal rights friends call me a hypocrite because while I believe all animals should be treated with care and kindness, and I'm willing to pay more for meat if it was from free-range livestock, but if filet mignon or grilled shrimp are on the menu, it's pretty much guaranteed I'm ordering it.

That being said, I don't know why, but I've been having these pangs of sadness for this situation in Orlando with the orca whale killing its trainer. It's a terrible tragedy for the family who has lost their loved one, but on the other hand, my heart goes out to the killer whale. Here's this wild creature that was captured off the coast of Iceland and has been forced to breed and perform on cue in literally a bathtub for decades.

That's not natural. Can you imagine being forced to dance in your shower for food while people clapped?

My team at Discovery has done several stories about the orca's behavior and why it acted so violently, even why it had killed before, so it's something I've been immersed in every day since it happened, which is probably why it's starting to get to me. But clearly this animal is unhappy, even if SeaWorld is giving it the best care and nothing -- so far -- is being done to change it. Why?

Killer Whale Trainer Death Tied To Mating, Isolation
Should Killer Whales Be Kept in Captivity?
Killer Whale Testosterone Surges Documented by SeaWorld

To top it off, I've also been working on a slide show about endangered tigers this week too. Did you know there are only 200 white tigers left in the entire world? That's including the ones that are in zoos and nature reserves! Several conservation programs believe that all tigers in the wild will be extinct in our lifetime.

When we learned the alphabet in grade school, wasn't it "T" for tiger? Can you imagine them going extinct?

Why? Well, because of poaching, habitat loss, climate change and on and on and on. And then back to the whales, not only are we stealing them from their natural environments, but also researchers have now found a "garbage patch" in the ATLANTIC Ocean, not to mention the one in the Pacific that's been there for years, and on and on and on...

Ah! It's too much! The helplessness and hopelessness of it all is too heavy. What do we do? What can we do?

I have to say I've grown a greater respect for those animal rights friends of mine who have been thinking about these things and more for years, and will continue to think and act to protect animals years from now. I don't think I could handle it.


Andrea @ said...

Oh you bring up such a strong point. At times I can't help but think about the treatment and slaughter of animals in a negative way. I don't want to ignore the reality of extinction, mistreatment, etc. But I guess I must in order to continue to live as an omnivore.
I didn't realize that there are only 200 white tigers left in the world.

Lauren said...

You said it perfectly and I totally agree. It just overwhelming to think about sometimes!

Brandon said...

Very well stated Lauren, and as someone who has worked at a zoo for the past 12 years I have seen firsthand the tragedies that happen when people don't treat wild animals like wild animals. I have also seen wonderful things come out of our zoo (wild Bongo repopulation, for example), so I get annoyed when good zoos get lumped in with the Sea World shows. One bit of clarification though: the reason there are less than 200 white tigers in the world is because they are unnatural. The white coloring isn't a different species, it's a mutation that is NOT naturally selected for. White tigers in the wild are unable to blend in and hunt properly, so they all starve to death, which while sad, is the natural way of things. The only reason white tigers exist at all is because we breed them in zoos and for shows (i.e. Sigfried and Roy) so they don't have to worry about hunting.

Lauren said...

Wow, thanks Brandon for your comment. I do believe zoos and certainly conservation programs do great work and are a must have if we're going to keep whales, tigers, primates and all animal species from going extinct. That's fascinating about the white tiger too. World Wildlife Fund failed to disclose that detail :)

Simone said...

There are less than 3500 tigers left PERIOD. and even less great white sharks! it can definitely get depressing to internalize everything, especially when you spend days (years!) working/reading/writing/thinking/fighting about it. the message to remember is that we CANT lose hope! we have to believe there IS hope to encourage us to act. i certainly have my days where i feel overwhelmingly defeated, so i know how you feel :-/

caboose said...

This is one of the best editorials you have written. The SeaWorld mind set is based on "if we didn't have these animal on display, people would never get to see them" - this may be valid for a zoo with natural habitat, but when it's all about the money, as SeaWorld surely is,you're damn right this orca has every reason to be pissed off.Power to the orcas!