How Selfie Culture is Hurting Wildlife

Another day and another animal is brutalised in the name of social media likes.

Last Thursday a turtle was, reportedly, pulled from the sea in Lebanon to have its photo taken and even have young children forced to stand on its back. It was also reported that the animal was viciously beaten causing a severe head wound. The sea turtle was thankfully saved by other people in the area and will hopefully be soon returned to wild but often animals aren’t so lucky in their encounters with humans.

<Images href="http://greenarea.me/en/149347/sea-turtle-lebanon-victim-selfie-greenarea-international-seeks-rescue/">from Green Area</a>

Images from Green Area

Many of us will remember how just a few months ago horrific videos and photos circled the net of a baby dolphin being passed around on a crowed Argentinian beach for selfies. Debate was sparked as to whether the young animal was dead before the beach-goers got their hands on it, but whether it was alive or not the disrespect and lack of dignity shown for this intelligent creature was upsetting and gave a far form perfect picture of humanity.

Just a few weeks later a swan was dragged from a lake in Macedonia for selfies with a tourist and, sadly, met the same fate as the dolphin. These weren’t the first of similar stories either. In 2014 a baby shark suffocated as New Yorkers took it in turns to have a photo with it.

All of these incidences show us the importance our virtual lives seem to be taking over everything else, particularly the lives of our fellow creatures. Although, as far as we know, only a handful of animals have been killed or harmed in this manner the fact that they have happened is demonstrative of a worrying mindset.

It shows a large number of people with a complete disregard and disrespect for animals. It shows a sense that these creatures which share our planet aren’t real, that what we do to them has no consequences. It shows a disgusting egotism and an inability to understand the interconnectedness of life on earth.

The sea turtle, for example, plays a vital role in marine life around the Lebanese coast and elsewhere. It primarily preys on jellyfish which in turn helps all the fish populations as jellyfish mostly feed on fish eggs and larvae. The fall in numbers of sea turtles will have knock-on effects for greater biodiversity in the waters. To raise awareness of the role they play and their endangered status the 5th of May was National Sea Turtle Day in Lebanon, but with a number of turtles found dead on the beaches it may be the message is going unheard.

The turtle, the dolphin, the shark, these are real animals, who all had an important place in their own eco-system. By dragging them out of it and taking photos as they struggle to breathe the people on the beaches showed how little they understood that and how little they even considered these animals to be real, with lives of their own and not momentary playthings.

Some may say we have always used and abused animals in this way, whether it is by eating them, wearing their skin, deforestation, hunting or circuses and even zoos. However, I think these acts of killing and brutalising an animal for a parade of selfies, to be admired before being quickly replaced by an inspirational quote or a photo of hot-dog legs, goes beyond how we have hurt the wild before.

Before we’ve used animals to feed ourselves, warm ourselves and,yes, also to entertain. But these selfies are a momentary, flashing pleasure which are not even done for the people themselves but to try to impress others. It demonstrates a trend towards not needing the slightest reason for hurting the wild, doing it for no gains to anyone at all.

The need to show our “accomplishments” and gain instant gratification from likes is turning us into a vain and dangerous species. It furthers the disconnection from the world around us and may signal an uphill battle for conservationists arguing for the importance of all other life on earth and how it should be respected.

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Environmental Writer. Published in various places in print and online. Editor at The Missing Slate. For more info and writing check out my blog: https://eeleereynolds.wordpress.com/

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