“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ”
This single quote from the famous book ‘To kill a mockingbird’ by the author Harper Lee rang through the hearts and minds during the years of oppression of ethnic minorities in North America during the early 20th century. To me it really summarises a generation, speaking out against discrimination with the words ‘climb inside his skin’ sending chills down my spine when trying to understand how the other side feels. To climb inside anything gives a new perception that is never normally understood or considered and since that famous book, the perceptions of other races changed significantly. This ideology or mind-set is also an important, but often overlooked tool when perceiving wildlife and more importantly their feelings and emotions.
Animals as equals?
‘Stop the importation of lion heads, skin, claws and teeth as wildlife trophies’.
The recent passing of Harper Lee sparked this topic due to various readings of some of her most famous passages. This insightful quote seemed connected to the volume and types of petitions I found online regarding either animal trophies, destruction of habitats or the banning of certain substances that poison wildlife. This sentence and the struggle of wildlife across the globe seemed to follow similar paths and I wanted to use the wondrous vision and language that she had.
To me, and I’m sure most of the public, it makes complete and utter sense to ban trophies of wild animals. These types of acts have become totally unacceptable, a huge step from the century, where hunting and killing wildlife for entertainment or because it was an inconvenience was commonplace. This has parallels to discrimination, something that has also become unacceptable, and referring to the Harper Lee quote was given reality if, one assumes the shoes of the other person. This concept of climbing inside is a great analogy in understanding how the other side feels, whether it be a human or in this case, wildlife. As a culture we have come so far and finally accept, or try to, all races as one, emanating from one common ancestor, so why can’t we do the same for animals, as both animals and humans evolved from the same creatures.
Humans as a civilisation have developed over the last 100 years, with democracy, legality and a distinct level of civility existing across the Earth. Many common practises from our past such as slavery and to a certain extent, commercialism of goods for western countries has gone into the history books (by commercialism I am referring to the empire of nations conquering areas and extracting goods for the home nation). Slavery, a very old method of dominance over other races was widespread throughout the world where the English, Spanish and others enslaved many Africans and indigenous South Americans to do their work. These types of barbaric and uncivilised activities are definitely not acceptable in today’s society, but I also feel this should also be the case for many activities that include wildlife which still happen today. Countless animals are kept as slaves, like elephants in Asia, various monkeys as pets, yet they are wild animals like us. Whether chained up or caged they have been separated from their families. This an ill-fitting human activity when it is clear that they have similar if not a stronger family bond than humans. How can we effectively kidnap and enslave elephants and other animals to do our bidding?
Petitions are they needed?
The hunting of animals for sport, like Cecil the lion, is another still somehow acceptable, yet, it is an act from a bygone era. So why do we still do it to this day? This also includes fox hunting, driven grouse hunting and many others, which are still legal in some places. There has been outrage with regards to these activities and I totally harmonise myself to this. Any attempt to keep them on-going will only fulfil this historical and colonial stereotype.
‘Save the police unit that protects wildlife’
‘Palm oil sustainability’
‘Stop abusing wildlife in reality programmes’
‘Ban toxic lead ammunition’
‘Ban driven grouse shooting’
The titles above are petitions that are now either under consultation or have been refused by the UK government. I respect the urge to submit petitions and I include myself in their backing. This includes all the above and in fact more. However, these are worthy causes but, I now have a wish, a desire to effectively ignore them and allow common sense to prevail and to not dream or wish in a public forum. The reason I cite petitions and their use is simply because they were never needed to end oppression or prevent slavery.
In a more current situation the use of toxic lead is a clear test of conscious, allowing poisonous metal to leak, contaminate wetland habitats and poison wildlife. The heads of government, or simply a strong leader need to announce changes, because this type of death for wildlife is slow, painful and inhumane, therefore not acceptable in today’s moral climate.
The persecution of raptors on grouse moors again requires a single person to accept and share the surroundings. In 2012 alone, there were 164 documented cases of shooting and destruction of birds of prey. If you accept, and climb inside their skin, you would realise they are simply hunting to survive and find food for their families. The death of these magnificent birds most likely leaves chicks by themselves, in all likelihood perishing. Is this something you want to happen simply because they hunt a single partridge or pheasant that are grown for hunting alone. These birds are also non-native. The buzzards are doing us a favour more than anything.
Another practise that again screams to me when I think of the quote ‘climb inside of his skin ’is shark finning. There have been many examples of what is clear cruelty and one can only think of the suffering of the animal. I am definitely not advocating not eating animals for food but, severing a shark’s fin and throwing it back alive is the epitome of brutality. The inhumane dismemberment of whale sharks or manta rays, removing gills, fins, organs while they are alive as a barbaric act. Just think about the feelings of these amazing creatures and imagine yourself being dismembered while still alive. If only there were more people with a premeditated attitude or could understand and connect with the suffering they’re inflicting, then the global conservation effort wouldn’t be such a challenge.
I just wanted to move away from desperate attempts of certain petitions because most of them are simply common sense. If we attempt to understand and feel how the wildlife in question wants to survive and how it suffers, then surely that connection to the public and individuals is stronger than a signature on a petition. Consider the view of the shark or the elephant and swap shoes. It only takes a few to decide and see the error in their ways. This holds the best chance of preserving what little wildlife there is left. With a 54% reduction in wildlife across the globe, empathy is the last hope.
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