Arthur Jeon, Global Animal Co-founder

We at Global Animal have been pondering the world’s overwhelming and gratifying interest in the baby dolphin rescued off a beach in Uruguay. ‘Nipper,’ as he has become to be called, became the most popular story on Global Animal this week.

Perhaps it was the charming boys who found the tiny river dolphin, laboring for breath on Playa Verde, and brought him to the SOS Rescate Fauna Marina. Or maybe it is the tireless efforts of Richard Tesore, providing round-the-clock care for this helpless baby that tugs at our hearts. Or the ‘supervision’ of Piky the Ppenguin, who chose not to leave with her 30 other oil-soaked comrades after she was cleaned up, instead deciding to make the marine reserve her new home.

Pikey the penguin ‘supervises’ Richard Tesore caring for sick baby dolphin.

Whatever made this story surge, there is sweetness to these animals and to people’s response to them that illuminates a higher part of human nature. Like the old story of returning a starfish from the beach to the sea, maybe we can’t make a difference for all the dolphins in the world, but we can try to make a difference with this one. We all respond to the specificity of the situation and the drama of Nipper’s perilous health the way we responded to the miners trapped in the Chilean mine.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, a different model plays out. The dolphin slaughter continues in Taiji, Japan, with baby dolphins killed or captured for the dolphin trade because they refused to leave their mother’s side as they were killed. The Cove still runs red with blood despite a growing awareness brought about by the movie and the tireless efforts of conservation groups like Ric O’Barry’s Save Japan Dolphins organization, The Black Fish and Sea Shepherd.

And yet, we see in the comments posted on Global Animal, that people are making the connection between Nipper and the Taiji slaughter. They epitomize polar opposite ways of viewing nature and the animals that inhabit our world. One is brutally violent, exploitive, unnecessary and disconnected from the familial reality of these intelligent mammals. The other is joyful, reverent, connected and acknowledges that animals have a right to be here as much as we do.

We see this duality in individuals played out over and over again: people running puppy mills vs. people creating dog rescues, gorilla poachers vs. protective rangers, illegal whalers vs. whaling activists risking their lives to stop them, elephant and rhino poachers vs. the environmentalists who create reserves to protect the last of these large mammals. Light and dark forces – the flip sides of the same coin – play out in endless opposition. Make no mistake – there is a battle raging, from the southern seas of the Antarctic to the jungles of Africa, to the coast of Japan to American puppy mills and factory farms. It is about how we all choose to treat the other beings on our planet, the beings that have no voice.

Will we evolve out of a deeply rooted atavistic remnant that views animals as commodities to be killed and sold? Or will we come to an understanding that we must share the planet with our animal brethren, that their fates are inextricably tied to ours? Will we take on a sustainable custodial role that connects us with our own humanity or succumb to our own brutality, polluting and exploiting everything in our way? For truly, the animals we share this beautiful planet with are the canaries in the coal mine – if they die, we die.

Undoubtedly, it comes down to money. Those protesting the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act that just passed in Missouri did so because they don’t want to give a dog space to walk around as he grows because it costs more. The whaler, poachers and wildlife smugglers are all in it for a buck.

Still, there are signs of hope. People connect the love they have for their dog to a love for animals in general. People are gradually changing their minds about the way animals deserve to be treated, even the ones that eventually end up as dinner. For as recent laws that have just passed demonstrate, even a chicken (a highly intelligent and social creature) deserves to have a decent life before being humanely killed. And a girl in Ohio took it a step further, taking a suspension for refusing to kill a chicken raised as a school project.

As humans evolve, we understand that when we brutalize any animal, we brutalize ourselves. And when we save a baby dolphin, or an abandoned dog, we save some part of ourselves.

We don’t save them, they save us.

Read About Nipper’s Rescue and See Amazing Pictures

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Christopher,
    Good point. Defining animal’s importance to us is primary, for from that all else will flow. It comes down to what we value. However, even when we have defined those values clearly, there are those who value money more, both on an institutional and individual level. How do we deal with that? From poachers to BP?

    I am struck by the Koch brothers, owners of one of the biggest private companies in America, each worth about 23 billion dollars (New Yorker did a great article about them recently – worth reading). They spend significantly to elect politicians that will help them create legislation that creates loose oil regulations that are bad for the environment. How do you reach somebody who has so much, but wants even more? Compare this to Bill Gates who took 23 billion of his money to tackle the world’s problems, starting with clean drinking water for the world’s poorest. What is the difference between these men? I am fascinated by this question at this point in history.

    I do believe we are at a tipping point. Environmentally we cannot sustain what we are doing and the voiceless animals are on the front line of our rapaciousness. Some of us must stand between the animals and those that see them merely as something to exploit for profit. This will be true even if there is a massive shift in consciousness.

    But you are right. Slavery first started to end when people began to define black people as something other than free labor – began to see them as fully human beings with full human rights. Some day, if we survive, we may look back at the way we treat animals in the same aghast way we look back at the way slaves were treated.

    But in the meantime, the early adapters of a more humane view must stand with the animals and give voice where they cannot. We hope Global Animal will create a gathering place for a movement that is steadily growing.

    I do it for the animals. But I also do it for myself. I like the way it feels.

    Peace,

    Arthur

  2. Arthur Jeon,

    To reduce the discussion to simply money is what causes the issue never to be dealt with. Both sides then turn the focus away from the animals to the justification of jobs and their conservation work. Both sides have created a multi-billion dollar industry all in the sake of the animals. If it was really about the animals it would already be solved.

    The issue has to go down to what society wants to define animals importance to us. Are they here to be utilzied as is the “taker” mentality of Daniel Quinn’s Ishamel book. Thus creating a sense that we are all equivalent organisms yet we just figured out how to harvest them quicker and store them longer.

    Or is this earth meant to be shared. After 21 years in the aquarium industry and this year working for a renewed solution to animal care that directly is in the ocean, I can honestly say that we have to answer that question first to fully realize which direction society will move.

    For now it will be divided and it will continue on as it has for the last 10,000 years.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful article…”This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle

  4. What a beautiful article! Very well written and extremely touching. Thank you. I try to do my part for the Taiji Dolphins (if readers aren’t familiar with Taiji, please watch the Cove to learn more) by sending out emails, calling embassies, posting on social sites but it’s stories like these that reach people. I hope that slowly but surely, people will start seeing that all creatings, great and small deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. There is something that awakens within us if we are connected to animals. I don’t know what you would call it, maybe some kind of attunement. I swear sometimes when I walk down the street and a dog catches my eyes that he winks at me with a grin. It’s the greatest feeling and I know my life would be barren without it.

    • Karrie, I agree; it’s a beautifully written article. But your reply concerns me a little.
      I’m not sure that contacting embassies about the Taiji dolphins is what is needed right now.
      The fishermen at Taiji are a unique item in Japan, not found anywhere else in the country. They are certainly not representative of the general population. However the government has its own position to maintain is reluctant to change the status quo just to satisfy foreign critics. There is a considerable rift between general opinion and the government’s stance.

      Whale/dolphin meat is not considered a delicacy, or even edible, by the majority of Japanese. A survey in 2008 found that the annual consumption works out at 50.2 grams per head per year; that’s less than 2 ounces.

      Conflict with the authorities is not going to solve the problem. Neither I imagine, would you respond kindly to demands from outsiders that you cease doing something considered traditional. But if you can contact real Japanese people (their names are easy to find on FB) and ask them about the situation you may be surprised to find them responsive. (Don’t forget though that those who are able to correspond in English may well be better acquainted with Western ideas than the general populace. )
      Most are unaware of the tragedy of Taiji.
      The fear of demonstrations by painfully noisy and frequently underhand ultra-rightists drove cinemas to avoid the film and (if I understood correctly) the police to recommend that “The Cove” was not shown in certain cinemas! It was self-censored, in fear.
      So, most Japanese are unaware of the message of the film. Those that have heard of it, imagine it to be a diatribe against whaling. Even fewer realise that it is the live catches that make the hunt at Taiji profitable, and that their visits to aquariums to see cute, fascinating, beautiful dolphins are actually what perpetuate the slaughter.
      Please make contact and find out what they know and feel, and then see if you can persuade them to act within Japan to educate other Japanese to the reality of the problem.
      Sorry to rant, but I live in Japan and am sad to see so much anger expressed when friendship and mutual understanding could be so much more effective.

      Best wishes