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.
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.