Arthur Jeon, Global Animal Co-Publisher
This week we saw two iconic videos relating to animals and the way we treat them.
One was the publicity stunt perpetrated on the world by GoDaddy’s CEO Bob Parsons. Global Animal didn’t post the gruesome video, which included Parsons killing an elephant, then passing out GoDaddy hats to villagers while they hacked the carcass to bloody pieces. Parsons was so proud of this manly feat that he videotaped it and set it to the rock anthem, “Rock You Like A Hurricane.”
Parsons claimed he was “helping” the poor villagers from the marauding elephant who was destroying their crops. He’s such a humanitarian that he just had to put on his superhero cape, fly around the world to a country decimated by the brutal corruption of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, so he could claim: “Of everything I do this is the most rewarding.” Really? This is the most rewarding thing you do?
The true problem is that the government of Zimbabwe has abandoned its people and its wildlife; there is improper planning on habitat protection and farmland. Mugabe has destroyed the once prosperous country, forcing people, driven by hunger, to a subsistence life encroaching on elephant habitats. But this, like most problems in Africa, is a human and political one. If a rich millionaire really wanted to help these people, there are other ways of doing it, including setting up game reserves which bring in tourist dollars, employ local villagers, and protect habitat. This model has worked well in Tanzania with the Maasai people. Not as macho as going “Hemingway,” but more sustainable and more compassionate to elephants, which have complex social structures that include grief and mourning.
But the bottom line – even if you think you’re helping by killing a wayward elephant, you don’t celebrate it with a rock video showing the animal being hacked to pieces by poor people wearing your company logo. It is so sickening, exploitive and lurid that it approaches the surreal.
The other video capturing attention this week was of the rescue of a dog who drifted on the ocean for three weeks on a wrecked house off the coast of Japan. It was a miraculous story in a country sorely in need of some good news. The video is worth watching. The Japanese Coast Guard first spots the dog on the floating rooftop from a helicopter. When the dog is frightened by the chopper’s blades overhead, the Coast Guard sets about rescuing the dog in a less threatening way. They lower a man onto the debris and bring in boats. The men carefully place the dog on a stretcher, swaddle him in a blanket, and give him food and water. In short, they save the dog from his ordeal. There is such tenderness and compassion for this frighted little dog that it’s no wonder the video is so moving. It’s a celebration of our connection with animals who may not have voices, but have emotional lives nonetheless.
These two videos demonstrate two different ways of treating the animals with whom we share the planet. In one, we are the thoughtless destroyer, exploiting animals for our own gratification and hiding the brutality under the flimsy guise of ‘solving a problem.’ The other is taking our role of stewardship for the planet’s animals seriously. In a world with six billion people, we are the problem and the only solution.
When millionaires abdicate their role of leadership and responsibility, when they debase a magnificent creature by orchestrating its butcher to rock music, they destroy the soul of our planet. They lie: animals are expendable, animals are ours.
When people work together to rescue a helpless creature teetering on the sea, they are nourishing all life. They show: animals matter, we are interconnected.