Humanity is now inhumane

In an age where we are taught animal cruelty is wrong but brought up on an omnivorous diet it slowly becomes apparent that the two do not go hand in hand. Follow this with a career in veterinary nursing and conservation it now seems absurd to me that we would harm animals at all, yet as a race we continue to bring death and destruction to every corner of the world.

Why crimes against the natural world need to be taken seriously

For those of us who are animal lovers it seems obvious to us that harming animals is unacceptable on an ethical bias. However, there are a multitude of reasons why we need to protect the planet’s creatures and why even people who do not share the same affinity with animal’s as ourselves need to start speaking out against such criminal action. Animals have provided humanity with companionship throughout history, they have been known to help with recovery from conditions such as depression and they are also a source of sustenance for almost all communities around the globe and therefore a source of financial gain.

Ecology has taught us that each organism has a unique relationship with its surroundings and therefore all livings things must have a purpose. Scientists have described current times as “the sixth extinction” with the rate of species extinction exceeding ten times that of background rate of extinction. Projected figures show that in the next twenty-five years more than fifty percent of the world’s mammals will be extinct. Why does this matter?

There seems to be a bigger disconnect between humans and the natural world, perplexing, as humans we rely on this planet to provide for us. One’s garden does not grow without the proper care, yet we treat the earth as if its resources are infinite.

The importance of animals to the environment

Without animals, even as little as one species missing, an entire ecosystem can collapse. Elephants for example have often been referred to as “jumbo gardeners” they play a vital role in biodiversity of rainforests and other areas. The copious amounts of dung acts as a fertiliser whilst the seeds present are dispersed widely as the elephant travels from place to place. Predators are also vital, they maintain populations of prey, we have seen in areas such as Yellowstone Park, America that the landscape was severely damaged by overpopulation of deer, since reintroduction of the wolf, balance has been restored and the landscape is slowly recovering. These examples demonstrate that the host environment is affected by species increase or decline. The importance of this is that when humans interfere with the habitats of animals and the animals themselves for short term gain we likely provoke a feedback response that long term is far from beneficial. Fishing for example gives us short term gain in things such as food and finance, but a step too far has brought us into a world where there may be no fish in the oceans by 2040. Then what do we do? How do we replenish these vast oceans?

Deforestation means habitat loss, if this were to happen in the human world it would be akin to an earthquake leaving thousands homeless. Not something we welcome, yet we have no shame in destroying homes of other living beings. Why do we find this so acceptable when we ourselves would demand aid in times of such crisis? Access to food and water is paramount in such situations although we find is easy to restrict this from another species. Habitat loss may not mean direct injury to an animal (although this is often the case) but an animal can only survive so long in an unfamiliar environment, its adapt or die. Human – animal conflict is increasing in areas where habitat loss is rife. Leopards in India are now seen in villages and towns, they are forced to live in close quarters to us as food is scarce, this leaves them vulnerable to attack, this risk of injury to them and to us multiplies.

Wildlife crime continues to grow

Wildlife crime continues to grow regardless of the efforts to thwart this. It is one of top five illicit trades in the world, ranking alongside human and drug trafficking. The demand for animal products is now higher than ever, with ivory and rhino horn taking most of the limelight. However, there are so many other objects being traded that are less talked about. The bush meat market, animal skins and skeletons, hippo teeth to name a few. We are an intelligent species, we have proven there is no genuine value to these products, no medicinal worth. Thousands of animals die every day to provide objects for aesthetic reasons. Though there are a multitude of NGO’s and charities working against such atrocities there are still so many people unaware of these activities. Without voices these animals cannot ask for our help. I would add that any form of hunting is bracketed with illegal wildlife activity. I do not believe any type of hunt is necessary or sustainable unless you live in an environment where the growing of crops is just not an option. Trophy and canned hunting is at the top of my list of ultimate betrayal of these creatures.

So many of our iconic species share continents, the Asian elephants, rhino and tigers. Giraffe, lion and the wildebeest. These species have brought tourism to underdeveloped countries. These countries can now provide day trips and safaris so tourists can see first-hand the beauty of these creatures. It seems sensible then to not allow the senseless killing of these creatures when they are worth more alive to these countries than dead. Namibia has an estimated ecotourism income of 7.2 billion Namibian dollars, roughly 18% of formal jobs are now directly or indirectly linked to ecotourism in Namibia. Without their wildlife, the GDP would fall as would the number of jobs, however population would not, leaving many families with little to no income. Again, we see that loss of animals will directly impact communities. On the other hand, many tourists are crossing the line and paying for direct contact with non-domesticated animals, this is not only a violation of the animal’s well-being, but also a significant disease risk for both animal and tourist. Animals in this industry, like the circus industry are exploited, welfare is compromised and the behaviour of these animals becomes more unpredictable making it a danger to be so close. I would argue that all animals have the right to live without physical and mental abuse, they should be allowed to express natural behaviours and this just cannot happen whilst chained and surrounded by tourists and cameras.

As much of this activity I have spoken about happens so far from where we may live, there is a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding of how these things may ultimately affect our lifestyles. Even farming is distant enough that we have no real connection to how our food ends up on our plate. We are told that animals live a good life and welfare is not a concern, but the issue of antimicrobial resistance does not seem to be public knowledge and do we not deserve to know the risks we face if we continue to farm animals in such numbers that infection and disease is inevitable. Do we not deserve to know that over use of antibiotics will eventually have repercussions medically for humans and animal alike? 

Overuse of chemicals again has direct impacts on wildlife and water supplies which leads to chemical run off into rivers. Rivers that may supply towns and cities, rivers that are used by animals. These eventually end up in the lakes, seas and oceans, effecting all levels on the food chain. These fish that are then caught and eaten by us.  There comes a point where every human interaction we have with nature seems to bring consequences bigger than we envisioned and instead of preventing problems we invest so much of our efforts into finding solutions.

Are we a nation of animal lovers?

All the above I believe to be a crime against nature, against animals and ourselves.  Every action we undertake eventually leads to problems humans must face, problems so big we may not be able to solve. The phrase “a nation of animal lovers” is something I hear regularly on the radio, TV and in the newspapers, but can we call ourselves that when we seem to have such selective feelings towards them. Children seem to have an innate connection to nature and animals, but this is not nurtured in our society, we spend more time in classrooms and living rooms rather than appreciating the world that ultimately gives us life. It is our duty to protect and not abuse these systems that recycle our carbon dioxide emissions so we can breathe clean air, the ground that has such complex processes that allow us to grow and farm crops.

There is a dire need for us to start taking seriously our actions that negatively impact on the planet. Slaughter is now defined as “humane” thus we eat guilt free as paradoxical as that label is. Allowing fish to suffocate on the decks of our ships is acceptable, the crushing of trees the norm regardless of what creatures are caught in the cross fire. Our actions are now more than ever causing suffering to ecosystems and animals. The stresses we put on the oceans, rainforests, mangroves and woodlands are ever growing.

If not for the animals then we must protect these things for purely selfish reasons, the survival of humans depends on the survival of the planet.  I end on a well-known quote from Jeremy Bentham.

” the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”