The Bear

I remember some months ago I was reading a blog post about The Cove and was utterly irritated by a comment the author received on that post.  I can’t remember the whole comment but the part that jumped out at me was “well animals were put here for our entertainment.”

I have not always had the attitude I currently have about animals.  The idea of being a vegetarian was once an absolutely absurd thought to me.  But…I don’t think I ever thought that animals were put on this earth to entertain us humans.  But with that comment I learned that some people do think that.

Zoos, Sea Parks, and Circus type animal shows are good business.  People are amused by looking at animals in captivity and watching them do tricks.  Even my family has a membership and donates regularly to The Tallahassee Museum, which is, in essence, our local Zoo.    The Animal Kingdom at Disney World is one of our favorite places to visit.  Watching The Cove made me doubt my love and support of those two places.  What I can say for both of them though is that at least the animals in their care have room to roam.  Although they have the space for many more exhibits, The Tallahassee museum instead offers large areas holding native animals so they are at least somewhat “at home.”  They nurture sick animals back to health and offer educational resources to the public.

While in Maryland we visited the Salisbury Zoo.  This Zoo was about the same size as ours here in town, but housed some very exotic animals.  One of these animals was the Spectacled Bear.  This bear is native to South America.  Salisbury Maryland is not it’s natural habitat (although I did learn this particular bear was born in captivity).  When we stood before this exhibit, my heart broke.  I couldn’t believe the sight.  I think the bear had a small fenced in “yard” over to the side, but the area it was in as we watched it was a walled in area with a small “pool” and lots of concrete.  As we watched for 5 to 10 minutes the bear simply paced back and forth.  Even more disturbing was the pattern at which she moved her head.  At each end she swooped her head down and then back up.  I couldn’t figure out exactly why but there was a shadowy outline behind her on the wall and she literally traced it with her nose.  It was so apparent that she was suffering.  As we stood there, people walked through.  “Look at the bear.”  Then they continued on their way.  This animal was obviously in such great pain.  There was even a sign next to her exhibit that said something like “Please do not be disturbed by this bear’s behavior, we are doing all we can to help her.”  Yes, folks, please don’t bother to feel empathy for this animal…she was merely put on this earth for your entertainment.

I came home gung-ho to save this bear.  I contacted a friend who used to work for ASPCA.  I asked her if there was a way to find an animal sanctuary and initiate a rescue of some sort.  Sadly, she said that conditions are like this in nearly every zoo animals display this kind of OCD behavior in nearly every zoo and there is really little anyone can do to help the animals.  The best we can do is have some compassion for these creatures and take time to see them as more than our source for food and entertainment.  And maybe, perhaps, speak up when we witness their suffering.

**Renee’s comments are the best!  She always makes me think about whether what I wrote is truly accurate or skewed by my bad memory.  I went back to the message exchange with my friend and made the change above.  Basically animals in most places despite how good or bad the conditions are just react to not being where they are meant to be.  This bear’s conditions, in my opinion, were bad.

Advertisements

Complacency

This week, Mark and I watched the movie “The Cove.”  It was an incredibly eye-opening documentary about dolphins and what is happening to them in a town in Japan.  Every year, from March to September, thousands of dolphins are forced into this particular cove where (with the exception of the few that are sold to aquariums and “sea” parks) they are slaughtered.   Not only is it horrifying that they are killed at all, but they are also sold in fish markets for consumption.  In some cases the meat is purchased by people who know they will be eating dolphin, but in other instances it is labeled as fish such as Tuna.  And if that is not enough, the levels of mercury that are found in dolphin meat is off the charts.  It is a tragedy at many levels and for the most part people don’t know or don’t care that it is happening.

When the movie was over, I was all fired up.  I wanted to DO something.  The thought that followed that passionate feeling was yes, but are you going to do something this time? It was then that I was made ever aware of my own complacency.  I’ve watched many of these types of documentaries and it is always followed by that same feeling.  Initially, I want to change and make a difference, but rarely do I follow through.  I’ve watched movies like “Food Inc.” and “The Future of Food” and inwardly vowed to buy fresh food from the co-op or farmer’s market.  Always it is short-lived.  Lack of time coupled with mine and my family’s pickyness always seems to get the better of me, despite the frightening realities of the food industry.  I have made changes over the years, but there is still so much I know that I choose to ignore because it is simply easier to do so.

Today at church the theme of the service was “the courage to change.”  The guest speaker talked about the book “Ask Yourself This” and the various questions it challenges the reader to pose to themselves.  Part of the inward interrogation involves taking a look at what we are resisting.  For me, complacency is just another way that I avoid rocking the boat.  If I just nod my head and smile, I don’t have to face criticism.  Complacency is a way that the lazy side of me wins.  Assuming that the government and corporations only have my best interest at heart is much easier than taking the extra time, energy, and money to research and buy only the safest products for my family.

I want to step out of the comfort zone that is complacency and do something when I feel drawn to do it.  It only takes small steps to make a difference, and I want to take more of those steps.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been so inspired by a friend named Jenny (@IHavDefx) that I met through Twitter and this blog.  She was touched by the story of a family dealing with childhood cancer and instead of being complacent she decided to do something.  She signed up to participate in a charity fund-raising event, tweeted about it, and blogged about it.  Within a few weeks, Jenny raised $1500 for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.  She sent me a message the other day telling me that to honor a friend who was diagnosed with MS, she is going to run in a half-marathon that will raise money for research to find a cure.  So despite the fact that Jenny tells me I inspire her, she is the one who has become an inspiration to me.

It is time for me to get off my complacent ass…I’ll start by telling everyone to watch The Cove.  (If it helps, I just found out it won the academy award for best documentary.) Also, want to link up to Mama Kat’s blog post about The Cove, it’s excellent.  Read it here.