Friday, December 29, 2006

82. Man's civility lacking naturally

It was a terrible irony when Steve Irwin, of Crocodile Hunter fame, was killed by a stingray barb while filming in Australia. The irony is further exemplified because I understand that the likelihood that someone would die from a stingray is pretty remote.

I cannot say that I really watched the Crocodile Hunter more than a couple of times, mostly in passing, but his death was tragic from an ecological standpoint. Few others have reached out in the preservation of ecosystems as well as the care and understanding of nature's most obscure and dangerous animals in a more oddly eloquent way than the heavy-accented Australian.

However, following Irwin's death, reports began to surface that stingrays were being killed and mutilated by people- probably out of both fear and revenge. Such action is both ignorant and in exact opposition of what Steve Irwin would have wanted. The Times-Online reported, "The dead stingrays have been discovered on two beaches in Queensland State, where Mr. Irwin lived and ran his popular wildlife park, Australia Zoo. Two of the unfortunate rays, discovered today, were retrieved with their tails lopped off, according to local fishery officials."

Equally tragic and ironic were the deaths of Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed by the grizzly bears they so endeared while producing the documentary Grizzly Man. However, many people are attacked and killed by animals- most often by bears and dogs. In almost every case, the responsible animals are tracked and killed, as well as any others guilty by association. This action by humans as a measure of revenge against animals is certain, regardless of celebrity status or the type of attack.

An attack on humans is a death sentence for the animal. This is difficult to understand since these animals are acting like the animals we insist they are. When we expect them to accept the abuse of living for human appetite we separate them from their consciousness, pain and spirit. When animals harm a human, suddenly they are conniving murderers. This is a deplorable sentence when one considers that some of the animals, such as pit bulls, are bred specifically for their aggressiveness. And others, such as bears, are acting in a manner consistent with their genetic programming- an argument that saves human murderers from the death penalty on the grounds of lacking mental capacity.

I understand the premise that if an animal attacks one person, it might attack and harm another. Of course, this automatically dismisses the idea that attack was provoked by an insensitive or abusive human. It also dismisses the criminal plea of temporary insanity. There is no trial or witness testimony, the animal, and often others like it, is executed as readily as possible.

I realize that this is an uphill argument, but sometimes I wonder just how much we want nature's deck stacked in our favor. It as though no other species have a say as to what happens on our planet. It is not enough that we destroy their habitats and pollute the planet's air and water. It is not enough that many live and die miserably on "factory farms" or are tested on for human benefit. Humans rule and we decide which animals are to be food, which are to survive and when to execute those that question our authority. Our domination seems to forbid any measure taken by an animal in fighting back and protecting itself. It is apparent that natural selection and the survival of the fittest only apply to other species- humans have crowned themselves exempt from nature's struggles. Consequently, it is somewhat ironic that the more we attempt to distinguish ourselves from nature's cruelty, as a civilized being, the more harm we seem to inflict on other species.

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