Sunday Confessions: Caring is Creepy?




Forgive my shameless thieving of a Shins song for my title, but I felt like it fit what I was thinking about today.
The worldwide shock and horror this week of the illegal poaching (that’s KILLING, not “taking” as the hunter so un-eloquently put it) of a lion known as Cecil was pretty universally supported on social media in terms of  ”Yes it’s wrong, obviously, what this idiot did.” But once the dust settled a bit, it didn’t take long for a mini backlash to begin. Everything from “Animals are important but there’s way worse things happening to people in the world” – yeah, no duh. It doesn’t make this particular situation irrelevant though, does it? As Ricky Gervais said to someone who trotted out this line of thinking this week:


Of course it’s easy to mock silly things like the woman who speaks to dead animals coming out saying she had communed with Cecil, but that led to a quick procession of trickle down mockery in my feed  - “Thank god I can stop pretending to care about that” being the underlying tone of many posts. “Animals shouldn’t be anthromorphized” is a quick fall back when defending apathy towards a wild animal being killed or otherwise mistreated. To which I say…really?! Who among us has not anthromorphized a beloved pet, attributing human emotions to it, naming it with pride and affection, treating it like a family member – no, a wild animal is not the same, but I for one do not think that regarding them with thoughtfulness and wishing they were afforded dignity and respect by the human race is such a bad thing.

I have a history of getting too emotionally involved with animals, be it following animal studies (the black bear study in Ely, MN, in which viewers worldwide were able to follow the birth of black bear cubs on their den cams and their subsequent activities as recorded by Dr. Lynn Rogers) that end in tears when hunters illegally killed several  research bears – which didn’t get nearly the press Cecil did, by the way, but I don’t begrudge Cecil. Because if one story about an animal being poached can inspire change in the world I only see that as a good thing. 

I cannot help myself from caring and wanting to do whatever small thing I can, so if my petitions irk you (honestly I keep them to a bare minimum these days, feel free to mute me) so be it. I re-watched Blackfish last week when it was on BBC Three again, not intending to, but filled with the same feeling of hopeless outrage I had when I first saw it. It feels like we get a brief surge of outrage and then inevitable apathy when faced with injustice, unless we are to become lifelong advocates it’s hard to know what level of activism is making any kind of worthwhile impact. I sign petitions, I have even written letters to various congress people and local authorities about the research bears, which a few years ago I might have thought only a "real" animal activist would do.

I do sometimes force myself to take a step back, I got in over my head last year trying to save dogs in NYC’s kill shelters, because it’s frankly disgusting what little shot they get at adoption. We’re talking days after intake and then they are put down. For a few months I pledged small sums of money to pull dogs, along with hundreds of others, and in many cases it works, because small charities need help coming up with the fees to pull them. It was a wonderful feeling to think I’d made a difference, to see them rescued, but so heart-breaking at how many were still lost. I would cry whenever one was put down that I had been rooting for. I commiserated with other women online who had been doing this for YEARS, and I somehow knew I just couldn’t keep it up. And I still feel awful about it.

What saddened me was how few people were willing to share a dog or pledge a few measly dollars. I felt like sharing costs nothing, and even if there is some tiny chance someone you’ve never met sees that animal and decides to save it, then surely it’s worth a shot? I really hoped that a trickle down effect could happen. I know that people must pick and choose their charities these days,that activism is not cool, it is often depressing and makes us think about sad things. I get why people don't get involved. It's easier to just get worked up over one incident and then forget about it entirely the next week I guess. 

At any rate, I do think it is important to use our voices and actions where things happen that are absolutely unjust, especially to the defenseless. In Cecil’s case, the fact that he was a powerful beast capable of mauling a person to death has perhaps led to the “Well, it’s sad but ya know…” feelings coming up more quickly than had he been an adorable fluffy creature. But Cecil was defenseless. He was not used to being preyed upon or hunted, he lived in a protected animal park. Not that any animal deserves or can adapt to hunting, but animals who are used to humans not shooting at them are the low hanging fruit of the hunting world. It is no different than if the dentist had gone to his local zoo and killed an example of “big game” to mount with the rest of his trophies. Being in a more exotic locale does not change this basic fact. So no, you won’t hear me making jokes about it or being quick to stress that other things matter more. Because if we stop caring about things like this, if we must weigh and measure injustice by merit of its general effect on the masses, we will quickly lose the thing that makes us human.




10 comments

  1. I fucking LOVED this post.

    I TOTALLY anthropomorphize animals - all of them. I cannot even watch the scene in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" where Anty dies because I end up sobbing. I believe animals have souls and I truly believe that they will go to Heaven (maybe not cockroaches and snakes? - but just because I don't like snakes or bugs means I think they should be tortured). Anyway - yeah, I am a card-carrying member of the ASPCA and every time that damn commercial comes on, I change the channel because I just cannot handle it.
    I feel super guilty about the fact that I eat meat, but I tell myself it's semi-justifiable because it's food. Killing for sport is just wrong, in my opinion. I truly believe there is a special place in Hell for poachers or people who abuse animals. Animals and children - that's pretty much what I care about.
    The backlash did annoy the hell out of me. I saw a lot of posts that were like: "So, you get outraged at the killing of a lion, but nobody cares when white cops kill unarmed black people?" (That in particular showed up in my facebook feed.) The thing is, people do care about the white cops and the insane amount of racial tension going on in the US - we do care. There is outrage. There are also racist assholes. Recognizing one tragic injustice does not minimize another.
    Good post.

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    1. Aw, thanks Becky! It's easy to start to feel alone on Twitter with stuff like this - I mean there are people who do nothing but tweet animal activism stuff and that's great. But for anyone in between, who just thinks it's wrong and feels self conscious subjecting people to "too much", it' easy to start to feel like an uncool harpie. In the blogging twitosphere in particular anything not fluffy and happy and candy coated sometimes feels out of place.
      I so know what you mean about meat. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, and sometimes wish I had it in me to go back to it. If I lived by myself I think I could but there's just no way my husband would so it would be a hella lot of work. Which sounds awful but there it is.

      Yeah I feel like there's a sort of constant undercurrent of "Well this cause/tragedy is WAY more important that whatever piddling thing I deem less so is", it's like why do we have to do that? So freaking irritating!

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  2. I don't know why people act like you can't mention one cause without mentioning ALL THE CAUSES. I follow Ricky Gervais on twitter and he handles the trolls the best I've seen so far :)

    I really don't see how it's "sport" at all, and I wish all the pain in the world on these trophy hunters. I watched a thing on Vice on animal poaching... and it was truly awful. They can all die in a fire too.

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    1. I know right? The one upmanship thing really gets me goat - can't we care about one thing without other people saying it's less important than something else?

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    2. Sorry to butt in, but here, here!

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  4. Hi Steff. Just stopping by from the Weekend Blog Hop linky and wanted to applaud you for such an eloquently written piece. Nicely done x

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    1. Not at all, thanks for stopping by Sue! :-)

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  5. Thank you for sharing this post. The last line said it best. :)

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