Monday, July 15, 2013

Can Animals Provoke Action?

Whenever I talk about atrocities around the world in class - slavery, oil spills, and the like, and I get the class to talk about what bothers them most or what most influences them to change, or get them to do a project on it, a good 70% of the class will focus on animals.  That could be in part to distance themselves from the effect all this has on people, but I think it's more likely that it because we actually care more about animals than people.   Animals are innocent, and people often suck.

via Forbes
In one class I showed real film footage of a 12-year-old girl being saved from almost being manipulated into prostitution slavery in the Ivory Coast, and footage of young girls working 16-hour days in factories in China.  How do we help kids like this?  Do boycotts work?  Does letter-writing work?  And the student response in that particular class was, more or less, "It's their own fault for being taken in by scams.  We shouldn't do anything to help them."  The class wasn't malicious, just so immersed in information about scams they can't imagine otherwise, and they're self-protecting by victim blaming.

by Justin Sullivan 
But if I show videos of animals being harmed by the make-up industry or oil spills or full of plastic or slaughtered for a quick buck, then they're ready to rally the troops to save them.  Caged bears being teased raise more ire than children trapped in horrible circumstance.  The animals clearly had no part in their own downfall, and some believe that other people wouldn't be in that position if they didn't, somehow, contribute to it willingly even if ignorantly).  So maybe this bit of news from The Guardian will light a fire under the apathetic types:  Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt.
"Certainly, countless species have adapted to past climate fluctuations. However, their rate of change turns out to be painfully slow....most land animals will not be able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. Many species face extinction, as a result....Either evolution speeds up 10,000-fold, which is an unlikely occurrence, or there will be widespread extinctions."
That's in just over 80 years.  And here's a few we lost in the last decade in which species extinction, "is far greater than anything the world has experienced in the past 65 million years."

Maybe if we focus on animals, we can convince more people to get involved in the fight against current government policies and the undemocratic control corporation have over legislation and enforcement.

Then again, I thought phthalates would finally be banned when their connection to small penis size made news.   Well, it's worth a shot.  


Marie Snyder said...

I think it's far easier to blame a group of people for our troubles than it is to deal with the real issues. And wild animals are rarely implicated. However they're still captured and tortured for our entertainment.

Blackfish is coming out this weekend. Maybe that will decrease Marine Land attendance enough to shut them down. Even though it's about Seaworld, they all are confining animals in small cubicles even though they need to roam vast areas daily. It's bizarre that this is legal. It's like we care about animals, but not enough to decide it's cruel to make them do tricks for us. Or maybe we're just far too easily deceived that they're actually happy - or we're entertained enough to perpetuate denial.

Lorne said...

I think you are probably right, Marie, that we tend to see animals as innocent victims of our depradations, whereas humans are often complicit in their own troubles (not that I agree with you class' assessment of prostitution slavery by any means.)

I do find that whenever I watch a nature video, I am filled with awe at the natural world and its wondrous intracacies, and feel a concomitant sadness at what we are doing to it.

I think your idea of focussing on animals to fight against the government's policies is a sound one; just like people are more outraged over a $90 thousand cheque and Senate porkbarelling than they are about the missing $3.1 billion, it all comes down to what we can relate to.

Marie Snyder said...

That's a good analogy - about the cash. I hadn't put those two side by side before.