“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
In addition to various ongoing social, political and economic revolutions, there’s another important transformation underway, one that gets far less attention. A humane revolution that’s experiencing a new burst of energy, it’s the crusade to end the mistreatment of animals.
Since most of the daily television news shows I watch have been prerecorded, I have the luxury of fast-forwarding through the commercials. There’s one announcement, though, I feel compelled to watch even though I’ve seen it at least a dozen times.
It’s the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals appeal for support in their mission to rescue animals from abuse. What makes my heart stop every time I see this appeal is the look in the eyes of the dogs and cats while in their small cages. Sadly, one of the dogs featured has noticeable bruises resulting from physical abuse.
The 150-year-old ASPCA works tirelessly to eliminate animal abuse and neglect, and to pass humane laws regarding animal rights. They share their resources with shelters throughout the nation.
The current movement to end the mistreatment of animals first got my attention when Cecil the lion was killed in Africa by an American dentist from Minneapolis last summer. The most popular animal in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Cecil was allegedly lured from the preserve, wounded by an arrow, shot, skinned and beheaded.
The outrage was worldwide, especially here in the U.S., since it was an American who executed the animal. While I’ve never felt any particular sympathy for lions, this tragedy got my attention. A beautiful lion in a national preserve who was not a threat to anyone was killed just for the thrill of it.
The response to this disgrace has, among other things, resulted in three of our largest airlines, American, Delta and United, voluntarily banning the transport of hunting trophies into the United States.
Then there’s the recent announcement that SeaWorld San Diego is eliminating the killer whale show. The marine park will replace it with “a more informative whale experience focused on the natural behaviors of the whales.”
The decision came after increasing criticism, and decreasing attendance, resulting from revelations over its treatment of killer whales, also known as orcas. Much of this controversy came after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a documentary exposing the inhumane treatment of orcas in captivity in SeaWorld parks.
More good news on the animal rights front is the announcement from Ringling Brothers in March that they are eliminating elephants from their shows. In an investigation of cruelty to elephants published by Mother Jones in 2011, it was alleged that circus elephants are often physically abused during training sessions, and spend most of their long lives in chains or on trains. This kind of treatment for highly intelligent animals, who walk an average of 30 miles a day in the wild, is unforgivable.
In May there was national outrage over the shooting of a gorilla that dragged a 3-year-old boy through a shallow moat in the Cincinnati Zoo. Since the boy was obviously in great danger, the shooting of Harambe, the gorilla, was necessary.
I’m impressed, however, that there’s been so much sympathy for the gorilla. Who would have thought a gorilla in a situation like this would receive nearly as much compassion as the little boy? There’s something going on here, something new, something positive. Something way overdue.
The truth is, most of us don’t live in a world of lions and gorillas, elephants and whales. We live in a world of dogs and cats. My neighbor, Margaret Gainer, is on the board of a foster-based rescue nonprofit that cares for pets who have been surrendered by their owners or abandoned, and subsequently handed over to them by various county and city shelters.
At any given time, there are 15-20 volunteers keeping pets in their homes until they can be placed. My neighbor is presently taking care of two dogs, five kittens and three adult cats. There are no paid volunteers, including the board members. Their resources come from fundraisers and the sale of the pets to families who want to provide loving homes for them.
I’m grateful to Margaret Gainer and other like-minded citizens who spend time and energy to improve the quality of life of our pets. The fact that the animal-rights revolution is increasingly a local phenomenon bodes well for its ultimate success.
Mahatma Gandhi was right. “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated.”