I grew up in a world that objectified nonhuman animals, a world that had captured and displayed these other animals since we began exploring the world in our new boats, a world that encouraged humans’ infantile fascination with a “new world” of wild animals. I grew up in a human culture with a convenient capacity to enslave, encouraged by a religious zeal to reproduce with abandon at the top of some mythical dominance pyramid, to consider that other animals were here “for” us.
In that world, humans taught me to think that this little nonsense rhyme by Gelett Burgess was funny:
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.
That world is the one in which a family of Rissos dolphins was just slaughtered in Taiji, Japan, and in which humans drive pilot whales onto a bloodied shore in the Faroe Islands. It is that world, our collective culture of objectification, not some subculture of food on one island or in one theme-park-based city, that is responsible for this act. This culture is the vestige, however powerful in forming our opinions, of ancient misunderstanding that all of us must throw off. We must throw it off because it was never true in the first place, and it will kill the planet and most of the creatures that found their lives formed here.
The cloak of this entitlement can be thrown off. It can, because many of us have learned to abandon a sense of entitlement to seeing any of them, even as we acknowledge the wonder at being in their presence. It can and must be left as a relic of the misinformed past if we are to advance into the promise of humanity.
So I’m rephrasing Burgess’ poem, and hoping that this resonates with a few of you and that we grow a world in which our greatest aspiration is to leave the wild ones in their homes, unharassed by our prying eyes:
I don’t advocate literally never seeing them. There are many opportunities for interacting with the wild ones, many of whom feed and rest in our gardens, who dig nests to bury their eggs right in our yards. There are many as close as the nearest park or mountain trail. There are others, like orca, who can be viewed from shore, although it is quite true that one loses some of the “front row seat of the theater” convenience when doing so. But we also lose our dangerous entitlement.
I adopt this position because I don’t yet trust humans to understand their impacts on the others, even with the ever-increasing numbers of humans who choose a vegan lifestyle. Even with veganism, humans still have a desire for love and a curious bent. When these two attributes are coupled, the other animals can pay too high a price.
Join me in a life of choice, of imagining what it is to BE rather than SEE a purple cow, or an orca or other dolphin, or wolf, or bear, or box turtle, and give them a wide berth, their berthright and birthright. Find out what you can do to raise your voice in support of an ethical world based in respect.