A few mindless quips by a harmless fellow has brought something to my attention. Apparently, the saying, “If you’re not activist, you’re an inactivist” doesn’t go quite far enough to describe some who don’t stand alongside me as I hold my “Free the Dolphins” signs at The Georgia Aquarium. It reminded me that there are people who actually advocate against the notion that animals have rights. Zounds. People that, as far as I know, don’t even benefit financially from that position. And it got me to thinking about stages of activism in this human existence.
Here’s how I think the world stacks up with regard to animal rights activism, at least in the part of the world that doesn’t benefit financially from the exploitation of animals. The people who do, I’ll save for another day. I will say, however, that just because one benefits financially from a practice, that does not preclude him or her from seeing things without that $$ lens and making a different choice. My examples are this awesome guy, named Virgil Butler, who used to work in a Tyson chicken slaughterhouse and one of my favorite human beings, Ray Anderson, for whom the light of sustainability flicked on while he was earning enough money to, shall we say, not want to see that particular light switched on. And then became an activist for sustainability.
The Activist Category A: In this category, the street can be, uh, the street, or it can be virtual (social media, letter-writing, phone-calling, blog writing, etc). Activism is activism. And the crème de la crème of activists are the ones who (get to) participate on the physical front lines rather than from their terminals. Cat A Activists know this. The front line and the virtual Cat A’s have a beautiful friendship.
The Activist Category B: In this category, I put those who, while they believe that dolphin captivity is wrong, just don’t see themselves as sign-carriers or letter-writers or costume-wearers (you gotta try this one!). This amalgamation of folks seems to share the recognition that animals have rights, that dolphin captivity can’t possibly be good for the animal, and, therefore, the inquiry stops as it did for Mark Twain when he considered vivisection, and they conclude that they want no part of dolphin shows.
I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further. -Mark Twain
The Category B Activist – the “B” stands for Belief – will not do certain things. This “not doing” generally comes in fits and starts – most Cat A Activists have gone through Cat B – as new informational tidbit after new video surfaces, and they actually consider the math of the range of a wild dolphin (tens and up to a hundred miles a day, depending on the population) and compare that to a life in captivity, whether wild-caught or bred for captivity. Cat B’s don’t go to SeaWorld or the Georgia Aquarium or Dolphin Quest Resorts, or even the local putt-putt when they realize that the “attraction” there is the Live Alligators as much as the great golfing, even if it means driving a few blocks to the next putt-putt course to show her golfing prowess.
The Believers in Cat B, by the way, end up pledging not to go to the dolphin show or swim-with program, which puts them precariously on the ledge of falling into Cat A, just so you know. It might not be dolphin activism; it might be dogs-off-chains, or ending cock-fighting, or the horrific farm-factory practices here in these United States and elsewhere, but at least some email-writing, petition-signing or maybe even costume-wearing is not far behind.
The Fearful Haters: Let me explain that downright ugly name, one my momma wouldn’t want me putting in writing. Maybe when she learns that I almost called this category The Pig Fuckers, she’ll be impressed with my decorum. Who are the FHs and how did they get to feeling so darned superior over animals? But even “darned superior” isn’t quite on the mark to capture their disdain for animal suffering. These appear to be people who have had an animal trauma. Maybe their dog jumped on them when they were five, and having been thus terrorized by man’s-best-friend, they’ve never felt comfortable in the presence of any animal afterward. Or their parents took their dog away but told him, or her, that the dog was mean and had to be sent away. Or the parents truly liked the dog best. And now they find solace in the subordination of nonhuman animals, these creatures that jumped on him, or her.
Okay, so I don’t believe that. There’s got to be something else behind all animal hating or malicious indifference. And just because I clearly don’t understand the mentality, however small, of those who don’t see that compassion restricted to its own group – whether species, race, ethnicity or religion – is not compassion at all, doesn’t mean that it isn’t understandable. A real live psychologist would undoubtedly find other categories between the Fuck Holes (oops, I forgot what FH stood for), I mean, Fearful Haters, and the activists. But I’m not a psychologist. I’m just a human being, with a compassion for creatures other than humans, who recognizes that we have encroached on their territory, extracted them from it for our own purposes – first only circuses, now circuses, education and warfare.
I also see a trend; with regular updating, the U.S. and/or its states have moved in the right direction in recognizing that animal welfare should be protected and that industries who benefit from exploiting them may not be whom you want to define the standards. So I have hope that we will continue until we get our laws to spring logically from our science.
But who, I ask you, could hate a dolphin enough to want to rip it from the ocean, or worse, breed it in captivity and to live its life in one or several small tanks or ponds, to be gawked at or worse, ridden like a bucking bronco? Don’t get me started on that one.