Today, readers, I would seriously like your input. Not about today’s Zimbabwe elections and whether or not Dictator Mugabe will continue his rule (although you’re welcome to state your opinion there as well). No, I thought in light of today’s elections, it would be a good time to discuss my recent thoughts on blogging dictatorship.
Benevolent or not, bloggers are usually dictators. We set up a little plot of web”land,” in some cases (like mine) pay for premium services or our own URL, and set about creating our own little version of utopia (or perhaps, dystopia.)
We control what content to share with our readers, who is allowed to comment, and whether or not to delete comments that we deem inappropriate or offensive.
The difference, of course, between a dictatorship and a blogging dictator is that readers can leave a blogging dictatorship at any time.
Knowing this, the “benevolent dictator” hopefully controls content and comments with the best interest of the health of the blog, and the knowledge of the readership we believe we have.
Until yesterday, I have always thought of my blog as more democratic. I give my (regular) readers free reign to post in opposition to what I’ve written. Of course I have readers with differing opinions, but generally I have found your comments, when in opposition, to be framed in an educational manner, and with knowledge of my blog and my previous postings. I have friends and family on both extremes of some issues, and I’ve been impressed at the thoughtful comments from both.
Yesterday I received a new comment, which I chose not to allow. I didn’t delete it, because there are parts I agree with, and the comment is directly related to my own internal dialogue about animal rights.
I didn’t allow the comment is for several reasons, the first of which are: because (a) the person has never commented on any of my posts before, and to the best of my knowledge has never read any of them, so I don’t feel rushing to judgment on a one-off post is the right way to make an introduction; (b) they specifically called out “zoos” in the complaint against yesterday’s caracal kitten posting, so I didn’t feel they actually clicked the link on the Lion & Rhino Reserve to read about their conservation ethics or learn about their programs; (c) their comment was too generalized, and too black and white of a condemnation of the selfishness of humans.
However, I do believe what they had to say warrants discussion among my regular readers, so I’m actually giving them a generous amount of argument in the form of using it to create an entire blog discussion. However, for the sake of protecting the author from my loving readers who tend to be a little protective of me, I’m not going to name them.
Here’s the start of our discussion:
Leave it to me to be the party-pooper. Forcing animals that are not domesticated to interact with humans is cruel. Were these animals kept with their mothers as babies or bottle-fed so they would be more easily held? And what will happen to them when they are too old to be cute, cuddly money-makers for the zoo? If they don’t live out their lives in a cage, they will be killed.
Humans are all about how wonderful the interaction is for them. Very few think about what the interaction is like for the animal.
Now, I’ll respond first…
Before you jump to judge it, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, please note that I actually agree with the premise, if not this specific argument.
But as I mentioned above, although I agree with the premise that animals can be mistreated and zoo conditions are not often the best for a wild animal, this commenter doesn’t understand me or the blog, and more importantly, they didn’t try to use their comment to educate, or allow for any consideration of the uncomfortable grey area that game reserves and zoos create empathy and passion for wildlife in people who will otherwise never have access to afford to travel to see such animals, and that some of these reserves and zoos are doing a much better job of educating the public in conservation than a voice reaching out in condemnation to a choir ready to respond in kind.
I am, honestly, openly, torn on the issue of animal rights when it comes to the reserves, parks and other animal tourism places here in Africa. Part of me is of a balls-out mentality: free every animal, let humans fend them off again the way we did when the world was much more “wild.”
And with that, part of me relishes the irony that if we reset that animal clock by several hundred years, many of those in the extreme animal rights camp would be eaten by a wild animal while just surviving daily life, or too busy taking care of a family and trying to survive nature to be out championing animals.
Yet in this same brain I can’t stand a caged animal. This same Lion and Rhino Reserve reintroduces cheetahs to the wild. They work hard to keep those cubs in a separate location so that they have no human interaction and the cheetahs are being bred to repopulate an endangered species in the wild. YET, and this is a huge “yet”, in the animal creche, there are other fully grown animals kept in cages far too small for a good quality of life. The reserve protects a rhino population, roaming freely in the reserve, while two giraffes are in a yard-size enclosure.
Full “animal rights” to me means allowing animals to be wild again, with no human interference. (Refer to above, with you screaming and dying by wild animal attack.)
Where and what is the balance of management, of education, of access?
As a side note, but not at all unrelated, here is something horrific I just heard from a new African friend of mine: Because they have learned that elephants are so intelligent and so family-oriented, when “culling” a park (“culling” means reducing numbers, which can mean relocating, but often means killing) they now cull an entire herd of elephants together, as a family unit, because they found it was more cruel to kill only some of them. Elephants can go absolutely crazy when they lose a member of their family. They mourn intensely and remember indefinitely. (Sounds like me.)
Having any kind of “control” of wildlife means management. Zoos, reserves, and parks are not the only place animal management takes place and animal rights are to be considered. In our human-centric world, animals must also be “managed” to protect people, livestock, and farms from wildlife.
Who decides each situation of animal “management”? Do you know? I certainly don’t, but I know if I were an animal rights activist, I would make it a point to know, and to be having my conversation in those venues.
Frankly, friends, I don’t see an easy answer, and I certainly don’t see improvement coming in the form of criticism without suggestion, or black/white without the reality of the gray in the middle.
So, let’s open the debate with readers who know me, know this blog, and who, frankly have quite different opinions from each other. You, dear readers, are hunters and vegans, bleeding heart liberals and strong-armed conservatives. And you are also thinkers who blur those lines from time to time and have more to you than one opinion.
I actually think the commenter has more to her than one point of view, but sometimes when you become a champion of something, passion outweighs pragmatism, and it’s also difficult to remember what those in the majority (us average Janes) are like pre-enlightenment.
So, readers…enlighten me. Educate me. As I prepare to receive my loved ones and friends from back in America, shall I tell them we can’t, or shouldn’t see the wildlife of Africa because they’re not in a wilderness setting? Not everyone can travel to Kruger, and the chances of seeing *all* the animals in one week span there isn’t likely. And isn’t it each visitor’s own decision on whether or not to have cub interaction?
And the schoolchildren in urban areas who would not otherwise have access to wildlife, do you think seeing a photograph of a caracal cat will create the kind of empathy or love for that animal that interacting with one would?
What about those elephant rides? As a horse-rider myself, I didn’t feel an emotional distinction between riding an elephant and a horse. I was impressed that we were told in advance that the elephant rides may not happen if the elephants didn’t want to be ridden. And one, in fact, didn’t, so only one of the elephants was ridden. The handlers seemed to always use peanuts to work with the elephants, though I don’t know if that was the rule when tourists weren’t around.
And anyone who has ever seen a horse broken knows that no matter how many years of domestication, every horse is still wild until broken for riding. While horses have been domesticated far longer, but does that make riding a horse right, just because it’s been done for so long? Is it that different? What about riding a camel?
I’m actually not trying to be incendiary.
I’m trying to think, and consider, and weigh the world I live in with my eyes and my heart, but also an open mind that believes all life, like love, or marriage, is compromise.
Well? How about them apples for today’s discussion? Please do comment today, even if it’s only to say “Geez, Marla, STFU already and get back to the lighter posts!” And yes, I will consider new commenters on this discussion, if they are level-headed, educational, and respectful of other posters.
Love, Always, Marla