Though I am both horrified and saddened by the death of a trainer this week at Sea World in Orlando, I can't say I'm surprised.
This post is not exactly on topic for my blog but as a veterinary technician with twenty plus years experience, I have seen my share of man's mishandling of animals. I feel strongly that many of our efforts are sadly misdirected.
While I understand the need to learn about animals, and for the conservation attempts involved, I don't think they need to be put on public display like dancing bears in a circus to do that.
I have been honored to work with many talented veterinarians over the years, whose specialties range from small animal medicine to marine biology. Never once did any one of them ever say to me:
"We really need to teach them to turn a few tricks in order to learn about the best way to help them".
It's just not necessary. Educating the public can be done without a side show. Funds can be raise without hosting a dinner and floor show by the animals.
Many years ago I read "The Outermost House" by Henry Beston, circa 1928 and this passage has become my credo. No one since has ever said it better:
"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.
We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."
It's time to find a better way, a new magnifying glass.