Response to Garry Linnell’s Article re:Empathy

This is in response to the article When animal rights extremism exposes the worst of humanity published in The Age of Australia. I also sent in to the editor.

It’s hard to empathize with animal rights advocates when justifying the killing of innocent lives for pure profit. Not to mention trying to dismiss a way of being as embarrassment to all human form. I get it.

For those of us who recognize animals and all beings as worthy beings though, our intention isn’t to get others to feel what we feel or think what we think. What you feel or think is your business not mine, not ours. Our drive and purpose on the other hand is to help others realize the delicate and beautiful balance our earth thrives on. What we do expect from all is the adoption of “being human” that is briefly touched on as merely “being practical” in your article.

I see being human and human intelligence as a little more complex than just practicality. Afterall we are all living in a time where our “practical” ways of the last 60 years and more are coming back to bite us — look at the amount of plastics in the oceans. Maybe you have a different view about this as well, and it’s not human impact but somehow a natural occurrence in your point of view. Our practical single use profit machine is currently poisoning everything in the oceans, including the fish that you savor. Ironically, I don’t eat fish but care about their health and plastic consumption. There’s that irony again.

I am very concerned about animals, their numbers and how we treat them. No I didn’t go out celebrating when the hunter met his unthinkable end under the elephant. I must admit, I did think of “karma” though briefly. The hunter provoking the defenseless highly instinctual beings to protect themselves in the only way they can, as they lack the rifles lead me to the idea. Here’s why I didn’t spend too much time on it though.

There is no right.

Both are dead.

Neither died a less horrific death. Neither died due to natural causes.

I’m glad that you are aware of the elephant intelligence, can relate and make a great point about it — as well as their social and family bonds. Especially how they come back to mourn their dead. In that case, I ask you: what makes the family members of our hunter any more traumatized than the family members of the elephant? Or the family members of the hundreds of elephants that this hunter lead to their demise? How does empathy work in those cases? Empathizing with the weaker isn’t a sign of a “moral compass tipping wildly out of kilter” but rather part of the human higher intelligence, of being aware of and recognizing better evolved alternatives. Surely we empathize with the hunter’s family, it just doesn’t stop there. We also empathize with the elephant’s and other beings who serve a purpose as part of nature, of Earth.

When you speak of empathy — there is also the duality, or even the infinity, of it. Empathy is the capacity realized by higher intelligence beings towards another being. Since you are complaining about the lack of empathy with some of us humans, rather than the elephants or sharks, I assume that you agree. As the more intelligent of beings our empathy should be used to find solutions to avoid torture and merciless, senseless killings. Our empathy should be stronger than our justification for profit. Empathy doesn’t stop when profit comes into the picture, nor does it start. Why is the hunter justified to kill elephants? What justifies the lack of empathy to the elephant? That they are “not as cute” as the human?

The kangaroo culling and the rabbits would also raise much concern with most of us, if not all, had we heard about it. We also raise our concerns every single time we hear of a bomb exploding somewhere, or a war being justified in any part of the world no matter the profit machines supporting it. Empathy doesn’t look at profit, race, language, type… empathy is, well, empathetic to all.

To clarify the reference to the number of elephants in your article: Back in the 70s the elephants were roaming freely and they were increasing in numbers. There were a whopping 1.3million elephants in Africa! That was back in the 70s — just 40 years ago, within both of our lifetimes. Today that number is just 25% of that, if we’re lucky… Imagine when you were born there were over a million elephants roaming that beautiful continent, today the number isn’t even at 400,000. That’s it. Their main threat of course is our empathetic approach to capitalism and profitable rationalization of hunter tourism and ivory trade.

If we are to look for empathy, perhaps we start with empathizing with the weaker rather than getting emotional about only our own species. Yes, of course we need to survive. Yes, of course there needs to be solutions proposed and implemented to protect the local villagers from wildlife. However, killing and wiping out vulnerable and defenseless animals is too easy and detrimental a solution for our level of civility, intelligence and evolution. Since we’re at it, we can even consider empathizing with future generations — how will they feel when they can only see elephants — and much of the wildlife — in books and online photos? There are solutions to be found once this is accepted. See manta rays in Indonesia, whales in Tonga and Dominica for starters.

Also some other points to clarify — Zimbabwe — according to the CIA World Factbook -ranks 134th out of 230 countries in GDP. They are in the middle as opposed to being “some of the poorest people on the planet”. You are right though, killing these majestic creatures is definitely a boost to their tourist economy. Purely by choice of the human population. Wild game hunting isn’t their only, or even major, economy.

Also requiring clarification is your comment about the numbers of Great White Sharks… They have been protected only in Australia since 1999, and worldwide in CITES since March 2010 — about 7 years — as opposed to the claimed 20 years worldwide. Their numbers are still in decline to the best of our knowledge and research. If you have a hopeful study on their increase, I would be interested in getting a reference from you. Their attacks are extremely rare on humans, considering the multitude of numbers of people in the oceans on a daily basis. While millions of sharks are killed on a daily basis purely for their fins, by us humans. Again, I’m not justifying their attacks, but purely pointing out that they can hardly be portrayed as the human eating machines you refer to.

Just as we cannot wipe out the mosquitos we keep swatting away (I actually don’t kill them either) we also cannot wipe out all the Great Whites to enjoy the oceans freely — or the elephants to have more land, or the orangutans so we can have more palm oil, etc. Unlike us empathetic humans, they serve a very clear purpose in keeping our oceans, lands, and hence our planet, healthy.

Truly hoping this will help you see the connection and responsibility we all have to being human and the future of our planet. May I also suggest compassion as further reading and alternately the film “Earthling” and “Racing Extinction” as an intensive course on the topic.

Ocean Actionist. Circular Economy Consultant. Reuse and Plastic recycling SME. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Underwater Photographer. NYC.

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