“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
-Mahatma Gandhi

There’s something about the ape house at the zoo that really brings a feeling of love and warmth. I visited Lincoln Park Zoo this past spring for the first time in years. The primates were all confined behind enormous glass screens, some with more space to jump and play around that others. It seems like every time I go, there’s always this one ape just sitting up against the glass, just looking at all the people walk by, some talking pictures or pointing at something… it really doesn’t matter. And then some child, maybe of about five or six comes up and sits right next to it, on the other side of the glass. The child’s eyes look straight into the pupils of this beast on the opposing side. I get this feeling, as if maybe they are connected, through some secret, intimate bond without them even realizing it. We have such a strong connection to the lives of these primates, because they can perform the same way as us physically. What really is it that draws us to these animals? Is it because of appearance? Is it because we can connect to them in a way? The answer may be as simple as thinking the animal is cute or it might be as complex as because of the fact that it is one of the fastest land mammals on the planet or one of the most ferocious and terrifying creatures in the ocean.

Animals really are an exotic and foreign part of our lives. When really sitting down and thinking about it, almost all physical contact is made with another human being. It honestly gets boring after a while seeing the same faces show up. Seeing that one man crossing the street or watching that same teacher continuously talk every day. Humans are everywhere; at the bus stop, at the park a couple of blocks from the house, at the movie theater, at the mall. They are most definitely everywhere… but are they? What about in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest? What about in the vast plains and savannas of Africa? Maybe the animals aren’t confined; maybe we are. We are confined to the monotonous population of male and female humans: homo-sapiens. Just a wonderful world of skin; not fur, not feathers, and nowhere even near to scales. Just a spectacular world of walking, talking, sleeping human beings. We say we have fur by growing out our hair, trying to get close to our “animal side”. We adopt plenty of pets, just to help add to the diversity among us, but we still are confined to the same people around us, no matter what we do.

We are never closest to ourself until we are actually out in the world. No, not in the packed, populated city of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but out into the world of nature, where diversity rules. We realize what makes us special, what special abilities we have and how unique we really are. Being confined to a classroom with students of the exact same age and ability really can bum a person down. You have a feeling of hopelessness and despair; competition within the class skyrockets. It can get stressful being around other people all the time. Other animals can give us a sense of relaxation; we build zoos so that we can get in touch with other animals. We watch those penguins waddle around, lions roar, sea otters swim, and snakes slither. The abilities and appearance of those animals bring appeal to us. In a way, we worship these animals. We draw them, paint them, we feature them in the media in the form of talking cartoon figures, we symbolize them as a mascot for a company. We continue to because it works, it gets things done. That Geico gecko just brought in thousands of customers. Disney just wowed their audience with the animals in The Lion King,Lady and the Tramp, Bambi, Dumbo, and other notable movies. There’s no doubt that animals in the media have appealed to us.

It’s unclear whether or not these animals are worthy of our adulation when it comes to death. In an emotional sense, the death of someone’s dog by a car is more upsetting than the death of a person by a car. We think of the poor, innocent life that the animal had; it was completely ruined one day because of our human actions: our reckless driving. We think of how the animal could have lived such a blissful life if there were no human interaction that took place that day it died. We put the blame on ourselves for the animal’s death. The demise of a human just isn’t as emotional unless there is a personal connection between you and that person. Why is man less important than animal? Why do we ignore the human’s death, but remain in tears for days because of the unintentional death of that dog? The man had a truly planned out future of success ahead of him while that dog had a simple, pointless life, living off of a family. It really seems completely ridiculous that we give our hopes out to the animal over our own species… or is it?

These animals truly are gentle creatures at heart and we are heartbroken when the ability and appearance of this lovely creature is put to waste because of Karl Benz, inventor of the automobile, or Henry Ford or those car manufacturers in China and Japan, or the oil producers in the Middle East, or the makers of the that beer bottle the driver was drinking before going out for a spin, or even the entire United States population for demanding the production of the car: all human interaction. We can blame ourselves for the occurrence of this death. Animals have nothing dragging them down, they are born free and wild and their deaths can be our fault sometimes. We try to treat them well and give them space, but at the same time we are destroying their homes in the rainforest, capturing them and sending them off to zoos and reserves, killing them for food and for their hide. We continue to because we are a heartless species. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. We’ve definitely got a lot of work to do.



One response to this post.

  1. that was a goodie, michael. :D! I liked it a lot. it made me think of a few stories that are animal related.

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