I seem to always be inspired to write when something tragic happens whether in my own life or something I've heard about. This article is no exception. As I write these words the tears well up again as I recall the tragedy that occurred this week. I feel a tremendous sense of loss concerning the massacre of exotic wild animals that happened in Zanesville, Ohio, something that goes beyond anything personal that I can attribute it too.
We may never know what possessed Terry Thompson to release the animals in his care or take his own life, but I would like to believe that, overwhelmed with his responsibilities both financial and physical, he could only give these animals one last chance at freedom. I believe the burden of caring for so many exotic animals became too much and he could see no way out of his dilemma. I'm certain that he made mistakes, but I can only hope that a greater good can come out of all of this and that some have chosen to die so that others may live. For now the hearts and spirits of these animals are free from the mental, physical and emotional constraints that man had put on them for so much of their lives.
I am reminded of these words from one of my favorite children's movie:
"When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."
-- Aslan from the movie The Chronicles of Narnia
The traitors are those who profit from animal misery in any industry. I think that events like the story in Zanesville are perhaps the only thing that will wake up humanity to the suffering and plight of animals in captivity. This story is tragic in so many ways because these animals were either bred in captivity or taken from their homes in the wild in order to be someone's playthings. Terry had apparently found most of these exotic animals at auctions and was willing to give them a home. It was a daunting task that should be required of no man. People had tired of their responsibilities and so left them to another. It's a familiar story whether its a wild lion or a domestic cat. In the end, the last caretaker of these magnificent animals freed them into an unfamiliar world and took his own life out of desperation.
Though believed to be based on public safety, no doubt the decisions made during the 18th and 19th of October were based on fear, control and a lack of understanding of the value of creatures of this magnitude. Of course there was danger to the public at large, but couldn't the town have been issued warnings to stay inside until these animals had been properly tranquilized and transferred to other centers?
To senselessly kill a majestic lion or rare bengal tiger or a beautiful wolf is unfathomable to me. The fact that those who shot these creatures appeared to sense no remorse and did not question authority is so alien to my own philosophy of life and the respect that I hold for these creatures. This event is truly a sad statement of the lack of emotions and apathy found within our society with regard to animals in general. Or perhaps some of those who so willingly shot these magnificent beings were filled with excitement similar to those who mercilessly kill lions and other animals in canned hunting situations. What thrill could there possibly be in taking down such a magnificent being? I will never understand.
While there's no question that there are many, many people who truly honor and value animal life, still so many animals are held in tortuous captivity around the world for entertainment at the whim of man, as well as kept in unhealthy and inhumane conditions to supply our countries with food, not to mention all the domestic animals that get abandoned on a daily basis around the world when they become a burden. A perfect example are the streets of the Ukraine where a culling is now being done of homeless cats and dogs that are being hoarded into traveling crematoriums where the animals are burned alive in order to clean the streets and prepare for a 2012 soccer tournament. I can only imagine that the general population does not agree with this government action and is appalled at what is taking place.
This weeks tragedy came right after I had completed an amazing book called Mystery of the White Lions, Children of the Sun God by Linda Tucker who lives in South Africa and has created the Global White Lions Protection Trust to protect and restore these majestic rare beings to their sacred homelands in Timbavati. The book is filled with insights into the origins of man, geomancy relating to the sacredness of the land along the Nile River reaching from Timbavati to Egypt, and the lessons that the sacred white lions have come to teach us as messengers of a time and a knowledge long forgotten. After reading this book and hearing of the tragedy in Ohio, I was even more profoundly affected by this senseless loss and the necessity for all of us to change our relationship with the Animal Kingdom before it is too late.
I truly believe that if we all knew what took place within animal shelters, factory farms, circuses, etc. and within other countries we would all make different choices in our lives with regard to the food that we eat, what we chose as entertainment and whether or not we'll carelessly drop off those kittens and puppies that were so cute when they were born, but we unfortunately could not find a home for. I have written before of the plight of domestic cats left to their own demise who eventually create overpopulated feral colonies. It is truly a sad sight to see with countless exhausted females constantly breeding and many late born kittens faced with a brutal winters in areas like Western New York.
For many of us, animals are our companions. They comfort us during times of stress or sorrow and they also take on many of the emotional issues we are challenged with, often taking on the illnesses or diseases that their human companions have acquired. Cats, for example, experience all the diseases that humans do. I am told that one local holistic veterinarian in our area is overwhelmed with the sick animals that are brought to her and simply cannot keep up with the demand. What are these animals telling us? The Earth is sick, our animals are sick and so is much of mankind. Animals have been put on this Earth to be our companions, to help us and guide us through so many things. They are not put here to solely be our food, our toys or our beasts of burden.
There have been many references to seemingly unusual relationships that humans have had with animals both recent and throughout history. Is the archetypal feral child of the story Tarzan who was raised by apes so implausible? There have been many true stories about abandoned children that have been raised by animals in the wild. Perhaps it's time we give animals a different perspective and not see them as creatures over whom we have dominion and are inferior to us, but as beings with similar emotions, instincts and wisdom to that of humans. I believe we have much to learn from all of them. Kevin Richardson's groundbreaking work as The Lion Whisperer in South Africa is a perfect example of the possibilities that exist when man collaborates with animals. His work with families of lions goes beyond what we as humans have thought to be possible. His love for animals began with the tiniest of creatures when he was a child.
This relationship that we have with the animals starts at the ground up from the tiniest of creatures in our own backyard to the king of the beasts, the lion in the wild lands of Africa. It also includes the food that we eat. If everyone were to see the many forms of animal suffering, perhaps they would think twice about where they buy their food or using rat poison or spraying their lawn with chemicals. Secondary poisoning is a significant cause of health problems and/or death of cats and dogs who have come into contact with poisoned mice, birds and other animals. Not to mention the birds of prey and other predators it can kill. I have witnessed one of my cats go through an agonizing death due to what I suspected was poisoning from a neighboring property and believe me it is heartbreaking to watch. No animal should have to die that way.
Over the summer I had the opportunity to witness the suffering of a mouse that had found its way in my gardens. It kept running in circles around my flowers and never strayed far from me so I knew it had somehow come into contact with some form of poison, probably pesticides from a neighboring property. I decided to catch him so that he wouldn't be eaten by other wildlife, thereby creating secondary poisoning.
I never thought I would witness what I did during the last 6 days of this creature's life. Because I value the life of all creatures and do not kill anything, I gave this mouse a remedy for poisoning hoping it might turn the situation around. Although initially I was hopeful, eventually the poison ran its full course and the little mouse went through convulsions arching its head and neck and falling over constantly. It was truly a heartbreaking sight to see because I knew this little guy was trying to live. In the end all I could do was give him a safe place to die and some kindness, which most people wouldn't have done. As a wildlife rehabilitator for many years, I do not make judgments as to what animal life has more value.
Until we realize that all of our choices and actions have consequences, many times unseen and unknown, we will continue to have suffering on this planet by those very creatures who are here to help balance the energies of the planet, be our companions and bring beauty and wisdom into this world.
"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."
--excerpt from "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" based on C.S. Lewis' book "The Chronicles of Narnia"
Blessings of Awareness from the Animal Kingdom!
This article is dedicated to the 49 animals that lost their lives in Zanesville, Ohio, USA between October 18-19, 2011. May their deaths not have been in vain and may their spirits roam free once again in their homelands.
Copyright 2011 Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.