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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Leonardo DiCaprio and Ralph Waldo Emerson

Published 09/29/10
By Will Travers, Chief Executive Officer

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that a “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” But there is nothing foolish about consistent ethics with respect to our treatment of animals. The beaver, cow, dog, eagle, fin whale — you get the idea — they all deserve to live free from cruelty, suffering, abuse and distress.

I’m always mystified when environmentalists grab a hotdog for lunch or a burger for dinner. Protecting the “environment” surely extends both to the waterways around corporate mega-hog farms, polluted by factory farm runoff, and the rainforests that are slashed and burned for livestock production. Perhaps it is reasonably consistent to protect the environment everywhere possible.

Of course, it also strikes me as slightly inconsistent (foolishly so?) to protect the environment but not the animals who live in it. Take those conservationists who focus on the numbers — how many wolves, tigers, elephants, whales are left — without caring equally about the well-being of the individual wolf, tiger, elephant or whale. That’s why I believe in compassionate conservation. And why Born Free, together with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), recently hosted an entire conference at the prestigious Oxford University dedicated to this concept — that the individual matters and that conservation and compassion can go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it is reasonably consistent to protect animals and preserve species.

Photo by Colin Chou

Then there is Leonardo DiCaprio and news reports that the famed young actor is in India meeting with government leaders to use his good standing and international profile to raise awareness about the plight of the tiger — in what might possibly be the remaining years for the species on the planet! Dwindling numbers of tigers (possibly only 3,000-plus are left alive in the wild globally) is alarming indeed. But the cruelty to the individual tiger, cruelly snared and brutally murdered for his skin, teeth, bones, blood and even penis is equally alarming.

But what made me think about Emerson’s quote when reading about the DiCaprio mission is that just a week or so ago, DiCaprio was in the news for another animal story. Did he really spend hundreds of dollars on a Sulcata tortoise at a reptile breeders show in California? Apparently so. And the 10-year-old wild animal, native to north Africa, could live another 70 years!

Thousands of these long-lived wild animals have been imported into the United States over the years. One wonders how many more have been bred from those individual animals shipped thousands of miles to America.

Perhaps it is reasonably consistent to protect both tigers and tortoises … and to do so where they belong: in the wild.

Blogging off,
Will

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