by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Or How I Spent the Past Few Days
OK. I’ll fill in the details in a later blog, but I here I want to talk about just getting back from Middle Island, a tiny 46-acre island in Lake Erie. I was anchored offshore, meters from the U.S. border, the most southern place one could be and still be in Canada. I was there with colleague Liz White to monitor gunmen as they shot hundreds of double-crested cormorants off their nests.
This was the sixth year the gunmen had done this, disrupting a large, mixed colony of nesting waterbirds: cormorants, night-herons, great blue herons, herring and ring-billed gulls and Canada geese. We had done this the previous Monday, as well; we’ll do it once or twice more this season. There had been egrets nesting there, too, but while we saw one the previous Monday, they seem to have been chased off by the gunfire. This is a national park. Protecting the egrets was part of the goal. I’ll explain all, in a later blog, meanwhile see this. If it sounds brutally insane, yep, I’d say so!
As we drove back we added to the list of roadkills we could identify along the highway: one wild turkey, one American kestrel, several red-winged blackbirds, a couple of opossums, numerous raccoons, a few cottontails and skunks and many undetermined. And then the trucks. One of the problems with being in this business is that you see so much more than others see. What to others is just an anonymous tractor-trailer we know carries 10,000 pheasants jammed close together in tiny crates, no food or water, no protection from the noise and confusion of the highway, or the cold slipstream.
Pheasants? Yes. Chickens are a species of pheasant, but of course we degrade the term “chicken” to mean something not worth worrying about.
We passed trucks in which you could glimpse pigs, so many in miserable discomfort en route to slaughter. At lunchtime we stopped at one of the highway’s pull-offs, called “En Route,” where restaurants sold cooked body parts of similar animals, now at least beyond suffering. Pulled pork? Wings? No thanks.
At home my mailbox contained the long-awaited copy of “Handbook of Mammals of the World, Volume III,” which describes all non-human primate species in the world, with up-to-date data on their population status. My e-mail contained concerns about one primate species, the long-tailed macaque of Southeast Asia and various islands and archipelagos of that region. Some 240,000 live macaques had been exported for “medical, scientific, commercial and breeding purposes from 2004 until July 2010,” according to the book, and according to my e-mail updates, some 100,000 more had been shot as part of a cull.
They, fellow primates, are denied life because they are a nuisance. The ones removed appear to be from the core population; no one knows how many there are, but they have, according to the book, been officially recognized as the first “widespread and rapidly declining” primate species. I can do no better than the quote in my e-mail from an anonymous writer:
“Where to begin? ... Not only do I weep for the inhumane experience the long-tailed macaques experienced before their souls left our planet, I disparage for the plight of our humanity. ... Violence and killing seem to be a strong strain within our collective DNA. ... We do far more damage around this spinning orb that is our home than all the other living species (combined), than proportionally to what these tinier primate cousins of ours are doing to inconvenience the humans in Malaysia. ...
“Every human who knows about this story should feel shame for the fellow humans who perpetrate these heinous encroachments upon others’ habitats and then rationalized their murdering of those effected by the encroachment. ... It’s not too dissimilar to what 'white' Europeans did to the indigenous peoples of the Americas."
And then, remembering that my colleagues and I are working hard to stop the brutal culling of mule deer in central British Columbia, because there are “too many,” I read the news article about 6,000 coyotes killed in Utah’s bounty program, in the hope that there will be more mule deer! They want more deer for the hunters to kill — the human hunters who don’t need to — so the coyotes are slaughtered in absurdly high numbers.
This brutality extends toward our own species. I also read about the horrific case of three young women held captive, raped and abused, in Cleveland, while the story of the terrorist bombing in the Boston Marathon lingered. Isolated incidents involving a few deranged individuals, of course, but also waiting for me was more news from the civil war in Syria, and lest we get all self-righteous, news of a book just out about the detention, also for a decade, of prisoners in Guantanamo never having found guilty of anything other than being of the wrong religion and in the wrong place at the wrong time, held without trial.
What is it about us? Why are so many of us so heartless?
Why is the term “do-gooder” seen as derogatory?
We are to accept that brutal side of our nature in the interest of ... what?
We’re rapidly, recklessly destroying so much, including our planet’s ability to sustain us, and our own ability to survive. We are capable of better. We are the most brutal of species, and never more so than when we reach out to others, our own and other species, to maim and kill.