Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Can We Be Humane With Animals?

Last week in Orlando, I asked my daughter if she would like to see the Orca shows. Her “no” was a bit more forceful than I expected. The discussion that I had with her on Dawn Brancheau’s tragic death immediately crossed my mind.

The autopsy report on Dawn’s death is now out. It appears from the report that Tilly, the Orca was not playful towards Brancheau, and it was rather an enraged animal taking it out on its captor.

The report graphically described how Brancheau's left arm and part of her scalp were ripped off; she had suffered injuries to her spinal cord and her ribs were broken. She also had multiple injuries all over her body.

We can understand Brancheau's pain; can we be rational with Tilly’s emotions? Orcas may not have human emotions but similar incidents happen with other animals too. Animals in circuses, zoos, and other shows sometime act aggressively and kill their trainers. Can we blame animals for showing their natural instincts, which is to attack and kill?

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk had commented Tilly’s action as “vented fury of an angry and frustrated” animal that had been deprived of its natural habitat “for the sake of human profit and a few giggles.”

How outrageous is Newkirk’s comment sympathizing with an animal in view of a human death? Is it okay to treat animals anyway we like just because we can?

I remember a childhood incident of riding a cart that was being pulled by two bullocks. One of them had laceration on its neck. The wooden bar that rested on its neck would touch its wounds when the bullock would run faster with prodding from the driver.

I asked the driver, if the animal was feeling pain, and if we should rather go slowly.

I vividly remember the laugh that my question had evoked, the bullock and its wound, and after all these years the memory still makes me sad.