Writer and guest blogger Meghan Campbell
I was sent to the Principal’s office only once during the course of my primary school education. It wasn’t for talking back, or for failing to submit an assignment on time. I was sent to the Principal’s office for hurling a rock at a boy who was throwing stones at ducklings. He refused to cease and desist when I told him to, so I took it upon my little self to do what the defenceless ducklings could not, and gave him a dose of his own mean-spirited medicine.
I never outgrew my love for animals, nor have I overcome the compulsion to supply them with a voice when I am made aware of any injustice. In fact, my passion in regard to animal rights has only grown with me. How could it not, after I reached an age where my mother no longer made a valiant effort to shield me (her overly-sensitive daughter) from any and all stories concerning the abuse or neglect or mistreatment of any living creature?
Thankfully, I’ve learned that I can have as great an impact with words as I once did with rocks.
I recently discovered The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals through Lush’s Charity Pot foundation, and knew instantly that I had to get more involved. Here was the organization I had been waiting for. Although they were undoubtedly as passionate and driven as any other animal welfare society, they choose to make a difference by educating and inspiring, rather than berating and intimidating. I leapt at the opportunity to offer my assistance through the written word, hence my newfound presence here.
The meritorious Executive Director, Lesley Fox, allowed me free rein with my first article. She encouraged me to speak from the heart, to express, in my own words, my views on the archaic treatment of animals and the world we call our home. After some deliberation, I opted to raise my points by utilizing the current plight of one of my favourite animals, an animal with a long and grievously tarnished history: the wolf.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?
Wolves are, without a doubt, one of the most misunderstood members of the entire animal kingdom. I’m not entirely certain who to lay the blame upon, as the options are limitless. Fables? Disney? Sarah Palin? It makes no difference in the end. What matters now is the fact that we all know better. The fact that wolves continue to be vilified is nothing short of ludicrous. It’s inexcusable.
Although you’re more likely to be injured by an elk than you are a wolf (seven people a year on average are sent to hospitals following encounters with elk, while there remain no documented cases in North America of a healthy wolf killing a human in the wild), the Canadian Government continues to allow our wolves to be hunted both for sport and the fur trade, blaming them for the dwindling numbers of caribou. There’s one small flaw in their argument, however. Nature works. There is an inherent balance to all life and all things. Children manage to grasp this simple concept, and yet they are raised in an entitled society, by people in power who choose to disregard the suffering that their comfort so often relies upon.
As Canadians, we pride ourselves on the natural beauty of our country, and yet a shocking number of us willingly turn a blind eye to the unwarranted cull that takes place every year. Are we truly supposed to sit back and trust that the reason one of our most enigmatic native species is being habitually slaughtered is because of some oversight on Nature’s end? The reality of the situation is that we are to blame. The main issues at hand have been habitat depletion as a result of rapacious logging practises, and the inevitable loss of natural habitat as a result. At this point, ignorance is no longer bliss, it’s just sheer ignorance. Scientists, environmentalists, and naturalists from all over the world have been beseeching us to take a step back and look at what we’re doing to the world that we live in, and to the creatures with whom we share it, but as a collective society we’re all too busy contemplating pressing issues like Justin Bieber’s new haircut to pay their findings any attention. We need to educate ourselves so that we can stop repeating this reprehensible bit of history on a yearly basis. This has happened before and it is currently in the process of happening again.
When wolves were driven out of Alberta in the sixties, the consequences on the ecosystem were profound. The population of other species waned, from beavers to songbirds; even certain plant life was affected by the loss. With that being said, the elk populations grew to be ten times as high in the areas where no wolves were present. Imagine that! They could be found everywhere! On the main roads, the hiking trails, even in backyards. They’re also not as innately wary of humans as wolves are. When I was researching this fact, I happened upon an article on Yahoo inquiring- “Can you ride an elk?” Although my initial response was a snort of incredulity, perhaps this person had the right idea, considering the rate we’re going. Oh, and in case you’re curious, my favourite response to this query was, “Caribou are domesticated and called reindeer. You could ride one of those.” On Dasher…?
Although I must say I find the prospect of one day being able to express my patriotism riding on the back of a caribou (without facing the risk of an unanticipated wolf attack) positively thrilling, I must digress and revisit my initial point. The simple fact is that in nature, every single creature has a valuable role to play, and we as a species do not have the right to interfere. The loss of a carnivore stationed at the top of the food chain has an impact on every other creature; it weakens every other link. Who are we to interfere with this intrinsic system when it could be argued that out of all living things, we know nature the least intimately? We’ve separated ourselves from the world that we live in so thoroughly that to some, the mere notion of feeling empathy for the plight of any living thing that cannot speak our language seems laughable. This mindset is dangerous, and the price we’ll eventually pay is high. For centuries now, humanity has been regarding nature with the attitude of an impudent, self-indulgent child. The only problem being that Mother Nature owns the house that we live in. We take advantage, and we view the natural beauty of the world as an obstacle. The trees are in the way of skyscrapers; the wildlife impertinent enough to exist within its own natural habitat is affecting our yearly incomes. So what do we do? How do we answer these problems we have created for ourselves? We destroy, we point fingers at creatures unable to point them back, we lie without remorse and consume significantly more than what we need. We take and very seldom give back, and no relationship can last when that kind of egocentric disposition is involved.
I remember when I went to visit one of my best friends in England. We were driving to her home through the countryside, and I was in awe of the landscape. At one point, we passed through a farming community. There were sheep on the road, on the hills, down in the fields below, and finally I asked her, “How do the farmers here prevent the wolves from picking off their flock?” I hoped to hear that they put to use the humane alternatives to hunting. Instead, she informed me that there were no wolves in England. I was shocked, and then saddened by this news. We should be honoured by the fact that we still share our country with a host of such wondrous creatures. It is possible to live in harmony with all of them, as — although many of us have forgotten — we are, in fact, a strand woven into the delicate web of nature. Before we can succeed in regaining the harmony that was once ingrained, however, we must learn to honour the world we live in, and cherish the creatures we are fortunate enough to share it with. What does it say about us as a species if the only animals we regard as being worthy of kindness are the ones capable of being tamed? I strongly believe that we would all live in a much different and much better world if, from time to time, we all forced ourselves to face the harsh realities of the horrors that occur underneath our noses every day. Animals nowadays are regarded as a pest, or worse, a commodity instead of as valuable members of our society. We have somehow come to live in a world where it’s as normal to put a T-shirt on a Chihuahua as it is to drape the carcass of a dead fox over the shoulders of an ostentatious debutante.
Ghandi himself said it best, and quite a bit more succinctly than I have managed here, when he said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” As a Canadian, I find appalling the way we treat — or perhaps I should say mistreat — our animals. We blame the problems we ourselves have created upon them, and use these lies to fuel the disdain that leads to the overwhelming amount of disrespect and disregard we as a society display for their existence. The concept of hunting as a “sport” is shameful. It’s an odious endeavour, and only serves to further elucidate the excessiveness we have come to expect as a race. We slaughter creatures we have no intention of consuming, and breed others for the sole intention of constructing fur coats for women who only venture outdoors in the colder months in order to walk from a heated car into a heated building. This irreverence displayed for all things living is devastating.
Photo: Dead fox in a leg-hold trap.
I truly do believe that the majority of us know better, and yet we readily pass through life with the wool pulled over our eyes. This oblivion is necessary in order to carry on living comfortably in the opulent world that has been manufactured for us. I know in my heart that if all of the people currently in possession of a fur coat — and yes, that includes the newly popular “Canada Goose” jackets, originally made for people working at South Pole research facilities, and now for teenagers everywhere with wealthy parents — were invited to observe the process involved in the assembly of their garment, the majority would not make it past the aspect that involves a steel trap and the piercing cries of a creature in agony. I believe this because we are nature, and when we destroy it, we destroy ourselves. Though we have undoubtedly distanced ourselves, our instincts remain, and no compassionate human being in their right mind would stand by indifferent and watch the torment of another living creature for no purpose beyond their own vanity. I’m not one to engage in the “all-or-nothing” debates often raised by people determined to believe that all animal rights activists would rather save an animal than a human, or would feel inclined to hurl red paint on an unsuspecting elderly woman in a fox fur stole, but the fur industry varies vastly from others involving the production of animal products. No fur-bearing animals are consumed, and the regulations of the trade are insubstantial and nearly impossible to control. There is no such thing as “humane” trapping, and no way to be certain that no endangered animals — or people’s pets — wind up trapped in the process. It’s an outdated, exorbitant practise, and one that I know would not continue to flourish if the harsh realities of its intricacies were revealed. It may seem far-fetched to suggest that people be more aware of what they support and therefore enable, but is it truly so much to ask? This once was the case, after all. You ate what you hunted, or at the very least understood the process involved in the creation of your supper, or the clothing you wore. I’m proud to be a part of a generation that is becoming more aware, and is less easily deluded by the reassurance offered by the men and women reaping the rewards. There is still more to be done, however, but I feel that at long last, the fences so many people have been sitting upon are beginning to rot and crumble. Sides are being chosen and, as a result, the apathy that once facilitated the callousness of the prosperous is evolving into inquisitiveness, and oftentimes revolt.
Photo: Singing wolf pup
Alongside blatant misinformation, fear-mongering is another tactic often employed by the people attempting to justify the annihilation of some of our most venerable species, and the wolf is the prime example of this. Out of all the creatures currently facing serious danger, the wolf has perhaps suffered the longest. Even their means of communication, their hauntingly beautiful howl has now, and will forever be associated with one of the most blood-thirsty, unhinged beasts known to the horror-genre. The thought of a man transforming into a wolf has terrified people for centuries, but considering our track records as a species in general, I daresay that the idea of a wolf morphing into a man is a far more horrifying notion.