August 19, 2016
BY GARY WAYNE WALKER
"An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." -- MARTIN
In addition to various ongoing social, political and economic
revolutions, there's another important transformation underway, one that
gets far less attention. A humane revolution that's experiencing a new burst
of energy, it's the crusade to end the mistreatment of animals.
Since most of the daily television news shows I watch have been
prerecorded, I have the luxury of fast-forwarding through the commercials.
There's one announcement, though, I feel compelled to watch even though I've
seen it at least a dozen times.
It's the American Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals appeal for support in their
mission to rescue animals from abuse. What makes my heart stop every time I
see this appeal is the look in the eyes of the dogs and cats while in their
small cages. Sadly, one of the dogs featured has noticeable bruises
resulting from physical abuse.
The 150-year-old ASPCA works
tirelessly to eliminate animal abuse and neglect, and to pass humane laws
regarding animal rights. They share their resources with shelters throughout
The current movement to end the mistreatment of animals first got my
attention when Cecil the lion was killed in Africa by an American dentist
from Minneapolis last summer. The most popular animal in Hwange National
Park in Zimbabwe, Cecil was allegedly lured from the preserve, wounded by an
arrow, shot, skinned and beheaded.
The outrage was worldwide, especially here in the U.S., since it was an
American who executed the animal. While I've never felt any particular
sympathy for lions, this tragedy got my attention. A beautiful lion in a
national preserve who was not a threat to anyone was killed just for the
thrill of it.
The response to this disgrace has, among other things,
resulted in three of our largest airlines, American,
Delta and United, voluntarily banning the transport of hunting trophies
into the United States.
Then there's the recent announcement that SeaWorld
San Diego is eliminating the killer whale show. The marine park will
replace it with "a more informative whale experience focused on the natural
behaviors of the whales."
The decision came after increasing
criticism, and decreasing attendance, resulting from revelations over its
treatment of killer whales, also known as orcas. Much of this controversy
came after the 2013 release of "Blackfish," a documentary exposing the
inhumane treatment of orcas in captivity in SeaWorld parks.
More good news on the animal rights front is the announcement from
Ringling Brothers in March that they are eliminating elephants from their
shows. In an investigation of cruelty to elephants published by Mother Jones
in 2011, it was alleged that circus elephants are often physically abused
during training sessions, and spend most of their long lives in chains or on
trains. This kind of treatment for highly intelligent animals, who walk an
average of 30 miles a day in the wild, is unforgivable.
In May there
was national outrage over the shooting of a gorilla that dragged a
3-year-old boy through a shallow moat in the Cincinnati Zoo. Since the boy
was obviously in great danger, the shooting of Harambe, the gorilla, was
I'm impressed, however, that there's been so much sympathy
for the gorilla. Who would have thought a gorilla in a situation like this
would receive nearly as much compassion as the little boy? There's something
going on here, something new, something positive. Something way overdue.
The truth is, most of us don't live in a world of lions and gorillas,
elephants and whales. We live in a world of dogs and cats. My neighbor,
Margaret Gainer, is on the board of a foster-based rescue nonprofit that
cares for pets who have been surrendered by their owners or abandoned, and
subsequently handed over to them by various county and city shelters.
At any given time, there are 15-20 volunteers keeping pets in their
homes until they can be placed. My neighbor is presently taking care of two
dogs, five kittens and three adult cats. There are no paid volunteers,
including the board members. Their resources come from fundraisers and the
sale of the pets to families who want to provide loving homes for them.
grateful to Margaret Gainer and other like-minded citizens who spend time
and energy to improve the quality of life of our pets. The fact that the
animal-rights revolution is increasingly a local phenomenon bodes well for
its ultimate success.
Mahatma Gandhi was right. "The greatness of a nation can be
judged by the way it's animals are treated."
Gary Wayne Walker is a
resident of Fresno. His second novel, "Vengeance Unbound," is scheduled for
release this fall. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or on his website,garywaynewaalker.com.
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