Thursday, 13 June 2013

Black and White...and tigers

Our friends M and K with their beautiful daughter, Emilia and K's mum came to our BBQ on Monday.  I love these guys and I have said before if it wasn't for Hubby and M we probably wouldn't be friends as both K and I are quite shy until we get to know people.  Anyhoo, over time K and I have become best friends and we are Godparents to Emilia. 

Strangers may think that M is a bit of a pyromanic as he, likes most of us, likes a good firepit.  Beautiful B and I could sit and stare at a fire all evening and of course, we all know I love being warm.  I am also rather lazy as I will happily sit there and let M and Hubby stoke up that fire while I continuet to stare at it.  M, however, takes it to another level and will stoke that fire up as high as he can.  Only the week before even I had to move farther away from heat of the fire pit after he had stoked it up more than ever.  To those of us that know him, however, we know him as the big lovable kid, probably the only adult I know with something akin to ADHD.

That is not the point of this story, however, and we all know it takes me a while to get to a point.  In the UK a poor zookeeper has been mauled to death by a tiger after going into the tiger enclosure for what was, originally, an unknown reason - I may be stretching here but I guess it was for one of two reasons; to feed the animal or clean the enclosure.  Beautiful B and I visited the same safari park last year where we ooohed and ahhhed over how human like little monkey hands are and I berated a parrot berating it for ignoring us.  Again, I digress;  you can imagine that having been there it made the story all the more real for us.

As time has passed the story has progressed and the understanding is now that there was a mechanical failure to the doors and it is believed that where two sets of doors should have closed when the zookeepers were in the enclosure they didn't and the tiger did what came naturally to it.

The zookeepers parents, while obvioulsy devastated, have requested that the tiger not be killed as it was following it's natural instinct to kill.

Of course, this story fetches up all sorts of ethical discussions and as Beautiful B and I are animal lovers and had been to that particular safari park the discussion turned to this during the evening.  Now M, as much I love him, sees things very black and white.  I, on the other hand, am very reflective and believe most if not all things are grey so we have had many a discussion, some of them somewhat heated, over how our opinions differ.

On this particular occasion, his opinion was clear, that the animal should have been put down.  I can fully see his point of view, especially as a recent father, he saw this particular issue from a father's point of view; had it been Emilia in that enclosure he would have shot the animal without hesitation.  Which, if you think about it, makes me a hypocrite because had it been Beautiful B so would I yet I firmly believe that the tiger is not wholly to blame here.

The upshot is that I love M, and always will, and sometimes our ethical discussions are great, other times we get frustrated with each other but you know what?  I wouldn't swap him for the world.

Here are my thoughts, for what it is worth (and yes, I know that many of you will disagree with me and I am okay with that);

We do not tame these animals before condemning them to a life in an enclosure which is often too small for them so that we humans can stare at them from the safety of the other side of the glass or fence.  Furthermore, we feed these lions fresh, raw meat each and every day.  Little wonder then, that given the opportunity the tiger will follow its natural instinct to hunt prey.

If my understanding is right, UK zookeepers would shoot to kill an animal if there is chance of saving a human life but, having watched many a wildlife programme, it takes a while for a sedative to take effect.  It must have been clear then that this poor woman was already dead when she was discovered; it has not been released whether the tiger was found mid act or after the event.  So would it have been right to kill the animal after the event. 

It is a ridiculous analogy I know, but do we punish puppies after they have messed or chewed knowing they have no idea what they are being punished for?  No, we don't. Should a tiger, therefore, be treated any differently because the repurcussions are so much worse?  I don't believe so.

For the majority of us, the only chance of seeing such wildlife in our lifetimes is via a zoo or safari park.  In the UK, those safari parks have small enclosures for obvious reasons; space and entertainment value and this isn't fair to those animals.  Yes, that makes me a hypocrite because I do enjoy going to see them. 

As a child I loved it, as a parent to a young child I loved watching Beautiful B experience animals closer than she could on the TV and learning so much from it.  The particular safari park in questions allows you to feed giraffes and we all know how obsessed I am with them.  You can also feed other animals such as monkeys, wallabies and emus (the latter of which are vicious).  There is little doubt that I did enjoy that experience. 

However, during a trip last year to Chester Zoo with Hubby as part of my birthday present I did catch myself twittering when walking around some of the enclosures at how unhappy these animals looked and how very small the enclosures were for some of the bigger animals, especially those who roam vast areas in the wild as part of their very nature.

Yet again, this issue raises many ethical issues, none of which I can answer any better than the next person.  What would your opinion be?


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