The way people treat animals on this planet, both large and small, is a strong indicator of the character and humanity of mankind, and thus far the record has been pretty poor, if not disastrous. Man’s relationship to animals should be one of protector and benefactor, but instead it is often one of predator and greedy attacker. As the population of this planet now exceeds 7 billion people, native habitats especially for large animals are significantly shrinking. At the the same time, man still sees profit in killing certain large animals such as elephants for their ivory, seals for their fur, or sharks for their supposed health benefits. And let us not forget the large number of people that still see hunting as a “sport” and will go out and slaughter defenseless animals, just for the the hell of it. The footage taken of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless moose or wolves in Alaska from a helicopter, I think perfectly symbolizes the mindset of these so-called hunters.
In any event, between the disappearing animal habitats due to expanding populations moving into lands that had been set aside for these animals, and due to continued predatory hunting, the populations of large wildlife has been decreasing at an alarming rate. Over the past 50 years, there has been huge decreases in populations of the great apes in both Africa and Asia, as well as elephants, especially in Africa, where much of the lands that elephants lived on is now becoming farming communities. Not only does the room for elephants to roam shrink, but when they wander onto these new farms in search of food they are often shot. Decreasing numbers are also noted among other large mammals such as rhinos and hippos, as well as the large cats. Lions, tigers leopards, cheetah and other cats have experienced such huge losses that they are now considered endangered species. There also has been big losses in marine wildlife, among sharks and whales. We may be among the last generations that can live alongside large animals still in the wild.
There are some groups that are trying mightily to stem the tide of animal extinction in the wild, but thus far they have, at best, achieved a slowing down of the rate of loss. It’s too bad that people don’t have the same concern for wild animals as they do for domestic pets. There is no decrease in the dog and cat populations in this country or elsewhere, as most people do love their pets. And why not? Treat dogs or cats with affection and they will give you back total, unreserved love. Even the most benevolent pet owner can never give back what these small animals give to us. Even if you have had the worst day, if your boss or your spouse yelled at you non-stop, if your investments went south and the stock market plummeted, no matter what the situation, you’re still a hero in your pet’s eyes. They will look at you you with unreserved love and innocence whatever event transpired.
Although there is a big difference in the way dogs and cats respond, such as the old joke that people are masters to their dogs, but servants to their cats, I believe that both undergo a special bonding with their owners. In our younger years we used to own dogs because there was no question that dogs far more openly display affection for their owners. But unless you’re fortunate enough to have a large, fenced-in yard, owning a dog can have its own problems. Like walking a dog on cold, rainy winter days at 6 in the morning or late at night. So as we we got older we switched our pet choices to cats largely because they use litter boxes and thus require no walking. Cats are affectionate too, but in their own unique way and at their own pace. One cat we owned lived for over 18 years and was always a constant joy. But as George Carlin, the comedian once said: “When you decide to acquire a pet, you know it’s going to end badly.” When our cat died, it was was almost like losing a child. Both my wife and I bawled like babies.
We’ve had our current cat for over 5 years, and like the previous one, she also gives us continued pleasure. She’s grayish-white, with large blue eyes that reflect the epitome of innocence. I often think, however, that it’s extremely sad that people exist in this world that horribly abuse these small creatures. Hence, the existence of the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and countless other animal organizations that seek to to shelter and heal abused animals. Knowing there is no such thing as Hell, I still would like to see the ninth circle of Hell, as described in Dante’s Inferno, reserved for people that abuse defenseless animals. It takes a special kind of evil for that to happen. But as I’ve written before regarding serial killers, evil in some people is like a bottomless pit.
In any event, at least our small domestic pets are not on the endangered species list. However, the same cannot be said for especially the large animals that roam the wilderness areas. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to make what ever effort we can to protect these endangered animals. Even if that effort is merely contributing to the groups that attempt to reverse declining animal populations. Because being a benefactor to wild and domesticated animals makes us more humane as human beings.