I read a bizarre, upsetting story in the headlines last week. Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted wound on Tuesday, October 18. The kicker, you ask? He released more than 50 exotic animals from their cages and set them free before his apparent suicide.
Ohio authorities were ordered to shoot any animals and did so, resulting in 49 fatalities–including 18 rare bengal tigers, an endangered species. Police captured and killed lions, tigers, bears and other beasts. They also searched for a monkey believed to be carrying the HIV virus, but later confirmed he had been eaten by one of the other animals.
Thompson, 62, was known as an “animal lover” to the community who knew of his 72-acre exotic-animal farm. Sure, if the definition of an animal lover includes multiple animal-cruelty convictions including having an animal at large and two counts of rendering animal waste without a license. In 2008, Thompson was also charged for weapon violations after authorities found more than 100 guns on his property. I’m sure these weapons weren’t just chew toys for the kitties.
The state of Ohio is known for it’s weak laws on animal protection and is one of the easiest states to “lawfully” keep and maintain exotic animals in a residential environment. Thompson ran an exotic animal exhibit on his farm and cared for all his animals, but how much attention could he possibly give to just one animal with such a large amount running around? For someone who seemed invested in the care of animals, he must have known that a confined space in a rural area was not an ideal living environment. It also presented dangers for the community that had dealt with escaped lions and tigers before.
In love, there is a saying that goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” An animal lover should know better than to confine nature’s creatures. The truth of the matter is that wild animals will never come back if they’re set free–because that’s what they’re meant to be.
p.s. The state of Ohio has agreed to take action and enact stricter regulations on wild animals. Help make sure they keep their promise by signing this petition!
I received an upsetting text message last week from my good friend, 44144. “Cove Update: Dolphins killed in Taiji last week. But we won’t give up! Text COVE to 20222 to donate $10 to Save Japan Dolphins/Earth Island.” I replied. But the minimal gesture of responding just didn’t suffice.
I came across a documentary a few years ago that really struck a nerve. The Cove brought light to an extreme case of animal abuse occurring every year in Taiji, Japan–a town that vows to have an affixation for dolphins, and yet is their greatest nightmare. Every September, the crisp-blue waters of the Taiji coast turn a dark and deep red after fishermen literally take a stab at the dolphins they’ve managed to lure into a hidden coast off the small island.
Fishermen aren’t looking to kill all the dolphins they capture, but rather pick out a select few to be sold for entertainment to aquariums, resorts and theme parks around the world. This special breed of “show” dolphins is worth thousands of dollars and investors have no problem paying the price despite the inhumane manner in which they are captured.
Dolphins are sensitive creatures that cannot survive if they are not in their natural habitat. Much like elephants, dolphins are emotional animals and captivity brings them down. Dolphins in captivity constantly die of “unknown” causes, even in state-of-the-art aquatic environments like SeaWorld. Their will to live dwindles in a tank.
The hundreds of remaining dolphins not suitable for the entertainment industry aren’t set free but rather slaughtered for their meat. Dolphin meat has toxic mercury levels that are extremely harmful to people and yet their meat is packaged and sold as “whale” meat. Dolphins are technically part of the whale family so industry tycoons can get away with the false advertising. However, these same dolphins aren’t protected under the same law that prohibits the fishing and slaughtering of most whales.
Ric O’barry essentially created the dolphin-entertainment industry when he successfully trained five dolphins and starred in the hit series, Flipper. Ric now dedicates his efforts to putting an end to the capturing , selling and training of dolphins. His efforts have been recognized around the world, but progress has been slow. Despite the mass attention “The Cove” received, including an Academy Award, the people of Taiji are still getting away with murder in that small cove that holds the secrets of fishermen and the final breaths of innocent animals.
The major damage left behind by Hurricane Irene last week has the East Coast in frenzy. Many residents are just now getting water and electricity back in their homes and for those who have lost loved ones, recovering will take more than a reinstallation of a utility.
Irene wasn’t polite to any animals in its path either. Rescue teams such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare and The Humane Society have had their hands tied since the storm hit the Atlantic Coast. Domestic pets were left homeless, large amounts of farm animals are in need of medical attention and even the rodents under New York City have been threatened. (Click here for photos of animals during Irene, compliments of LIFE.com)
Animals tend to get the short end of the stick in the aftermath of natural and human disasters. Forest fires across the country have burnt through acres of land, leaving animals homeless and left with limited resources. It was estimated that 8,000 animals were rescued after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf Coast also threatened the lives and mere existence of hundreds of species—both on land and in the water.
It’s unfortunate that the catastrophic oil spill did not receive the necessary attention for the right reasons. After mourning the loss of the 11 people who lost their lives in the rig explosion, politicians focused most of their time and energy on the financial aspects and not necessarily the natural damages. Thousands of fish were exposed and killed and hundreds of birds were caught drenched in oil. Volunteers worked quickly to clean the birds and rescue them before the oil affected them but for many, it was too late.
The point of all this oil-spill rambling is that a natural disaster isn’t just tragic to people, but to animals. The oil spill may not have been a cause for evacuation, or really a safety concern at all for most people, but it was still a disaster that took its toll on many lives. It’s important to realize that animals are vital for human survival and they should be valued for that.
Just remember, Dorothy didn’t leave Toto behind when the Twister hit Kansas—and neither should you.