by George Payne, founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International
[The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY.]
The less humans know about animals the better off animals will be. From the earliest ages children should be taught to simply leave animals alone. If they are curious about them that is wonderful. This curiosity is natural and appropriate. But there is no reason why this state of wonderment must develop into knowledge and understanding. Knowledge and understanding brings with it an attempt to control the object or subject of one’s epistemic pursuit. There is always the studied and the studier, and the studied are the ones who end up captured, confined, killed, dissected, laminated, stored, and written about in textbooks. The most important virtues that we must transfer to future generations are reverence and curiosity rather than knowledge and power. Future generations should be taught how to express gratitude for animals without touching them, how to appreciate their beauty without seizing it for their own, and how to participate in the lives of other creatures without vamping on them. The more our children are taught about animals through books, websites, television programs, traveling exhibits, farms, mascots, food products and the like, the more they will see animals as controllable entities that should be gawked at, apprehended and/or consumed rather than wild and liberated creatures to be simply appreciated and left alone. The truth is we have studied certain species into nonexistence.
All education has done for animals is threaten their way of life. What they truly want is to freely exist in their own habitat without interference from us. Why are we unable to accept their right to be left alone? Why do we want to learn about them? We want to see how we can use them. Does this taste good or bad? Will this make a good picture? Will it move if I touch it? What happens when I do this or that to it? The satisfaction that comes with our “understanding” them is rooted in a primitive ambition for control that inevitably leads to the basest acts of animal cruelty.
Zoos are the worst. What zoos do is transfix people into believing an illusion that animals are comfortable inside a synthetic environment and that somehow this forced confinement is actually helping to preserve their species through education. But there has never been and never will be an animal that prefers a caged world when they were born to live boundless under the stars.
George Payne is founder-director of Gandhi Earth Keepers International based out of Rochester, NY. He written blogs, essays, letters, and op-eds for a variety of local and national publications including the Rochester City Newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, the Minority Reporter, the Atlantic, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Campaign Nonviolence, Veterans for Peace, and many more. He can be contacted directly at George@gandhiearthkeepers.org.