Be kind to the animals

Ushka Mrkusic, Scarborough

The picture of a baboon and her baby in my kitchen pressed a button (“Baboon visit cooks up a storm in social media”, Echo February 25).

So much so, that Baboon Liaison Group (BLG) Sue Oosthuizen’s startling allegations in the Echo letters page are malicious and false. (“Baboon truths”, Echo March 10)

“Encourage baboons to raid?” Off the top of my head I can say: If I knew she (the baboon) was coming I’d have baked a cake. “Irresponsible management of our home?” With apologies to Donald Trump: “I will build a wall – an electric fence – to keep baboons out! And the baboons can pay for it themselves.”

A few years ago, we invited Graham Noble of the BLG to inspect our property to set the record straight. Fastidiously he ticked all the baboon-proof boxes – our home, food, caged veggies, compost system and waste.

The BLG’s current accusations in the Echo coincided with a visit from Helena of CapeNature, and Kath of Human Wildlife Solutions. “Impressive,” they agreed, and took pictures of our caged veggie garden. Since it’s now officially in triplicate for the Baboon Task Team I hope we can put it to rest in peace. The same Echo featured Blood Lions – Bred for the Bullet; a documentary featuring Ian McCallum (“Blood Lions”, Echo March 10). He said: “We must ask if we cannot protect the flagship species such as elephants and lion, then how can we do any better with the others, the littler ones, or ourselves for that matter.” Yes. Everything is connected, and we have to get it right at the top for the sake of “the littler ones” at the bottom. It is nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self: I did not choose baboons, they chose me. They were on our doorstep, or rather humans encroached their territory and grabbed their land.

McCallum said the documentary is also, “A subtle invitation to examine our inner selves and our own propensity for human cruelty and deception.”

About the concepts “pride in humanity” and “shame in humanity”, in my travels to India, I directly experienced people and animals living together in non-violence, “ahimsa”, a Vedic law of “dharma” or right conduct.

I was glad to come across a letter from JM Coetzee, a reflection of a sharp intellect, to his friend and fellow writer Paul Auster: “My first observation (of India) was that this was the first country I had visited where human beings and animals seemed to have worked out a decent modus vivendi. The range of animal species I actually observed was limited – cows, pigs, dogs, monkeys – but I have no reason to think that only these animals are accepted into the human sphere. I saw no sign of cruel treatment, no sign even of impatience, though the cows wander in among the very busy traffic and hold people up. It is commonplace that cows are worshipped in India. But worship seems to me the wrong word. Relations between people and animals are much more mundane than that: a simple tolerance and acceptance of an animal’s ways of being, even when it intrudes among men.”

Africa has a pre-colonial indigenous culture that lived in harmony with nature. Credo Mutwa, an extraordinary South African character, traditional healer, and talented storyteller said in his book, Isilwane the Animal: “Western Man is taught that he is the master of all living things. The bible itself enshrines this extreme attitude, as do other great books. Repeatedly one hears of dangerous phrases such as ‘untamed nature’, or ‘interrogating nature with power’. One hears of the strange belief that man is superior to all other living things on Earth and that he was especially created to be overlord and custodian of all things animate and inanimate. Until these attitudes are combated and erased from the human mind, Westernised humans will be a danger to all earthly life, including themselves.”

It is globally accepted that our relationship with nature and each other is vital to our survival. Animal communication is popular in media like the New York Times, such as Elizabeth Austin Asch’s article “Wisdom from the Wild Nations.”

One of the measurements of conservation success is, simply, the continued existence of the species. That is a massive blindspot, for if we lose our humanity in the process we are immeasurably the lesser. “Schrecklichkeit” – an ugly, hard word for a heartless way of treating other beings.

Myriads abhor lethal conservation and our outrage is to effect constructive change on policies and “secret protocols of killing” that so deeply and justifiable upset us. To be a voice for the voiceless the focus is “wildlife protection” and our call is for legislative “rights of nature”, all of nature and its multifarious species, for human cruelty applies equally to wild animals (big and small), rainforests, cathedrals of trees, the air and the seven seas.

* This letter has been shortened.

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