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10 June 2001 Issue
I Didn't Know

from The Animals' Agenda - March 1990
found at www.AnimalConcerns.org 

Near the beginning of July [1990] there was an article in a Halifax newspaper about a 61-year-old Nova Scotia fisherman who bludgeoned an endangered leatherback turtle caught in his mackerel net. The animal was struck 6 times on the head with a hammer and paddle and dragged to shore, where he was cut loose and swam back to sea, badly injured. "I didn't know you weren't supposed to kill it," was what the fisherman was quoted as saying in his defense.

People like the fisherman abound in this world. It causes me to wonder how they grow up from infancy and childhood, when affection and empathy for animals is greatest, to an adulthood in which killing is the first or only answer when faced with a conflict with an animal. As soon as a child is born, someone will inevitably pop a brand new stuffed animal into the bassinet to welcome the new arrival. Often these stuffed animals are not just toys to the child -- they're friends who provide protection and good
counsel. Added to the animal toys are the unlimited children's stories with animals as central characters -- animals who teach children right from wrong along with manners, kindness, and fairness.

Then one day the child comes home and asks if it's true what the teacher said, that hamburger comes from cows who are killed and that the red stuff you always said was "just part of the meat" is really blood. And he is told not to worry about it; that's what the animal was born for. And one day he spends the afternoon on the back step confused because his parents just scolded him for throwing a rock at the neighbor's dog -- yet he knows Daddy poisoned the raccoon who used to come around, and he knows
there's a bird in the house who can't use her wings because she's kept in a small but pretty cage, and he knows that Mommy has something looking very much like the neighbor's dog hanging on a padded hanger in her closet. Then on another day, Mommy puts away his stuffed animals, or throws them out, and his uncle drops by and puts a gun in his small 12-year-old hand and tells him he'll teach him what people do to real bears. And suddenly at school the hamsters, mice and rabbits he remembers
scuffling softly in hay in kindergarten and first grade are floating in jars of formaldehyde on the shelves in his biology class, and the teacher is instructing him in the correct way to kill the frog before he cuts it into pieces to learn about the marvels of life.

And before that child becomes a man, he has learned that real animals are germy, stinky, dangerous, and undeserving of respect. He has learned that animals are here for his gratification, and that the valuable lessons they taught him in his childhood are applicable to humans only. And he becomes the 61-year-old fisherman who was so flabbergasted when a creature who shared the sea with mackerel came up in his net that the only solution was to bash its head open. And all that his parents, his teachers, his society, and his religion taught him in all his years of living and maturing can by summed up in 9 words:

"I didn't know you weren't supposed to kill it."

Go on to SHARK's Tiger Truck
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