Don’t blame animals for human behaviour

Just over a week ago a Scottish woman visitng South Africa was injured while in a Cheetah enclosure. Then another woman claimed that she had also been attacked by the same cheetahs a few years earlier. The manager of the facility then admitted there had been other minor incidents. I’ve petted a tame cheetah before and it really is a great experience because it’s the sort of animal that you admire because of it’s physical attributes. At the same time you need to realise that those same attributes make it a dangerous creature that is probably physically superior to you.

This week there has been another report of an animal attack. A lion cub bit a woman in the face and she required 60 stitches for the injury. After an investigation into the incident “a decision would be taken about the lion cub’s future.” Perhaps it won’t be something serious and the cub will just be kept away from humans but it doesn’t sound very good.

In these situations I don’t blame the animals. They have instincts, are stronger than us and, even inadvertently can hurt us. That is no reason to punish them, and some people will actually call for them to be killed. We need to realise that humans are not the only thing in the world. We don’t live in fear of being hunted but we can’t enforce the same standards that we do on other humans to other animals. Some creatures will hurt or kill us and we need to accept that. The world doesn’t owe us a perfectly safe environment. When you put yourself in contact with a dangerous animal you need to accept the risks. If you are not prepared to take those risks then you have no place going that close to a wild animal, supposedly tame or not.

This is, perhaps, even more pronounced perhaps with sharks. Last month a man was killed by a shark off South Africa’s coast. It is a tragedy for that man’s family and friends but that doesn’t mean that anything is permitted to protect people. Some people might think that one human life is worth a thousand sharks or something else but there’s really no reason to say that. In the greater scheme of things a person is not more valuable than a shark, in fact there are many reasons a shark might be more valuable than a person. Despite this we put nets up around our beaches to protect people when the nets are a greater cost than the few people who would be killed by sharks.

According to Wikipedia there are about 60 shark attacks worldwide every year, with most people surviving. On our end we kill about 100 million sharks a year, so the balance is in our favour by far. That’s even ignoring that there are far more humans alive than the planet is capable of supporting into the future. We are consuming too many resources and our consumption is related to how many people there are. It’s not even that we’re killing 100 million sharks for those 60 humans, as ridiculous as that would be. Just in the Natal Shark Board nets over the past 30 years 2 000 turtles, 8 000 rays, and 2 000 dolphins were killed. When you multiply that over the whole planet I think it’s worth letting those 60 people take the risks that they do by choice.

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