The more I learn out about animal suffering, wildlife crime, and extinction, the more it is revealed that a large lack of global compassion is key. And culture also has a very strong link in this dire chain. Speaking about cultural issues can be taboo, but we need to lift that veil when lives and entire species are at stake. I say this not to be culturally insensitive, but because it is a matter of sheer urgency. Countless animals are being harmed and killed, and many to the brink of extinction. We are currently in the world’s 6th mass extinction phase – all human-caused. Why is the killing occurring on such as mass scale? For one, our human population has reached 7 billion. So if there is mass demand, there is mass killing. But what is the demand? A tiny glimpse would show elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, sharks for their fins, tigers for their skins and parts, pangolins for their scales and meat, and endangered exotic birds for pets. Illegal wildlife trafficking makes much of this possible. Animals also suffer greatly in the capturing or killing process. Turning a blind eye doesn’t make any of this less true. Exotic birds are stuffed into small plastic bottles to be smuggled, pangolins are piled up on top of each other only to then have their scales plucked one by one and die an agonizing slow death…
Food, items and pets for the wealthy, and traditional medicine are all driving the demand for endangered species. Ancient beliefs are deeply rooted within many Asian cultures. In 2015, leading traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) companies announced supporting the protection of endangered species and pledged zero tolerance towards the illegal wildlife trade. However, the black market for TCM products are still in full swing. For example, the demand for rhino horns is steadily increasing. Rhino horns are said to have healing purposes, however horns are made of keratin, like our fingernails, which have no healing properties. Asiatic bears are farmed for their bile juice to fight fevers and cleanse livers. Animal penises are consumed for aphrodisiac purposes. There is no scientific evidence to prove any of these claims. Despite this, China’s TCM industry raked in a staggering $60 billion in 2012.
The bottom line is nothing can justify any inhumane action. Furthermore, this is all simply unsustainable. Extinction is the proof. For example, China’s Yangtze River dolphin that lived on our planet for over 20 million years became extinct in 2006. As China continues to exploit inside and outside of its own borders, the fate of this defenseless dolphin species is surely to be the fate of other species if nothing changes. Despite the Chinese government making some efforts to ban certain illegal trading in wildlife, it needs to take further leadership, as do other governments. And with world-wide pressure, there is a greater chance that governments will act. Any country or culture that contributes towards the plight of animals must undergo a cultural shift. Ultimately, the Earth needs a collective global cultural shift towards compassion. We need to educate, sensitize, speak out for the voiceless, and encourage when we can. Let’s pay homage to the Yangtze River dolphin to never lose another species from our planet again. Together, let’s protect our species – now.
(Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sangita-iyer/traditional-chinese-medicine_b_3081813.html; http://www.wrs.com.sg/; http://bit.ly/1GYgA8c; http://bit.ly/1GYgA8c; http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/06/asia/indonesia-cockatoo-smuggling/)