By Elinor Craven
We all know someone, or perhaps that particular someone, who likes to post pictures of their pets on social media for all to see and comment on, and for the most part, it is endearing. A recent case in Argentina, however, shows how some people will go to great lengths to get the novelty picture, which is guaranteed to get plenty of likes, whilst remaining seemingly unconcerned with the circumstances. A dolphin swimming close to the shore near a beach in Buenos Aires was plucked out of sea by beachgoers last month, and was passed around the gathering group, all pushing and shoving to take selfies with the animal. Removed from its natural habitat, the dolphin dehydrated and died in the blistering sun, its skin too thick to cope with life out of water. After the happy snappers had got their novelty animal pictures, the dolphin was returned to the water dead, with little concern from the beachgoers as to its welfare. The dolphin was of the rare Franciscana breed, a breed only found in South American waters, of which only 30,000 remain. The beachgoers were ignorant of the health and endangered nature of the dolphin, and prioritised the opportunity for self- gratification in the form of pictures over the life of a vulnerable animal. Their attitudes suggest that they consider animals as forms of entertainment, which reveals the desensitisation society is experiencing towards animal welfare. A spokeswoman for Australia’s World Animal Protection stated that the incident was “an example of the casual cruelty people can inflict when they use animals for entertainment purposes, without thinking of the animal’s needs”. We wouldn’t dare take selfies with a dying human, so why should animals be treated any differently? Society needs to be protecting endangered species, not using them for our own advantage.
A similar disregard for animal welfare in favour of entertainment can be seen in the case of Sea World, which keeps, breeds and uses rare Orca whales for their water shows. The 2013 documentary Blackfish exposed the park’s mistreatment of the rare whales, by focusing on their stress caused by their difficult breeding conditions and exacerbated by their limited freedom within the tanks. Three trainers died as a result of the whales’ violent behaviour brought on by their mistreatment, the tragic deaths highlighting the extreme level of anxiety experienced by the whales in the confined setting. The animals were used in the park’s flagship entertainment show, which attracted thousands of visitors every year. The revelations of the documentary, however, saw an 84 per cent drop in profits which led to the park’s claims that the Orca shows would be cancelled by 2017 and bigger tanks would be installed. The marked drop in profit showed the positive public reaction to the mistreatment, and confirmed that in this case, society realised the whales were not purely to provide entertainment and instead deserve to be treated fairly and humanely. In light of society’s reaction to this case, it surprises me that the Franciscana dolphin was deemed so unimportant by the public in Buenos Aires. It seems their excitement and the novelty of having a dolphin in such close proximity overrode their sense. Trophy hunters likewise seem to have few qualms about harming and killing endangered animals, exemplified by Walter Palmer, who paid $50,000 to wound and hunt a lion for 40 hours before killing, skinning and decapitating it, all in the name of sport. Fellow trophy hunters Melissa Bachman and Kendall Jones claim to hunt for conservation purposes, yet if this is the case, why do they think it necessary to pose for pictures with the dead animals? It implies that some members of society believe that the harming of vulnerable animals is a secondary concern only to the novelty photo opportunities and self-indulgent entertainment which it presents.
Whose behaviour in your opinion is worse: those on the beach in Buenos Aires, whose complete lack of consideration saw a vulnerable animal die, or the likes of Walter Palmer, who freely kill endangered animals for sport? Either way, both parties are guilty of putting their own entertainment, vanity and selfie-obsessed nature before the welfare of animals, which are vital in maintaining the precarious balance of their ecosystems. No one desperately needs a selfie with a dolphin, and with such selfish actions, society is only adding to the rapid and unsustainable depletion of the animal kingdom. In all three cases discussed, animals have been mistreated and sacrificed for the sake of entertainment, showing how the inhumanity of the minority of society can have an alarming effect on all aspects of life. In these circumstances, certain members of society needs to look in the mirror and realise that sacrificing a life for the sake of a novelty photo is deplorable, and that their increasingly self-indulgent behaviour presents a threat to animal welfare and the future of endangered species.