Tag Archives: Empathy

Love Dolphins? Then Please, Don’t Swim With Them.

As I write, it is dolphin slaughter season in Taiji, Japan. With this on my mind, it was particularly poignant to see a Facebook post about a family’s experience swimming with dolphins over their vacation. The outpouring of support for the post via “likes” and comments reminded me that most of us are in the dark regarding the origin of these dolphins.  I was in the dark as well, until I saw the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove.

Each killing season, the Cove in Taiji is quite literally a bloodbath.

Swimming with the dolphins seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, and most think it’s an innocent enough activity. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. That’s because supporting dolphin swims, shows and aquariums finances the bloody dolphin killings in Taiji.

Each year, fishermen descend on Taiji to slaughter and capture dolphins. Roughly 20,000 dolphins are killed each season for meat, which is considered a delicacy. (a poisonous, mercury laden delicacy at that.) Because live dolphins fetch far more money than dead ones (between $100,000 and $200, 000 each) the same dolphin killers brutally catch and confine additional dolphins who are sold and transported to zoos, aquariums, amusement parks and resorts, such as SeaWorld, Atlantis and countless others. The money these facilities pay dolphin fishermen directly funds the continued killing excursions. The resorts themselves make millions of dollars each year at the expense of these animals.

Image result for taiji cove

Bucket list of blood.

Once in these facilities, dolphins live shorter lives during which they suffer trauma, depression, (as in Blackfish) and physical harm. Their biology makes them appear as if they are enjoying themselves (they’re not actually smiling, it’s just the way their their bodies look) but they face tremendous anxiety, confinement, and lack the usual social connections these mammals generally enjoy in the oceans. You may have fun swimming with them, but their experience is an entirely different story.

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Ostensibly people swim with dolphins because they enjoy these intelligent creatures. I completely understand this- at one point in my life, I visited aquariums and zoos in attempt to be close to the animals I adored. It took many years for me to realize that I was funding the animals’ misery.

If you do not wish to cause suffering to the animals you admire, please consider other activities that do not harm them. Want to get up close and personal with animals? Visit a farm sanctuary such as Farm Sanctuary, both in upstate NY and California, or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you’re set on seeing more exotic animals, visit Best Friends Sanctuary, or Deer Run Resort in the Florida Keys. I’ve spent time at all of these amazing locations (with the exception of Best Friends) and believe me, it’s a blissful, educational experience for adults and children alike.

You can also observe animals at your local parks- even here in Brooklyn we have hundreds of species in Prospect Park. Or adopt an animal, volunteer at an animal shelter, and hang out with your friends’ pets!

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Please, do not support the criminal animal use industries. There are myriad ways to experience nature and be inspired by animals without harming them; sometimes we just need to challenge ourselves to look outside what we already know.

Learn more about this issue, what’s being done to stop the dolphin slaughter, and what you can do to help in links below:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/captive_marine/facts/swim_dolphins.html

http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/

http://dolphinproject.org/

http://www.ethicaltraveler.org/2014/09/swim-with-dolphins-tourist-trap-leads-to-travel-conference-boycott/

@CarnivalCruise @CoveMovie_OPS @RichardOBarry Don't sell swimming with dolphins excursions. #dontswimwithdolphins

For the Animals

*Thanks so much to everyone who read and liked my first post, Days of Chickens!*

Rina Deytch, the unstoppable force behind the chickens. Behind her, hundreds of chickens in cramped cages await their fate. Community members pick them out and bring them home in garbage bags to perform the Kapporot ritual.

Rina Deytch, the unstoppable force behind the chickens. Behind her, hundreds of chickens in cramped cages await their fate.

As an activist, I can tell you that there is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed and watching it grow in someone’s consciousness. But just as in literal gardening, planting seeds is only possible under certain conditions. Changing the elements can mean killing the sprout at it’s most precarious point. A lot of sun helps plants grow – in the activist’s case, a sunny demeanor goes a long way too. Some additional conditions for planting seeds in activism are empathy, compassion, and intuition.

If I made any progress at the recent Kapporos demonstration it was through Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast, How to Talk to Hunters (or Anyone With Whom You Disagree). I knew I was in for a challenge, and needed to head off any negative energy with inspiring ideas. I had listened to this podcast earlier in the year, and remembered the profound impact of her message. Colleen suggests that we have “compassion for people with whom we disagree or who participate in behavior we find abhorrent… It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people; the challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom we disagree.”

With these words on my mind, the demo became less about expressing my position against Kapporos, it was about expressing my position for the animals in the most positive way.

That's me, planting seeds!

That’s me, planting seeds!

For the most part it was a very successful event. But even a few ineffective people can derail any modicum of progress. There were some negative signs bearing strong, accusatory messages. A few people (on both sides) shouted when intelligent conversation might have helped. One activist who had very good intentions was often oblique or rambling and repeatedly lost her audience. These were all missed opportunities, and I found myself wishing that everyone at the demo had listened to Colleen’s podcast.

Activists and the moving lit van. I didn't love the homemade red sign, a less accusatory message might have worked better.

Activists and the moving lit van. I didn’t love the homemade red sign, a less accusatory message might have been more effective.

Over 90 degrees and surrounded by the fetid stench of feathers, excrement and decay. It was a tough night.

Over 90 degrees and surrounded by the fetid stench of feathers, excrement and decay. It was a tough night.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t express my joy for the successes of this year’s demos- the issue attracted considerable media attention, many chickens were rescued, and a few operations in Los Angeles were shut down. But I believe that with consciousness and awareness we can move toward a more productive advocacy, allowing us to win over communities.  Just a little more empathy and planning could help us end this thing once and for all.

A lot of kids were interested- the challenge was effective education.

A lot of kids were interested- the challenge was effective education.

Both the mishaps and my own small victories gave me more insight into what works and what doesn’t when facing people with whom we disagree.  A few practical ideas:

Familiarize yourself with the materials and the issues. We’re out there to educate, so be sure you are educated! This may sound obvious, but look closely at the information you’ll hand out and the signs you hold. You are the ambassador for this message.

No matter how your beliefs diverge, try not to think of anyone as an opponent. They are people just like us, who fear change as much as we all do, who want the best for themselves and their families. Try to see commonalities and focus on that.

Engage in conversation, not argument. Keep it positive!

Don’t use a canned response. Change your words depending out your audience. Kids respond to different ideas than adults do, for instance.

Be friendly. Smile, always smile.
Once again, you are the ambassador for the animals, and for the movement.

Have empathy even when it seems impossible. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of the issue, and what methods would impact you. Embody that empathy in your words and your body language.

When you find common ground, use it! I spoke to a woman who wanted to know more about where to swim in Brooklyn. No, it had nothing to do with the chickens, but a conversation about friendly topics opened her up to hearing what I had to say.

Find any way to bring an issue closer to someone, and use that too.
Often, in speaking to kids, I talked about how chickens like to play just like they do- they like to run in the grass and hang out with their friends. Letting them know that animals are similar to them is integral to their viewing them as individuals, not objects.

A smile goes a long way in advocacy!

A smile goes a long way in advocacy!

Is it easy to have empathy for those on the other side? Of course not. But the easy things aren’t necessarily right, it’s generally the opposite. It’s easier to eat microwave pizza for dinner every night, but it’s not healthful in the long run. It takes more forethought and consciousness to cut veggies and and cook healthful meals. But it’s not tough by any means and these simple actions make us stronger. It’s just a question of changing habits. Reacting emotionally rather than intellectually is a habit as well. It can be changed, and it often leads to growth. Your own growth, and the growth of many seeds.

What have you found effective in your advocacy efforts? I’d love to hear.

Why did the chickens cross the road? To escape torture and death, thankfully!

Why did the chickens cross the road? To escape torture and death, thankfully!

A volunteer loads rescued chickens into a van- There are at least 10, possibly 12 chickens crammed in that crate.

A volunteer loads rescued chickens into a van- There are at least 10, possibly 12 chickens crammed in that crate.

Close up of a rescued chicken, safe in the car. But thousands more are trapped in those tiny crates, removed only to meet torture and death.

Click to see this rescued hen more clearly. (or any of the photos)

Carting away a live chicken in a garbage bag. I can't imagine how frightened this poor animal was.

Carting away a live chicken in a garbage bag. I can’t imagine how frightened this poor animal was.

In the background, a man takes home a chicken in a dark garbage bag.
In the background, a man takes home a chicken in a dark garbage bag.

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Cop greets the moving lit van.

Cop greets the moving lit van.

 Masks helped only slightly- the air was thick with feathers and various wastes. Breathing wasn't really possible, for people or chickens.

Masks helped only slightly- the air was thick with feathers and various wastes. Breathing was tough for people and chickens.

Breathing was pretty much impossible. Many smiles regardless!

Breathing was pretty much impossible. Many smiles regardless!