This man is in mortal danger. Not from the bear; it’s dead. The threat is from the Bear League, of Lake Tahoe, California, and those who believe as they do. This outfit humanizes bears, re-writing their character: “Above all else, what we do is attempt to teach the public about the true gentle nature of the black bear.” Consequently, a couple in Lake Tahoe received not-so-gentle death threats and harassing phone messages after notifying authorities that a bear had broken into their car. The animal was trapped and euthanized, a grievous sin according to the League.
It’s an approach similar to David Villalobos, who jumped into a tiger’s den at the Bronx Zoo in New York because “he wanted to be “one with the tiger.” Villalobos was described as someone who takes care of “Mother Earth,” who says we have more to fear from people than animals.
We can also compare them to people who want the courts to recognize the human rights of animals, to give chimpanzees the status of humans. But if chimpanzees and people have the same rights, if we’re one with tigers and bears, if we’re simply the more intelligent members of the animal kingdom, then don’t we have the right to act like them, as vicious beasts of prey? Indeed many people in Syria, Iraq and other Muslim countries do follow the beast model (in the name of god). But hasn’t western civilization struggled for millennia to rise above its animal inclinations?
And if there’s a choice between protecting animals and feeding people, what should our priority be? The concept that animals’ lives are as important as peoples’ threatens food supplies, as was pointed out in a Quantum Cannibals post about religious fanaticism.
Where do such attitudes come from? Do young television viewers think the Charmin toilet paper bears are real? Do the older ones take Winnie the Pooh and Yogi Bear as role models for Ursidaen behavior? Or are we discarding our civilized veneer and regressing to pre-civilized animist beliefs that animals have intellectual and spiritual qualities parallel to our own?
The aboriginal people of northern Eurasia, of arctic and subarctic America treat bears with great respect, apologizing for killing them, but killing them nonetheless. Many euphemistically call them “grandfather,” “beloved uncle,” or “the master of the forest.”
Judaism also respects the “masters of life” (as animals are legally described). A Hassidic story tells of the Rabbi who went out to see a chained bear dancing in the street, its owner collecting coins. The Rabbi bought the bear, and whispered “It’s all right Morris; you can stop dancing now.” The bear dropped dead on the spot. Respect for the reincarnated human; respect for the animal body it was trapped in.
There is a longing in our hyper-civilized society for a primitive era, when man was naturally good, naturally free. The Enlightenment philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau recognized this, but understood that there is no going backward. We cannot be unfettered like beasts. And none of the beasts, not bears or tigers; not even chimpanzees, are human. The closest we can get is to behave like animals. Unfortunately, too many people are moving in this direction. Syria and Iraq are the models for human-animal closeness; not Lake Tahoe.
Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself. — James A. Froude, English historian (1818 – 1894)
Froude is absolutely and utterly wrong; a good example of Bear League type thinking.