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July 15, 2009

Once Bitten, Not Shy to Save Sharks

One thing that strikes me about the fight to stop animal cruelty is that it’s so easy—that being humane simply means choosing another product in the marketplace or an alternate hobby or form of recreation. We don’t see a loss in quality of life, our health, or a tougher economic circumstance when we act in a humane way.

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It’s hardly a sacrifice to choose a cloth coat or fake fur coat over a real fur. You can shoot an elephant with a camera rather than a high-powered firearm. It’s really not that tough to avoid products from factory farms when we have so many alternatives in the marketplace.

That’s why today’s front-page story in The Washington Post about people and sharks resonated so powerfully for me. The Post reported on a group of nine people—all of whom had been the victims of shark attacks—who were lobbying on Capitol Hill to protect sharks from human cruelty. The group was organized by the Pew Environment Group, and even though some are amputees or others who suffered grievous injuries while in waters inhabited by sharks, they cannot stand aside and be silent as people kill sharks for trophies, for their fins for shark fin soup, or for other pointless or questionable purposes. There are an estimated “successful” 100 million human attacks on sharks every year, and these people want to see the massacre stop.

Normally, we don’t have to forgive animals—because they cause us no harm. All we have to do is restrain ourselves from misusing our power over animals. Think puppy mills, dogfighting, seal killing, and so many other horrid abuses of animals. And it’s really no different when it comes to our campaigns against shark finning and shark killing contests.

I wouldn’t quarrel with people who harbored ill will toward animals who attacked them. But to see these people today advocate for animals, in spite of their experiences, is the best expression of the human spirit of goodness, charity, and selflessness.

If these individuals can do good for sharks, shouldn’t the rest of us do what we can to help animals who don’t bother us at all and simply want to be left alone or properly cared for?

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