Is It Cool To Care? Elephants, Tigers and Taking Stick…
Guest Blog from Joe Keogh, comedian, film-maker and animal lover.
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything regarding animal welfare. It’s something that I think about pretty much every day but despite the fact that my previous article was posted in the RIGHT-tourism ‘Experts’ section, I’m not one, in fact far from it.
So I only ever really feel the need to put pen to paper and write something when I am particularly annoyed at a certain issue. Last time it was elephants used in tourism but this time it’s more of a general worry about a few things.
I got a bit of stick for my last post, much from people who have no idea what they are talking about, one twitter user decided to tell me that my article was wrong and ‘her sister said the elephant camp was amazing’. Aside from the fact that she obviously doesn’t understand the concept of an opinion, the article couldn’t have been wrong due to me writing what I felt when I was there, however it bothered me hugely. Not because my work was being criticized but because of the level of ignorance it must have taken to write that comment.
There seems to be this belief that because we can hold tools and use our brains to a higher level than the rest of the animals on this planet (most of us), that we should be allowed to decided the fate of every living thing.
A friend of mine sent me the above picture over the Christmas period, a koala stood in what used to be a forest before the trees were cut down for logging. Now I know that a lot of these pictures are used and aren’t true but it got to me, though it was obviously used to shock people into thinking his home had been destroyed, it worked.
I sat staring at the picture for a good few minutes and it brought me back to something I said in the documentary we made (still available!). Ignorance is bliss. It’s true, the woman who sent me that comment on twitter had no idea what a trekking camp is like as she had never been herself, but chose to argue with me because she didn’t want to admit someone in her family had done something wrong. She hadn’t done anything wrong of course, but no one wants to be told they aided in the torture of animals, so she struck out against the facts.
Unfortunately there also seems to be a divide between the people fighting for animal welfare in this world and those who don’t seem to care, but I don’t think that is entirely correct. The majority of people do care at least a little bit, but one of the problems I’ve noticed is that the people who really care tend to devote their lives to it, work with animals are vegetarian/vegan and so on. A lot of people want to know about the problems but without having it rammed in their faces.
I’ve checked my Facebook on numerous occasions and been horrified to see that someone has shared a video of an animal in a horrific state with the caption “YOU ARE HELPING THIS HAPPEN”. In a way most of us do, I’m not a vegetarian and have no intention of being, so no doubt some way down the line the meat I’m eating when digging into one of my steaks hasn’t been treated in the best way, I accept that and try to counter it by buying the best I can.
That however does not mean you should feel bad, at all. I’ve been an animal lover all my life, much of the time I actually prefer the company of an animal to another person (less annoying) and by eating meat you aren’t doing something ‘bad’. Spending your holiday going on a hunting trip to kill a lion is bad. Going to watch a whale in a tiny tank do tricks when you know full well that isn’t right, is bad.
I feel that we alienate too many people who are willing to help the change by telling them they have done something wrong and accusing them of being cruel. The point is as hard as anyone works, nothing will ever change unless it is as a collective and that can’t happen until we all have the same goal. Now is the time to hold our hands up and say “damn we really messed up, lets fix it”.
I feel like I’m smashing my head against a wall when I talk about people going to ride elephants or view tigers
in Asia. It’s coming to that time of year when people are starting to book trips to some of the countries that
use this form of entertainment to bring in millions of tourists anually.
Someone I know came back from Thailand not too long ago and got in touch with me to say that they had seen my
documentary and article and then proceeded to tell me that everything I said was true (like I need telling), they told me that they went to the camps, zoos and Tiger Temple simply to “see how bad it was”.
Now I can’t believe I actually have to say this but there must be something I’m missing here, the reason we do this work is so that you know the facts and can make an educated descision when going to these countries. I’m not here to tell anyone what to do but the majority of people will read this and think it’s best to stay away! But for the select few out there please just take my word for it, the camps, zoos, tiger temples and pretty much anything else that includes animals in tourism are not nice places to go and you will regret it!
Is it cool to care?
When I first got back from filming our documentary I was mercilessly taken the mick out of by a select group of friends who really have no interest in the subject. I’ve never been one to go along with what’s ‘cool’ (as everyone who knows me will attest) so it really didn’t bother me at the time.
I’m sure though that it does put some people off speaking up for what they truly believe in, unfortunately that seems to have been the case for some time but there seems to be a change happening, people in the media such as Leonardo Dicaprio is a huge advocate for wildlife so that helps!
My good friend Marc Abraham organises a yearly event for his fantastic charity PupAid which involves thousands of people, both families and friends to come and get involved. Then there’s Animal welfare Power couple Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon who both do a huge amount for numerous causes – all of which is done with a sense of humor. So hopefully in the very near future those that have stayed quiet for too long will be able to stand up for what they believe in and not be afraid to be outspoken… and will be ‘cool’ because of it.
You can follow Joe on Twitter at @RealJoeKeogh