“Joe Rogan Experience #1081 – Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying”

Film of the evening: “Blackfish”

Film trailer:

This is a documentary about killer whales being kept in captivity in amusement parks like SeaWorld and how this impacts their health and well-being to such an extent that it shouldn’t really be too shocking when they do turn and behave aggressively, resulting in death in several cases discussed herein. The primary death focused on in this film was that of Dawn Brancheau, a well-respected trainer killed in 2010 in SeaWorld Orlando by a whale named Tilikum. In years prior, Tilikum had also been implicated in two previous human deaths. But he was not alone in receiving such notoriety.

Appears to be a case of highly intelligent beings not coping too well with living in confinement. I’d argue that humans don’t fair much better, but that point seems to fall on deaf ears more often than not. But we can wait until over-population of our species proves this to us — we seem bound to learn everything the hard way.

Anyway, this film calls out SeaWorld and the inaccurate claims it puts out about killer whales, from playing down their lifespans to excusing away drooping dorsal fins among captive males. Plus they had a nasty habit of blaming their trainers for any and all lethal incidents that occurred in what can be safely assumed to be a bid for reduction of their own corporate liability in both legal trials and the court of public opinion. OSHA sued them; SeaWorld appealed.

What can I say? Personally not a fan of intelligent animals being kept in captivity, neither in zoos nor amusement parks. Never visited SeaWorld or any place similar and lost interest in zoos years ago due to finding them depressing. Since lost interest in most pet stores too, particularly the nationwide chains like Petco, Petsmart and Petland, and ceased shopping in them about 2008-2009 after working in one for a few months in the aquatic section. Corporate + animals + profits = a bad idea. In my opinion and experience. Don’t care if others disagree — most folks I know and work for don’t take as much issue with these businesses. Probably not familiar with what all goes on behind the scenes or given much thought as to where the animals sold there come from. But I do know and can’t partake in supporting those sorts of businesses in good conscience these days.

But if people wish to work in amusement parks or in circus rings with powerful animals capable of taking their lives in an instant, I suppose that winds up being their own prerogatives. Would be nice if the public ceased creating demand for such forms of “entertainment,” but alas, it’s novel and unprecedented. I can understand the value in observing these animals in captivity and even in figuring out how deadly they can become, because we humans seem to need direct experience before we truly grasp anything. Otherwise it’s just theory, and depending on one’s political leanings or level of sentimentality or whatever else we can easily dismiss such concerns as alarmist or “bleeding heart” or otherwise unfounded. And if one profits in any way from such ventures they’re sure to be more resistant to seeing with clarity. Such is life.

That’s not to sound haughty or pompous over here. Just kinda sad. Was an emotional film, particularly learning how the whales are caught in the wild and separated from their families of origin and then later separated from what young they produce while in captivity. That was disturbing. And it was sad seeing those trainers go through what they did. A few survived. I understand that they didn’t know much better either, having believed their employers and not knowing much about these animals outside of that environment. Tough lessons for all involved to learn, including us out here in the audience.

I just couldn’t imagine living in such a tiny space when I had known something so much greater, having been removed from my family and placed essentially in slavery where I was made to perform for others ultimately at my own emotional and physical expense. Sounds like no real quality of life. Sounds like hell on earth. Or prison without having committed a crime. Such a life could turn any intelligent, social being insane over time. Doesn’t take a bleeding heart to acknowledge that either.

To learn more about this film and the responses it generated, you can check out its wikipedia page. It’s interesting food for thought, though I don’t doubt the creators had their own biases and agendas too. Such is the way it tends to go. I’d simply suggest watching it and reading more on these matters and forming your own opinions.

Why I no longer donate to animal-related charities

Had a thought today after being subjected to a few animal welfare-related charity advertisements. Thought about it numerous times in the past and figure I’ll come on here to go on record with my feelings on the subject.

A decade back or so I did donate periodically to organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. Then at some point that ceased and I never got back into doing so. The reasons being that 1.) so many other people donate to such causes and I am aware many of those organizations have become very well-funded over time, and 2.) I’d rather put my money toward organizations or causes that benefit human beings.

Some people don’t like to hear that, and that’s fine. What I find interesting is how many people over time I’ve chatted with who speak of human beings with enormous disdain while at the same time they view animals as victims of our species in dire need of aid. While I certainly wouldn’t deny that animals, by and large, have proven to be casualties of the human rising civilization project, either through destroying their habitats or by utilizing them to perform jobs for us or by neglect shown in situations like puppy mill profiteering. It’s not that I don’t have a heart for these matters, it’s just that I see humans as casualties in similar respects as well. And I’ve come to believe that if we don’t wish to be surrounded by so many people we find endlessly aggravating or whom we distrust, then we’re going to have to care more about their welfare. Because it takes showing love to generate more love among humans. An individual abandoned in wretched circumstances as a youth very likely won’t be as inclined to become a helpful, productive adult unless others have shown them care and concern that tapped into their empathy at some point.

But then again, not all charities geared toward humans are created equally either. In fact, I distrust a great many of them and am very conservative about where I donate money. Too many CEOs make themselves rich off the backs of the needy, this is no secret (see the Red Cross, an organization I will never donate to again, not since 2005). I’d rather hand the money over to an individual directly in most cases instead of to an organization that will consume 80% on the dollar for “administrative costs.” But my point here is that I personally would rather place my energy (my money, time, whatever) toward impacting the lives of other people, partly because I am grateful for what help I’ve received in the past from others who cared, and also partly because I worry about the depths people can plunge when they grow antisocial after coming up feeling like the world is against them.

We’re a more complex species with more complex problems, obviously so. Our psychological well-being is no joke and has a way of “paying forward” what it feels it has received. Animals do matter, and tons of other people are onto solving their dilemmas. But the animal that pulls at my own heart strings the most is the species I belong to. And I say this as someone who works with animals everyday and have for over 7 years now and as someone who grew up adoring animals and spending more time with them than my human peers. In my day-to-day life I observe animals treated better than plenty of kids I’ve known, receiving medical care at the first sign of any symptom, being fed exorbitantly high-cost foods, being provided all sorts of products and toys for their amusement and exercised regularly. But then again, I live in an urban area where animal welfare is deemed a very big deal, which is strikingly different from how it was (and likely still is) in the small Southern town where I originated from. Even so, I’m not sold on it necessarily being such a good thing for so many people to become obsessed with animal welfare to the point where they elevate the animals above and beyond humans in terms of their levels of concern. That does strike me as a strange “liberal” trend that says more about the psychology of people (and how much we grate on one another’s nerves) than the pureness of our intentions. Almost like a form of transference born out of frustration with other members of our own species.

But I’ll save the rest of those musings for another day. All I’m aiming for today is to rather briefly explain my own position on this matter. I only have so much money to spread around and prefer to share it with other people since I feel we’re likely to benefit more in the long-run. And by that I mean those individuals in question being helped as well as society as a whole since it’s composed of all of us. If we let one another fall through the cracks, are we not setting up a situation likely to produce people inclined to prey on us on down the line? I see these interpersonal issues as interconnected and believe we reap what we sow in our social relations, even if it’s future generations who ultimately wind up dealing with the choices people make today.

Anyway, just a passing thought.

Work and ruminations

Today I’m tending to an older dog who’s managed to dislocate her shoulder a day after her owners left town. Awaiting the earliest appointment time the clinic has available this morning to roll around. Bummer that this occurred on my watch, but according to the owner this happens sometimes. All it took was running up and down the stairs in the backyard for it to get popped out of joint. So, in a couple hours I’ll take her in to get fixed up. Thankfully I didn’t have a busy day scheduled since I have no idea how long this might take to remedy.

So that’s how today started off. Comes with the territory of what I do for a living. Always a possibility that problems like this might arise.

Am very tired though. Had trouble sleeping last night. Really not feeling good inside the last few days. But not much can be done about that aside from waiting for the passage of time. […]


Update: False alarm. Turns out she just must’ve jammed her elbow or shoulder running up and down the stairs, but there was no dislocation. Received a prednisone shot and a few prednisone pills to take home for tomorrow and beyond. Thank goodness.

“Why hierarchy creates a destructive force within the human psyche (by Dr. Robert Sapolsky)”

Another interesting video from Dr. Robert Sapolsky, this time on the topic of the baboons he observed and studied over the course of his career and how their hierarchy was undermined and changed:

Very cool stuff to think about. Are we needing to figure out a way to get the top assholes among humans to go eat from a toxic garbage heap too?  ha