The official lack of compassion extended to the emaciated and possibly
sick or wounded sea lion which I talked about in my post, "Compassion
For All, Not Just the Endangered," was only one of many frustrating experiences
I've had with the "let nature take its course" approach. It's a policy that
the U.S. National Park Service embraces as well, no matter that national
parks aren't entirely natural any longer thanks to all the anthropogenic
activity that goes on there these days.
It's not just that the
powers that be don't get involved in helping animals in distress; they don't
allow anyone else to do anything for a non-human either. I've seen extreme
examples of this policy in Yellowstone, the nation's oldest, largest -- and at
times busiest -- national park.
In the Madison River valley, near the park's West Entrance, I stopped by
a pair of park rangers who were impassively watching something that turned
out to be a cow elk with her neck and head caught in a forked lodgepole pine
tree. She must have stumbled down the steep hill and when she landed, found
herself hanging with only her hind feet able to touch the ground.
Defying the rangers' directive of hands-off noninvolvement, I intervened on
behalf of the elk. At first I was going to try to push her back up the hill,
since the force of gravity was making her situation worse by the minute. But
she understandably panicked at the sight of a human approaching, no matter
how soothingly I spoke to her, and I didn't want to cause her to lose her
unstable footing. I decided the only safe way to get her out of her
predicament was to find a veterinarian in the nearby town of West
Yellowstone who could give her a sedative so she wouldn't struggle while we
moved her or cut the tree enough to free her.
I found a vet willing
and eager to help out, but he was turned away at the park's entrance gate
once they learned that his purpose was to help a wild animal. Ultimately,
the park service got their way and nature took its course --the elk could not
hold herself up forever and ended up choking to death.
example of park service heartlessness: bison sometimes thrash about for days
with a painful breech birth when any vet in ranch country (which the land
around Yellowstone is certainly considered) would have no trouble helping a
cow out of that often fatal situation. But, I've seen more than one bison
mother left to suffer interminably and die, along with her calf.
case you're wondering what all this has to do with anti-hunting, I'll tell
you. Hunters sometimes use the pretext that they want to "participate in
nature," but when the going gets tough and nature gets the upper hand they
back down, turn tail and run home to their pampered human world.
a pregnant hunter suddenly went into labor and was having major difficulty,
no one in their right mind would say, "Sorry, ma'am, you chose to
-- participate' in nature, now you're on your own." No, anyone passing would
call 911 on their cell phone, I-phone or OnStar and she'd be rushed to the
nearest clinic or hospital and treated according to the Hippocratic Oath. If
they really wanted to fully partake in nature, hunters should sign living
wills stating, in the event that they get sick or injured out there, doctors
must waive their oath and let nature take its course.
don't do things that way in civilized society. When fishermen wash ashore
sick or wounded and emaciated, we don't leave them there to languish for
weeks on end and allow nature to take its course. So why shouldn't we treat
a highly evolved, intelligent mammal like a sea lion, elk or bison with a
little of that compassion? Surely there's enough to go around.
Nature is not "cruel," as people are fond of saying; that's
anthropomorphizing. Only people -- when they knowingly choose callousness
towards suffering --deserve that characterization.