Thursday, November 13, 2008

Animal Heroes and Human Decisions

I often let my eyes wander along news headlines when I’m on the Internet checking e-mail. One especially caught my attention yesterday: “Talking Parrot Saves Toddler’s Life.”

Apparently, a youngster was in the care of a babysitter, who’d taken a bathroom break. The little one stuck a piece of food in her mouth and began choking on it. Willie the parrot, owned by the sitter, was in the same room and started flapping and making a lot of noise. He also started shouting “mama baby” over and over until the sitter emerged from the bathroom, saw what was going on--including the tot’s starting to turn blue--and performed the Heimlich maneuver, saving the child’s life.


I also save news articles now and then about other hero animals. And if you just Google something like “dog saves child,” you get all sorts of articles, from pets saving babies from freezing, from snakes and from falling off roofs.

And then there are the articles that chill me instead. I saw a headline today that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the military and is allowing the Navy to continue to conduct its sonar exercises off the California coast, no matter how much harm is caused to marine life, even intelligent mammals like dolphins and whales--and without any protective restrictions.

Of course I believe in national security. But at the expense of innocent marine life? Not if there’s an alternative. Environmentalists provided potential restrictions that would still allow the training exercises but in less harmful ways, and the court chose to ignore them, with only a couple of dissenters.

I’m appalled!

On the one hand, creatures of supposedly less intelligence than us step in and save people’s lives. On the other, our government allows beings who can’t stick up for themselves to be killed in the name of national security--even while there are alternatives.

I see a lot of irony in that. Don’t you?



Monica Ferris said...

The ruling states that the injunction was originally granted on the "possibility" of harm to marine life. The new ruling says there must be "likely" harm to marine life. There was no proof offered that sonar training has ever damaged the dolphins or whales.

Kate Hathway said...

Monica, perhaps you should watch this video - the sound is clearly causing stress and EarthJustice has shown that whales have been harmed (the instance they show in the Bahamas is just one of many) from these sonar training. Please also pay attention to the point the narrator makes, in that training exercises of various kinds need to happen, but that there are places and times and ways to conduct them that don't have to harm innocents.

Kate Hathway said...

Sorry - the video is at

Linda O. Johnston said...

There's a good article in today's LA Times about the issue. There is evidence of harm to dolphins and whales all over the world where sonar is used--such as in the video Kate cites. And, fortunately, the Supreme Court's ruling was narrow enough that this isn't the end of the matter. Hopefully, things will also change in this area with the new administration.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Check out the link I posted below: Here's a portion of the testimony--

Richard Kendall, representing the Natural Resources Defense Council, countered that even though these exercises are almost over, much is at stake for the future. Justice Ginsburg said, “I thought there are records of 564-beaked whales suffering severe harm.”
Solicitor General Gregory Garre said, “Our best evidence is that the harm has not been permanent.” Much of the argument focused on the Navy's refusal to produce an environmental impact statement before it began the exercises. Justice Souter said, “You've known since before the exercises began in 2007 that this was a requirement, and you still didn't produce it. Why shouldn't we just say the only emergency was created deliberately by the Navy?” Kendall said, “Yes ... the Navy cannot be the judge of its own cause. There's a limit to deference. ... The evidence is overwhelming that beaked whales are being stranded by sonar and killed. Autopsies show they are hemorrhaging and dying.”

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I believe we have no compelling reason to hurt and kill animals--and the fact that the Navy did this since 2007 without doing the required environmental impact research speaks of a nation out of balance. If we--as a country--don't follow our own rules, why should citizens be forced to do so? Why should we expect other nations to do so?

Linda O. Johnston said...

Good points, Joanna. This is an area in which I have a great deal of interest. I did a lot of research a while back into cetaceans for a novel that was never published--although I may do something different with it now. In any event, cetaceans--marine mammals that include dolphins and whales--are highly intelligent beings. Why should we kill them when there are alternatives?

Camille Minichino said...

I suppose we could also ask why we are involved in war, where humans are killed, when there are alternatives.
It's the same government deciding both.

Betty Hechtman said...

It bothers me no end that animals are treated like things, which is why I'm a vegetarian.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I agree, Camille. But I won't get into my opinions of the current war. I definitely feel supportive of our soldiers and their families, though.
And, Betty, I only wish I could convince myself to eat no meat or meat products. I admire you!

Monica Ferris said...

Are we trying to stir up an argument that will attract more viewers? If so, I've got a shirty reply that will help.

Kathryn Lilley said...

I wouldn't count on the current Supreme Court to protect my Grandma's safety, rest her soul--much less marine life. When in doubt, I vote for the dolphins.

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