When Elephants Weep/The Dog Hill poisonings
Part of my title comes from the book about the emotional lives of animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy. The authors of "When Elephants Weep" explore what anyone who knows and loves animals already understands about their capacity to feel, what even Charles Darwin recognized when he said: "The Indian elephant is said sometimes to weep."
It's hard not to think about the suffering of animals today as developments continue in the Dog Hill poisonings. Since June 16, six dogs have been poisoned in the off-leash area of High Park by ingesting antifreeze-spiked water and, possibly, bread. Two died, as reported in the Star. Now, we learn from Det. Suzanne Pinto, lead Toronto police investigator on the case, an unusual number of raccoon and squirrel deaths in High Park could be linked to these poisonings. Somebody practising perhaps. One raccoon was posed with flowers in his paws, another with dead squirrels.
I don't know whether the deaths are linked; it seems a fair supposition, at least for further study. But I do respect a police officer like Det. Pinto who was quick to call the dog poisonings "monstrous" and say she's investigating whether they are linked to the debate over reducing the boundaries of the off-leash area. The raccoon and squirrel deaths are now part of that investigation.
Isn't the resulting fallout just so typical of human beings? Here we have a police officer who clearly takes the lives of animals seriously and isn't afraid to show it. No, that doesn't mean she doesn't care about human beings. It's a good bet that, among other things, she recognizes well-documented studies relating abuse of animals to abuse of people.
Instead of appreciating the good detective, people start squabbling, They start being people. (God, I miss George Carlin.) First, Robin Sorys, chair of the park advisory council that recommended reducing the off-leash area, seems to believe Det. Pinto is accusing individuals actually associated with her committee of heading up the dog trails to lay poison. I didn't take that meaning. Who else did? And now she and others insist the "posed" animals were found in late 2007.
Not to worry, then. Det. Pinto says whatever is happening is pretty bizarre. What does she know?
What I know, and the reason I am blogging on this topic again today, is how much Star readers care about animals. Of all the stories I've written, probably the biggest reaction came after a series from Mexico about the savage trapping of seven dolphins destined for Mexican amusement parks. "Swim-with-dolphins" is big everywhere these days, never mind that these animals roam over huge tracts of ocean and live within a sophisticated social structure that includes complex communication and long-term care of young.
Readers responded with letters of concern. Then, other letters began arriving, criticizing people who supposedly care only about animals. I won't forget one reader who retaliated by pointing out the same people who campaign for animals, or simply enjoy them in their lives, also donate their change at supermarkets for food banks, volunteer their time on the weekends and read to children in hospitals.
I agree with that reader. I didn't interpret the reaction to the dolphin story (which did not have a happy ending) or another about Toronto raccoons a couple of years ago, as a denial of care for our own species. I've seen Star readers raise money for a little boy in Mexico whose arm was badly damaged in the Acteal Massacre and teachers organize campaigns to help rescued household slaves in Haiti, children known as "reste-avecs," get an education. (Sadly, this barbaric practice continues in Haiti.) These very positive actions by our readers occur all the time.
It's just that when people read about animal abuse, it drives home how completely our species believes itself to be master of the universe. It comes with that sinking feeling of the awful ending for all species such thinking surely will deliver in the end.