Friday, June 14, 2013

The Superiority of the Dead Animal

The news splashed across media like a bucket of blood tossed against the wall.  Giant Shark Caught Off CaliforniaMonster Shark Caught.  As I clicked on a link to learn more, I said to myself:  I hope it was released.

No such luck.  The one header that got it right:  Record Breaking Shark Nothing to Cheer About.

Killing this great fish speaks to our disconnect with nature.  We cannot expect to appreciate the value of nature to our health and well being if we turn to primitive fears and bloodlust at the first sight of natural magnificence.

This shark grew to its enormous size for over fifteen years.  Every day for fifteen years she helped keep the seas healthy by eating her way to the top of the food web.

She swam thousands of miles through the vast deep blue and survived hundreds of dangers -- nets, boats, hooks,pollution.  She has birthed young sharks.  Not anymore, the end of the line for this stunning apex predator is on some yahoo's fishing line.  This is nothing to be proud of.

So why kill the great beast?  Pride?  Fear?  Selfishness?  All of the above?

Certainly not money.  In those terms, the shark is worth zip as it cannot be sold to restaurants by law.  The fish cannot even be used for shark fin soup, which is killing millions of sharks worldwide but fortunately, the status symbol is banned in California, where the great fish was killed.

The guy who killed the shark, Jason Johnston of Texas, also apparently kills lions and brown bears.  He must have some serious personal deficit to account for this massive overcompensation.

But it could have ended differently.  Catch and release, catch and release.  Instead, the impressive animal is reduced to numbers.  Over 1,300 pounds, 11 feet long, 8 feet wide, etc.  

It's a sad shame turning a rare and beautiful beast into a corpse.   More shameful is the Outdoor Channel, who will use the death of this record-breaking shark as entertainment for its show The Professionals.

Hard to see any professionalism in this sordid incident.  Maybe that's the name they give themselves for throwing chunks of mackerel in the water, seeing sharks go for it, tossing in giant hooks, and reeling in the fish.  Sounds amateurish.  One thing is true: I never want to see the show. 

According to National Geographic, the co-host of the show, Corey Knowlton, said, "We really care about these animals."  One helluva a way to show it!

He goes on with some pathetic justification that the shark will be donated to science.  Er, sorry that excuse is already taken by the Japanese as a way to kill whales.

Whether or not the shark is threatened or endangered is not the point, either (the International Union for the  Conservation of Nature calls makos vulnerable).

It simply sends the wrong message to kill this shark and cheer about it like a bunch of Neanderthals.

Instead, go ahead, be awed.  I dare you.  It's good for everyone, and certainly would have increased this shark's chances of living. 

The good news is that many people get it.  Most comments to much of the coverage reflect Giuseppe Mirelli's eloquent online comment in the Los Angeles Times:

"What I find disturbing and shameful is that there seemed to be no sense of compunction on the fishermen's gloating and smiling faces as they pose with their magnificent catch. This is a shark killed for sport and -- more dishearteningly -- a reality TV show.

"I fail to understand the feeling of triumph for killing such an impressive animal. As I contemplate the photographs, I'm humbled by the superiority of the dead animal and embarrassed by the pomposity and cowardice of man."

Images: National Geographic, The New York Post.

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