I just finished the book Endangered by Eliot Schrefer. I have become recently aware of his work and inspired by the way he challenges young adult readers to think differently about their relationships with nonhuman animals, especially other primates. (The book was promptly added to my list of recommendations for children’s books about human relationships with animals.) I know that he struggled, in writing this fictionalized account of a girl and an ape in war-torn Congo, with conflicting feelings about focusing on animal suffering when there is so much human suffering.
Yesterday on my morning commute, I read the finale (or is it?) to a real-life human-animal story- an end to a continuing drama. I had been casually following the situation for a couple months now. Here are a couple of summaries of what happened:
And here is what I understand:
A tigress killed multiple people in India. Maybe to defend her territory. Maybe to protect her cubs. Maybe for food. I mourn for the people who died and their grieving families and friends. They did not deserve to die, “especially this way,” many would say. I cannot begin to imagine what their last moments of life were like. Yet, the tigress behaved the way that some tigers might, in her situation.
Then a man with a gun shot the tigress. “In cold blood,” according to one animal activist. I’m not so sure. (What does that phrase really mean?) I mourn for the tigress. And her orphaned cubs. She did not deserve to die, “especially this way,” others would say. I cannot begin to imagine what her last moments of life were like. Yet, the man with the gun behaved the way some people might, in his situation.
The more I ponder these issues and become entangled in these ‘human-animal conflict’ conundrums the more I am left without suggestions or solutions or strong opinions of any kind. I am left only with feelings. And so, yesterday morning on the metro, free of guilt, I mourned the loss of life of human and tiger alike.