Friday, April 19, 2013

A Terrible Tragedy

Hi Folks. Thanks for stopping by.

I'm going to skip my usual preamble and jump right into the thing I want to write about.

It's with a very heavy heart that I must report the following: for reasons known only to themselves, a group of teenage boys vandalized a school bus and school windows in Charlotte, N.C. and while they were at it, they took two-by-fours and bricks and beat several Canada geese who were nesting on school property. From what I gleaned from news reports, a pair of geese defended their nest literally to death, with the gander dying from his injuries on site and his mate suffering extensive injuries as she tried to save the eggs. Local wildlife rescue agency Carolina Waterfowl Rescue was called in.

According to the Waterfowl Rescue's Facebook page, the goose was badly injured. She had a ruptured air sac, head trauma, and a large hematoma on her head. She also had several leg fractures and a crushed food. Her toes were dislocated. The Rescue took possession of the injured goose and arranged for surgery on her leg. While the surgery itself went well, the goose - now named "Wilma" - did not wake up from the anesthesia. Two boys have been charged with cruelty to animals.

Normally, I avoid animal cruelty stories like the plague. They're too horrific, impossible to make sense of, and I hate the feeling of helplessness that engulfs me when I hear the details. It's simply too much for my overloaded emotional circuits to deal with. This time, however, as I was perusing my facebook home page, I accidentally read more of the story than I ordinarily would have. Once I knew a few bits and pieces, I took the plunge and checked out Carolina Waterfowl's facebook page to read the whole story, and now you know what I know.

The point of this blog entry isn't to ruin your day with an awful story of animal cruelty, though. The point of this entry is the answerless questions that keep running through my mind:

Why on earth would anyone think beating an animal to death is fun?

What kind of parents would raise a child that behaves with such a complete lack of decency or compassion?

I believe the second question is the most vexing, and here's why: are there any parents out there who are actually willing to look at their child's behavior objectively and conclude that something is, in fact, wrong with their offspring? Did Charles Manson's parents ever once stop to think that it was their fault that their son turned out to be a mass-murdering sociopath? Did you know that a good many serial killers started off torturing animals as teenagers? The FBI has recognized this connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children.*

In my experiences taking care of the abandoned flightless ducks at Whoville's city pond - who are at the mercy of cruel children themselves - I've come to the conclusion that a good many parents school their kids in the importance of being kind and gentle with the family kitty or puppy. But it's clear that the education stops there and falls far short of the larger issue: kindness and gentleness toward all species.

If I had any answers that would end the scourge of animal cruelty, I would certainly share them with the world. The fact is, I lie awake most nights praying to whoever is up there to please help humans be nicer to the animals around them. For the most part, it doesn't seem as if the Gods are listening. I also pray for the souls of those poor creatures, though I've thus far had no evidence to prove that my prayers are working. It would seem that a more practical solution is needed, and in that regard, the solution is obvious: parents.

While I've frequently heard parents get prickly when others want to lay blame for children's behavior at their feet, in the case of the goose attack, the kids involved were juveniles who still live at home. That, in my mind, means that the parents involved were failing miserably in their duty as educators and must be held accountable. Children learn such cruelty somewhere, and it certainly isn't learned at church! Or school.

I realize that there are no simple answers at hand. Children do, indeed, learn cruelty at home - generally at the hands of abusive parents. And while, having been abused myself, I have enormous compassion for children who are abused, it does not give them free reign to take it out on anyone - or anything - else. We as a society must make that clear.

The sickening attack on the Charlotte geese could well be a talking point for any teacher who thinks animal cruelty is a relevant topic for class discussion. I invite all teachers reading this to consider having that very discussion with your class. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Today, tomorrow, next week....let's all do something, however small, to try to eradicate animal cruelty. There's simply no room for it in a compassionate society.

*SPCALA website 


Anonymous said...

Your post about the geese had a déjà vu quality for me. I will share a similar incident which occurred in London, Ontario where I live. Teenage vandals came upon a Canada Goose nest and started smashing the eggs. A younger boy, cycling along the river front saw them and decided (rather boldly) to intervene, asking the thugs to spare what eggs remained. They agreed on condition that this young boy give them his bike in trade. Without hesitation, he agreed. Only one egg remained intact and he walked home with it rather than leaving it in the nest. His parents helped him set up a makeshift incubator and, unbelievably, three days later, a healthy gosling

hatched. He cared for it for a few days before coming to the wise realization that this little bird should be taken to a wildlife rehabber. It was when we accepted the gosling into care that we learned the story of this boy's selfless act. "Bike" the gosling was raised with other orphaned goslings and successfully released back to the

wild. This boy lived in a very modest part of the city so forfeiting a fairly new bike was a considerable sacrifice. I decided that this act should be a "teachable moment" for others, particularly children. I contacted the principal of the school the boy attended and he gladly arranged a special full school assembly to both surprise and honour this thoughtful boy. We put on a presentation about wildlife rehabilitation and the ways in which humans can help and support the rights and welfare of the animals who share our world. I also contacted the police department to see if they maybe had an unclaimed bike for Connor. They were so impressed by his story that they came to the assembly and presented him with a brand new one. I had the chance to talk with Connor's parents and grandmother and could see that it was they who had nurtured his compassion. I am a retired school principal (now a wildlife rehabber) and believe that, no matter how much me might stress values education in the classroom, the primary learning of values occurs in the home. Lack of that fundamental guidance
to develop respect and empathy breeds the potential for cruelty be that bullying others or tormenting animals. The inability to identify with the pain or fear of others (human or animal) creates flawed human beings like the teenage monsters you described in your piece.

Arlene Steinberg said...

I totally agree with your post that the parents of those violent teens have done an abysmal job instilling any sense of decency in their mutant offspring. As such, I am not sure that we can trust prents alone with the task of teaching kids how to be decent and kind human beings.
If the parents had taught their kids to respect and appreciate wildlife from an early age, it is almost a certainty that they would have grown up with a sense of connectedness and kindness to animals. Given the numerous articles about how communities call geese "nuisance" animals and the number of towns that have roundups and culls of their local geese, it is more likely that the message these teenagers got was that geese are expendable pests and it is okay to kill them - because this is what they see from the adults. They may even have heard their parents commenting about "the damn geese."
I read a recent article in which a mother was complaining about geese in her community and expressed worry that her child would be hurt by a goose or catch a disease from one. I wrote a comment and told this woman that if her child grew up afraid and negative toward geese, it would be because she taught the kid to hate and fear these harmless birds and that if her attitude was coming in loud and clear to me just in her writing, it was surely being communicated twice as strongly to her kid. How do you even begin to dress this kind of rampant ignorance? Since parents do such a poor job today (and if they themselves were not raised to care about animals, we cannot expect them to transmit this to their children), this simply HAS to be taught in schools, and I ean a really well-thought-out course about co-existing with wildlife, interconnectedness and value of all life, with discussions about cruelty issues, even getting the kids involved in animal legislation, etc.
I think in this cruelty case, these kids need to be very seriously prosecuted AND the parents should be held accountable as well. All of these pathetic excuses for human beings need to take responsibility for their part in this and need to be punished/counseled/fined.
These teens also need to be watched very carefully for their violent tendencies. This may not be the first time they have harmed animals - it may just be the first time they were caught.

Ariel said...

Excellent post Kelly. I wonder all this same stuff almost every day, because as you know stories of animal abuse and cruelty are constantly assaulting my senses. What has gone wrong in our society?

Crazy Critter Lady said...

I wish I knew, Ariel. If we could answer that question, we could solve the problem.

Crazy Critter Lady said...

Thanks for your post, Arlene. Well said!

Crazy Critter Lady said...

What a great story Anonymous posted! Thank you for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly, it's Annie Weddle. I am sure writing this blog entry was difficult for you. What happened to teaching your kids that everything has a position in our eco-system? How about teaching them that you can catch a spider and let it go outside as that spider has pertinent jobs to do that benefit even us? I don't understand either. I find animal cruelty baffling. I would guess this is why I tend to steer clear of horrific posts or images. My thought process cannot handle trying to figure out what is wrong with people???

Crazy Critter Lady said...

I'm with you, Annie, I don't get it either. Cruel people are a mystery to me and I pray every night that they might learn kindness to all critters.