While writing an essay for class, I began writing it with facts, quotes and expressions. But I realized I was writing for good grades, not for the pleasure of expressing my opinions and emotions on this personal area of study. I deleted my draft and wrote from the heart this time. It is up to you to judge whether this written paper dignifies the passion and dedication of a young adult towards helping and saving animals in desperate need of our attention.
Ever since mankind has roamed this planet, the equilibrium between peace and conflict has been tipping from one side to the other. For the past century, our actions have defined who we grow up to be—brave, persistent, loveable, greedy, or selfish. Sometimes, our words are put into actions to help others or give necessary aid. But this doesn’t mean that everyone goes out there. Some of us are unaware of the present situation, or simply just don’t care as much as others.
Scientists estimate that about 150-200 species of plant, bird, insect, and mammal are going extinct every day. Every day, animals disappear from the face of this Earth for their skin, horns, teeth, fat, fins, or bones. Poachers and hunters kill these incredible species only for a specific part of their body, throwing away the rest or giving it off as trophies. Death is a trophy now?
Okay, well why do poachers, for example, do these savage acts? Usually it’s because of poverty and a lack of resources, opportunities, or education. Poaching is a cheap way to make money, and it’s often believed to be their only choice to survive. Kill or be killed.
Taking a living organism’s life to satisfy a thrill of hunting, to only take one piece of the animal for superstitious medicinal uses, or to decapitate it and take the head home as trophy are things I can’t wrap my head around.
Throughout my research on humans and other species, I not only discovered that around 410 million animals die every day – for poaching, meat, natural diseases, or because of the destruction of their environment – but that most of these, we either don’t care about them or we aren’t even aware that they are at the verge of being extinct.
A great example would be the shark. Sharks are supposed to be vicious, killers, and dangerous. At least according to our media sources. But that’s all just a myth, for sharks are actually extremely shy. The myths about these animals being dangerous probably originated by Jaws and other conspicuous movies, as well as the media using the sharks as the “monsters of the oceans”. Sounds catchy.
But there’s also an underlying fear of sharks that people have, and there’s a scientific explanation for this. Either it’s the mass media of being projected frightening images of these animals, or the simple idea of being munched by a Great White while we’re out swimming, our fears are real.
Our brains also have a hard time with abstract numbers. So if I say that there’s a one in 3,748,067 chance for you to die from a shark attack, that number is way too abstract for you to be sensitive about it. There’s still ONE chance of getting bit, that’s what you’ll get stuck on.
You’re more likely to die from a vending machine crushing you to death than a shark attack. Vending machines: the monster of the office!
Also, sharks don’t like what we taste like. For a couple of years now, researchers have undergone tests to see if sharks were attracted or stimulated to attack when smelling human blood. And the results were all negative. Brain waves were also measured, and it showed that sharks were even often disgusted by the smell of human blood and wouldn’t want to get near it.
If you’ve read on shark attacks, you know that it’s a shark bite. Yes, this bite can cause death because you might lose too much blood, but a shark won’t munch on you continuously. They were curious as to what you were, and they found out you weren’t some form of seal or sea turtle, but rather you tasted pretty gross.
If sharks wanted to kill us, many of us would already be dead, with so many people on beaches and swimming all over the ocean. Sharks aren’t after us, we’re after them.
Sharks, as well as some other animals, have been on this planet when humans weren’t even in the question. Sharks have been the top predator of the seas for 400 million years, yet 90% of the sharks’ population has been exterminated through over fishing in recent years. The hammerhead shark’s population has declined by 99% in the past 30 years because of over-fishing and a lack of conservation efforts.
The main reason behind these vast shark killings are by fishermen for their fins and flesh, especially to make the famous shark fin soup, which only needs the shark fins for the soups texture; the taste is provided from chicken or beef stock. This dish is an expensive delicacy throughout Asia and especially in China.
Sharks are caught, their fins cut off, and they’re thrown back into the sea where they slowly bleed to death as they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes they die of suffocation, as sharks need to move to be able to breathe.
The famous Chef Gordon Ramsay has said that shark finning is “the worst act of animal cruelty I’ve ever seen.”
To put some things in perspective, mosquitos kill about one million people a year. Sharks cause one human fatality every two years. 11,416 sharks are killed every hour by humans.
There’s no doubt that sharks are scary-looking, with their dark black eyes and protruding razor-sharp teeth. But people in the world want to save giant pandas, rhinos, elephants, and tigers – which is a good thing – but no one wants to save sharks because of what they look like.
Not only do they keep the balance of the oceans, but they kind of keep us alive. Put simply, if sharks completely disappear from the Earth, larger fish populations will increase as no predator is there to control their numbers. Uncontrolled, every fish in the food chain will be in free reign to eat and populate as much as they want. Plankton, essentially, will also be completely eaten away, as no one organism is controlling the amount of predators they have.
The ocean is one of the main areas where our source of oxygen comes from, as plankton converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. All in all, without sharks, about 70% of our oxygen will be gone.
So, if you don’t want to protect sharks, that’s fine, but then we better go plant one hell of an amount of trees, ASAP.
Sharks keep us alive, no matter how scary-looking. I find it sad to determine an animal’s worth based on their looks. Tigers? So cute, let’s protect them. Pandas? Even cuter, look at them rolling around and being lazy!
I’m not saying we shouldn’t protect all these other species – they all deserve to be protected, managed, and returned to their natural habitats. But the way we determine who is important and who isn’t, is heartbreaking.
There are many major organizations around the globe that help animals in need, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Slowly, people around the world have noticed the lack of stewardship in representing sharks. Various organizations to aid, inspire, and educate on the conservation of sharks have been founded, such as Shark Stewards and the Coral Reef Alliance. But we need more.
You might be asking yourself what can I do to help? How can I prevent this from happening? Easy: be aware. If either you want to participate in protests, rallies, volunteer at marine shelters, or be part of a movement, it all counts. Educating your friends and family, reading labels to make sure you know exactly what’s in your product, and avoiding areas where shark fishing is allowed, counts just as much.
But doing something is what these species need. We can’t give ourselves the luxury of just sitting there, get moved by a documentary on TV or by some online blog for a few hours, tell ourselves that we will do something to change the fate of all these animals, and at the end, do nothing. This is the problem; we need to get one step closer to the problem instead of remaining idle.
I had the opportunity to volunteer at an animal shelter in Bogota, Colombia called Asociación Defensora de Animales y del Ambiente (ADA), or the Animal and Environmental Advocacy Association, for a year. This association takes care of animals that have been left alone, such as street dogs, or abused animals. Every time I’d go, I helped to walk dogs, change cat litters, but most of all, play and give love to the animals that had never experienced such feelings from a human. This experience taught me, hands-on, that every animal has the right to live on this planet, and no one can argue the opposite.
The question we should be asking ourselves is if whether we have every right to live on this extraordinary earth. Humans are responsible for two World Wars, poverty, famine, abuse, and among other things. But we’re also responsible for creating love, respect, admiration, positivity, and knowledge.
Daniel Botelho, a photojournalist that specializes in underwater photography, captured these serene and calm shots of Oceanic White Tip Sharks.
If we keep doing the same things, future generations will see us as barbarians that killed everything in their way, not caring about the future. What will our children think of us? That we just sat around, waiting for others to change?
We are responsible for the well-being of the organisms and the life process on this Earth, for we classify ourselves as the top of the food chain. We have put the responsibility upon our shoulders to help and save the animals that have every right on this planet to live amongst us in peace.
If we wanted, we could stop all this suffering, misery and torment, but our stubbornness and laziness gets the best of us. We say that we will try and help, and do sacrifices if required. But do we actually do what we say we will? Lets make our words count and stop this senseless extermination.
My question to you is: do you still want to live in this world of savages? No one can force you to do anything, the choice is entirely yours. You have your own power.