Dig Deep: What Have They Done?

April 25, 2013

Deep within me is a message, but I don't know what it is. All I know is that my photography is an outlet, but what am I trying to say?

My whole life has revolved around one belief -- "There has to be a better way." Where, though, did this all begin? What am I seeing? What am I experiencing?

A memory sits in my thoughts without validated connection to today. Elementary school -- 4th, 5th, maybe 6th grade. An article with a photo of a chimpanzee strapped to a chair with monitors taped to every inch of his body. The article explained that he was part of an experiment. His brain had been removed, and he was being kept alive by machines. The chair was connected to a rail system with a wall at the end. At the press of a button or a flip of a switch, the chair traveled at high speed toward the wall, ending with a violent crash and the limp body of the chimpanzee being flung against the wall. This experiment was done to determine if the body responds to fear without the brain.

I grew up in a home where my Dad hunted and fished for our food. He used every part of the animal. Being exposed to this instilled a sense of respect for animals, and the awareness of taking an animal's life. My Dad does not hunt for sport. Every animal was used to feed our family. He sold the pelts and antlers to help us have a home. To this day, if he finds a dead animal alongside the road or in the woods, he finds a way to use what he can. This is where my belief system is rooted -- I am far from a vegetarian, but I am also acutely aware that an animal lost its life for the food on my plate. Growing up, I thought that the whole world followed the same belief. Until I read that article at such a young age. There are times when I wish I could change history.

Turn the page, what do I see now?

An injured heifer being rolled along the ground with a forklift, her legs being broken and neck twisted with every movement. A German Shepherd being skinned alive while wagging its tail because he is desperate for any type of human interaction, even that of his captors. Geese pinned in wire cages, released only to have tubes shoved down their throats and force fed to enlarge their livers. Prairie dogs being flooded from their burrows with soapy water, no regard for the young babies who cannot flee. The blood of whales flowing down ship ramps in the name of research. The severed hands and heads of gorillas. My three rescue dogs, one of which had her eye poked out when she was 8 weeks of age. Dolphins swimming in a filthy pool, abandoned and dying. A white tiger caged in the middle of the desert. Polar bears searching for food, expending every ounce of energy to swim further to find food for themselves and their cubs. A dead doe hit by a speeding car in a national forest.

This is what I see. This is what breaks my heart and, ultimately, pisses me off.

I consider the advances that the human mind has accomplished. The creatives join with the engineers, and together they connect the planet through social media, putting the world in our hands through tiny devices. Think about the collective power behind that feat alone. A collective power that could be harnessed for this cause, but is not. Why not?

This is what I am trying to say: Are we doing the best that we can do for the beautiful creatures of this world? What have they done to deserve so little consideration from so many? They are the innocents. The land is their home, it's all they have. They and their home need our protection.

We've come far since I read that article, but not nearly far enough. There are too many stories that show that we have a long way to go. Plain and simple -- there has to be a better way. It's time to make a real change.

To those who work every day to protect them, to preserve their future and the land on which they thrive, those who work to educate and advocate -- thank you, from the bottom of my heart. It is you who gives me hope.

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