There have been some sad stories in the news recently about human lives being lost to animal attacks. A young surfer in Western Australia died after being bitten by a shark, and shortly thereafter a diver was killed after being mauled by what was thought to be a Great White. Even more recently, a toddler became victim of an alligator attack in Florida.
These are tragic incidences, but that doesn’t give us the right to hunt down sharks, alligators, or any other animal. In the wake of this kind of traumatic event the knee-jerk reaction seems to be to go out and kill things. Baited drum lines are used to catch and kill sharks along with any number of sea creatures who inadvertently become “bycatch.” In Florida, five alligators were trapped and killed following the snatching of a young boy.
Of course it’s horrible that people lose their lives in this way but it doesn’t justify what appears to be vengeful killing. We treat these animals as if they’d schemed to attack and kill an individual, and targeted them in some kind of malicious way. A shark bit a human and they died? Outrageous! How dare these sharks continue to live in the ocean and do what comes naturally to them. They’re a danger to society. The ocean is our domain and they must be stopped. They killed one of ours so we’ll kill ten of theirs! It’s only fair.
We demand justice for an act of nature, seemingly indifferent to the fact that we, as humans, kill millions of sharks each year. And ours certainly isn’t an act of nature. It’s an act of greed.
Sharks don’t want to eat people. We’re not good for them. Sharks bite people when they’re confused and don’t realise what it is they’re biting. Yes, people die as a result of shark attacks, but sharks are not stalking humans. And even if they were, surely the ocean is their natural environment and not ours. Although shark attacks make big news, very few people are actually killed by sharks. You’re more likely to be killed by a vending machine than you are by a shark.
As with sharks, the chance of an alligator attack is extremely small. Again, humans are not their choice of prey. Climate change and rising sea levels are affecting alligator habitats and pushing them closer to areas more densely populated with humans. Our population keeps growing, their homes are shrinking, and we’re horrified to see an increasing number of alligator encounters.
We treat this Earth like we’re the only ones entitled to live on it. We want command of the land, the skies, and the ocean. Everything is ours to use for our personal enjoyment, regardless of how that impacts other species or the environment. As long as we’re happy. The idea that an animal might attack and kill us does not sit well with our sense of superiority. We value our lives so, so much more than that of a shark or an alligator that we feel justified in killing members of that species in a kind of warped form of retribution. Just imagine if these creatures decided to turn the tables on us. If sharks wanted revenge for the millions of their species that are killed by humans each year. If alligators decided to reap vengeance on those who would hunt them for their skins.
We need to understand that our planet is for sharing and realise that sometimes, sadly, a human life is lost to another predator. We can’t hunt these creatures down, pitchforks primed and torches ablaze, just because they’re doing what comes naturally to them. The media will continue to sensationalise these kinds of attacks and try to make the public believe the “problem” is bigger and more dangerous than it actually is. Respect the environment you’re in, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t criminalise animals for being animals.