Sometimes we come across a story and think “this can only happen in the Middle East.” Renowned science journalist Mike Shanahan, who previously inspired us to consider the antidote to bigger, better, and more, ran across these brightly dyed chicks and bunnies in Doha, Qatar, where he attended the World Conference of Science Journalists, and asked a young journalism student how she felt about the animals being subjected to such kaleidoscopic antics.
Although she sited religious regions for believing that people in Qatar generally consider animals to be superior to humans, that has not been Green Prophet’s experience of how animals are treated in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, or Morocco, for example, where illegal wildlife trafficking is common. Nonetheless, Mike raised another important question: how does this kind of treatment (it’s only cruel if the animals are licking at the dye, and only then if it’s toxic) affect children’s attitude towards animals?
Before continuing, it is important to note that animals in other countries are at risk of being colored too. Care 2 Causes tells the story of a woman who was fined for dyeing her poodle in an American state that legislated against dyeing chicks and bunnies after too many people were turning chicks and bunnies into pastel colored puff balls during Easter.
And the latest craze among Chinese who don’t cook dogs alive is to paint them to resemble pandas, tigers, or other exotic creatures. At first glance this seems like a trivial issue. Many human beings put all kinds of color in their hair and that doesn’t diminish our love or care of them. Does it?
Again we have to credit Mike for pointing us to a fascinating study conducted in France which shows that largely thanks to media, schoolchildren are becoming increasingly alienated from their local fauna and flora.
Instead of experiencing the biodiversity that exists in their own woods and parks, they are looking to the virtual world for their animal fix. And even then they typically seek out the iconic creatures (the kind that conservation groups put on a pedestal in order to attract attention and funding.)
What are the implications for environmental awareness? What are the long term consequence of exposing children to these brightly colored creatures, which seems to somehow disrespect their inherent nature? Latifa hint Sa’ad, Mike’s new journalism friend from Qatar, says that these animals are “spruced up” for the benefit of tourists, but local children see them too.
As with many things in life, children (and adults) need to experience real nature in order to want to protect it. They need to experience the beetle that harvests drops of dew from the unforgiving desert, bats with extraordinary navigation skills, as well as the more famous animals like Egypt’s endangered wild cats.
Dipping chicks in pink isn’t cute, and it sure isn’t helping us fight the devastating loss of biodiversity that threatens all of us.
:: Images via Mike Shanahan from Under the Banyan
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