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When "Selfless" Becomes "Selfish"- The Dark Side of Loving Animals

By T. Rutter

There is an oft told tale in the Old Testament wherein two women are both claiming to be the mother of the same infant. The arguing moms are brought before King Solomon to determine which of the would-be mothers should be granted custody of the baby. In a stunningly callous (but secretly brilliant) act King Solomon orders that the baby be brought before him and instructs his loyal swordsman to cut the baby in half. While one of the “moms” seems ok with this, the second “mom” screams in horror and throws herself at King Solomon’s feet begging him to spare the child and relinquishing her claim immediately, thereby demonstrating in a most tangible way which of the two women is actually the babies mum.

Dude wasn’t called Solomon “the Wise” for nuthin’.

This story and the moral of it have been much on my mind lately as our elephant loving community has been horrified (or delighted, depending upon whose side you’re on) that a court ruling has determined that a long time (26 year) elephant resident of the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary, Tarra, be removed from her sanctuary home and “given back” to the woman who was her circus trainer and former owner.

What would King Solomon have to say about this one?

There is no denying that the bond between humans and non-humans can be deep and profound, anyone who has experienced a soul connection to a dog, cat, or any domestic pet can attest to this. Our ability to love non-human species is one of the coolest things about us. People will go to extraordinary lengths so save, connect, nurture and protect all sorts of animals, so then, what’s the problem?

Like most beautiful things that filter through the human experience, it’s that self-same “connection” to non-human animals which, perversely, causes us to inflict some of the most heinous acts of cruelty upon them.

How many people dream of cuddling a tiger cub, swimming with dolphins, riding elephants, owning a pet monkey? These are bucket list dreams for a whole lotta animal “loving” folks!

Never mind declawed, drugged baby animals, the dolphins swimming in circles going insane, baby elephants beaten to within an inch of their lives to accept the saddle or a terrified baby monkey who was ripped out of his mothers arms after she was shot in the head so he could be someone’s pet.

It’s that dark side that people who “love” animals and want to be close to them can brilliantly ignore!

“Cut that baby in half! I want my share!”

Look, I get it, we love these creatures, deeply and intensely. But maybe, just maybe, we should all take three steps back and look at what is best for that animal. Does our dream of holding a cub, swimming with a dolphin or owning an elephant trump their right to live their lives with their friends or families? Is our desire to connect more important than their than their right to be left in peace?

I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good idea what King Solomon would say.

(photos courtesy of World Animal Protection and PETA)

Thyra Rutter is an Artist and Co-Founder of Arte for Elephants, LLC an art and humane travel business that has raised over $67,000 for animal rescue.


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