Animal rights

Last week my mum took me to the Sydney Aquarium. That day out made me rethink of all the wonderful memories I had there as a child; How could I have been allowed to have watched these animals live and suffer in such conditions? Why did the trainers lie to me when they would say the dolphins were sleeping? Why had I been so naïve?
At 21-years-old, I was heart broken to watch a dugong slam into the clear wall of his confinement. At 21-years-old, I was left standing there shocked as I saw the penguins fur dismantled with scratches. At 21-years-old, I knew that these animals weren’t healthy. And at 21-years-old, I know I wont ever return.

Yesterday was more evidence as to why I wouldn’t return, as the local Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, announced the closing of the centre after 50 years. The attraction will be closing after the ageing building has been recorded to be “too expensive to replenish.” They will now be looking for new homes for 107 sharks and rays, 2000 fish, 500 invertebrates, 19 penguins and 11 reptiles…a good option would be setting them free, but hey, they haven’t suffered enough and most will be located to Sydney Harbour Aquarium.


As a child, I fell in love with animals like ‘Babe’ the pig, and deer like ‘Bambi’ ; as an adolescent my admiration for animals grew more as I watched ‘Marley and Me’ and cried for the death of the dog; and as an adult, it has changed to cooing at any chance to see a child terrorise a small kitten. In the end, half of us have owned, held, and loved an animal; and half of us have watched them devastatingly leave.
But still, as kids, as teenagers, and as an adult; we will take any chance to visit the zoo and watch wild animals conform to new environments and suffer in solitude; just for our own entertainment. So what is the difference between keeping a domestic animal in the captivity of our home, and keeping a wild animal in the confinement of four walls? Why is keeping a dog locked in a house, different from keeping a lion in a cage? Both have a different nature, but both need to experience freedom.

“Our power and ingenuity entitles us to violate the natural order by tearing animals from the fabric of their ecosystems and displaying them in an “order” of our own making.”

Randy Malamud continues to argue that:

“Zoos not only contribute to the rapid disintegration of our ecosystems, but also deaden our very sensibilities to constraint, spatial disruption, and physical pain.”

Last week for example, Dubbo zoo marked the end of an era for the African Elephant species in Australia. ‘Cuddles’ had arrived in 1977 from the United Kingdom and had already been estimated to be 46 years old, and has been within the walls of the zoo since. It has taken this devastating death for the zoo to now say that they have no plans to replenish its African elephant population…instead, now focusing on its Asian elephant program……….

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The way we used to worship animals has turned into a way we entertain, describe, and word ourselves. From naming footballs teams to punny sentences, we have not only disrupted human nature, but borrowed an animals identity and essence, just to give an inaccurate regard of what they’re really like.

A great example of humans ruining the identity of an animal is the documentary, ‘Black Fish’. The movie tells the story of the sea orcas, one in particular called Tilikum, that have been held within the walls of Sea World. Along the way, the completion of footage of the orcas killings and the trainer’s interviews, explores the creatures true nature and the cruel treatment in captivity.

“It’s time to stop the shows. It’s time to stop forcing the animals to perform in basically a circus environment, and they should release the animals that are young enough and healthy enough to be released,” Berg says in the movie. “And the animals like Tilikum, who are old and sick and have put in 25 years in the industry, should be released to an open ocean pen.”

So when does it all end? when the last animal in captivity dies? Because just like humans, animals feel emotion, and just like humans; they need to be set free.

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Poverty Porn

The objectification and exploitation of a human beings suffering is something that the media is often portraying. The use of images and videos are often used to prove a point and achieve an emotional response out of viewers. The reason? Is it to showcase the deteriorating wellbeing of humans in developing countries? or is it used to generate profit? Maybe it’s both; or maybe as viewers we are so blind sided by caring for our own, we turn our head the other way, lacking emotion, and continue on with our sad life.

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So what really is poverty porn?
“Also known as development porn or even famine porn, is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.”

It’s the pleading face and emaciated images of human suffering; it’s the images that use personalising stories connected to unknown people, often children, who don’t even know their image is being used. It’s the helplessness that these people are going through, shown to the public eye just to reach a financial goal.

Below is a link that I advice you to watch. It’s of celebrity, Jack Black, videoing his time with a small child in Uganda. This video is a clear example of how foundations use ‘white privilege’ to evoke a sympathetic reaction out of viewers.

“You’re welcome, Jack” You’re welcome for leaving that child knowing you could have done more; You’re welcome, Jack, for crying even though you said you wouldn’t. This video was shown to us in a class. Nothing angered me more than to watch a ‘white privileged’ man saying he couldn’t do more to help.

Now watch the video below.

Showing the reality of the devastating affects on ones life to promote something positive, is more of an ethical conflict than a ‘fundraising’ opportunity. The second video portrays a humorous side of the truthful views of the videos and images we are often forced to see on a daily basis. We don’t know these people. We don’t know them; and they don’t know us.

Daniel Ramirez-Raftree, a sociology student at the University of Chicago, says: “Poverty porn is effective as a means for raising funds because it elicits strong emotional responses”.

Therefore people tend to feel pity, sympathy, and a sense of guilt; rather than feeling necessarily driven to help a cause.
But the reason poverty porn is so pervasive is that is promotes the popular stereotype that was often created in Western literature about Africa, for example: the way the natives in ‘The Tempest’ were portrayed as lacking humanity and decency.
And so for centuries we have been forced to think a certain way, and there is no doubt that these photographs and video’s do hold truth, but at what cost?

The end result is that these images are implicitly:

“acting to further the idea of underdevelopment and suggesting the idea of the superiority of Western society.” (Dolinar, 2013)

 

But first, let’s take a selfie.

The explosively popular photography style of selfies is now bigger than ever, and the phenomenon of branding ourselves all over social media platforms has become a way individuals and groups sell their image to become a household name. Not only has the selfie been described as a way to feed our own ego, in 2013 The Oxford English Dictionary called “selfie” as the word of the year…because apparently the English vocabulary has nothing more intellectual to award.

Since the growing phenomena, selfies have been linked to narcissism and mental health issues, in fact there have been studies constructed to reflect on how researchers found that posting more photos was correlated with both narcissism and psychopathy. But this makes me think; why has painting self portraits never been seen as narcissistic or shallow? Is it because painting is seen as a form of art? or because it has created some of the most amazing pieces? Why should we be criticised for believing that we are our own pieces of art?

Jesse Fox, assistant professor of communication at the Ohio State University in the United States, conducted a study of 800 men who were asked to fill in a questionnaire on the basis of selfies. Results showed that posting more photos was related to narcissism and psychopathy, but psychopathy was not related to editing photos. Fox continues to say that the although women were not included, they show higher levels of narcissism and psychopathy; which also means that there are more women also editing their photos. Therefore, those who score higher on self-objectification post more selfies, which means people will be expecting positive feedback and comments from friends.

Self-objectification involves valuing yourself mainly for your appearance, rather than for other positive traits.

“We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorders in women,” Fox said.

“With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”

More studies on the topic of the selfie have authors linking the examination of self-objectification with three traits, known as the “Dark Triad”: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. To get an idea of where you sit on the spectrum, take the personality test.

The test is a good way to reveal what your really like when you act and how you feel towards certain situations. Untitled.pngI will be one who can openly say that selfies are something that feed my confidence when I feel great about myself. In fact it has become a regular routine, when I’m all dressed up and my second layer of face is on, that my friends and I take multiple selfies on a night out. This isn’t because I’m obnoxious or narcissistic, but because I should be able to feel comfortable around people and showcase that confidence that I radiate to the online world. Why should I be judged for how I look and dress?


On another spectrum, social media platforms are becoming a way celebrities showcase their lifestyle. Their photographs have become a way for them to brand their lifestyle and themselves; for example the Kardashian name and brand as increased in popularity and income, with all the sisters constantly documenting their luxurious lifestyle on Instagram and Snapchat.

But with all these luxurious selfies that they’re taking, society has become obsessed and begun following in the same footsteps; and as a result moral panic tends to occur with the uprising of the branding. Because hey, when I feel like Kimmy K all I do is selfie. And let’s be honest, she has become so well branded and so many people aspire to have the same.

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And even when you’re not feeling the most attractive, most of us are using Snapchat’s newest features to hide the blemishes with dog filters and sunglasses. The ultimate selfie photos have now changed with the variety of changes; but with the change, brings further moral panic, as the features hide away the true meaning of one’s natural beauty. So if editing your photos is linked to psychopathy, what would changing your face to look like an animal be labelled?