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Singer: Endangered compassion

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By Sydney Ross Singer

Hawaii is a land of compassion and concern for animals, so long as they are “native” and endangered.

A nene mother goose was struck and killed recently on Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. According to the story in a local newspaper, her mate of 13 years escaped harm, but remains in the area.

“It is a shame that a nene with such a long and productive life had to die so tragically,” Dr. Rhonda Loh, the park’s chief of resource management, was quoted as saying.

It’s rare to find such compassion for animals in Hawaii. We lament for the Hawaiian goose and recognize that she had a mate who must be missing her right now, that she was a good mother, and that she died a tragic death.

It is a tragedy that anyone with compassion for animals will understand.

At the same time, the government fences in, starves, and slaughters thousands of sheep, goats, pigs, and axis deer living in our forests.

Some are hunted by helicopters and shot by government paid sharpshooters. Others are slowly and painfully killed by cruel steel jaw traps and snares.

Is there something special about the nene goose that they deserve such compassion which other animals do not? Are these geese different from other animals?

Sheep, pigs, deer, and goats have mates that will miss them when they are killed. They have babies that they love, protect, and nurse, and who will suffer if their mother is shot or trapped. They have feelings, just like people do. They experience fear and love, pain and pleasure.

Where is our compassion for these animals? Is it reserved only for endangered species? Is our compassion only for animals that are so-called “native” or endemic to Hawaii?

Coqui tree frogs are burned to death with acid for making too much “noise” chirping. Peacocks are shot or bludgeoned for the “noise” they make. Feral cats are trapped, poisoned and destroyed. Cattle egrets are shot en masse near airports.

Meanwhile, nene geese near airports are carefully and lovingly relocated.

All these animals have mates, raise their young, and die a tragic death. But the government and environmentalists don’t seems to care. They only seem to care about “native”, endangered species.

It’s very much like the way we feel about wartime killing. We want death and destruction of the enemy. We know men, women and children will suffer and die. But only the casualties on our side are considered tragic.

So it seems animals have to be “native” and endangered to be on “our side” here in Hawaii. Otherwise, their goose is cooked.

(Sydney Ross Singer is a medical anthropologist and director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease.)

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