The relationship between humans and animals has always been unique. If one thinks about it, the entire foundation of humanity relied upon animals. They provided us with food, companionship, and ultimately helped pave the way to our modernity. While not every single animal contributed to the direct rise of man, what they did contribute to was the health and natural order of the environment.
For most of us, when we think about animals we are encompassed by a positive feeling. Although they lack the ability to directly communicate to us in our language, their presence incites joy and wonder. However, in recent years, the topic of animals has become quite controversial. Media outlets have been exploding with animal content. Whether it be funny pet skits on Instagram or articles of concern about animal welfare and the disappearance of native species, animals are in the Internet spotlight 24/7. With this post, we hope to examine how we interact with these creatures and instill a better appreciation in readers for the human-animal bond.
If you grew up in the 90s, you would remember when Disney’s hit animated film, The Lion King hit screens. The allure of African wildlife juxtaposed with a Shakesperean plotline and musical arrangements crafted by Sir Elton John became a cultural phenomenon. The movie got a Broadway show, 2 follow up films and a new CGI remake. For most children, this film inspired them to love the creatures of the Serengeti and learn about the uniqueness of animals like the zebras, wildebeest, elephants, and hippos. Through that first touchpoint, they were able to appreciate the diversity of the earth. For many, seeing these animals in their natural habitat – or even at all – is a privilege.
While seeing exotic wildlife is not of the everyday experience, many come into contact with some form of them just in their backyard. Crows, squirrels, deer, and foxes are some of America’s well-known and most wide-spread animals. Many people view these creatures as bothersome – posing risks while crossing the street, ruining landscaping or crops, or just generally existing. This contempt is actually quite sad. Only some see the intimacy we have with these animals as a gift. Being able to witness their lives closely shows us what the circle of life The Lion King sings about is really all about. Seeing fawns nestle in the grass as they wait for their mother can evoke feelings you might have for your own child. Hearing a crow cawing for attention could remind you of that one co-worker you just can’t stand. Making that connection from wildlife to your own life is important.
With over seven billion of us on this planet, we rely on animals for mainly food. No one can live without having access to proper nutrition. Lately, in the media, food-producing animals – also known as livestock – have been front and center in debates. Just recently, Ellen DeGeneres voiced her opinion about eating less meat and was met with messages from concerned farmers and ranchers. Animal agriculture has been a point of conversation for years. Is it sustainable? What about animal welfare? Are greenhouse emissions from cattle a concern? Regardless of your personal diet and beliefs, there are millions of other people who cannot conform to an animal product-free diet due to economic status.
It is also important to remember that thousands of other products – like medicine and even photo paper – are made with animal byproducts. Christien Meindertsma’s book, PIG 05049, shows how many contributions one pig makes to society. This multifaceted debate over animal agriculture shows us that we need to come together to create solutions that benefit both animals and people while respecting the environment around us.
Just like people misconstrue facts about modern agriculture, people also misconstrue the value of animals. Earlier in this post, we touched upon how society sometimes takes nature for granted. Many like to judge the appearances of animals and rank those above the actual purpose of the animal. If the animal is ugly, it is not desirable to have around. One animal that constantly gets a bad reputation is the humble vulture. These avians descend in teams over roadkill, their large wings flapping and hooked beaks gnawing sinews from the bones. While they might not be the most attractive birds, they play an important part in our ecosystem. In the United States, these birds are actually protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. While they are protected, ignorant individuals still kill them guns or with poison for “being nuisances.” Without them, our neighborhoods would be overrun by the corpses of wildlife and the diseases that come with them. We should not take our health and the health of our avian friends for granted.
It’s easy to be selfish when you don’t realize the impact the human race has on the rest of the living world. Through technology, greed, and harmful practices, we eat away at the environment causing climate change and global warming. Animals who used to be well-adjusted to their habitats are now struggling to survive. Reptiles and amphibians, in particular, are having the hardest times coping with their new surroundings. Zoologists are calling this the 6th mass extinction with up to 2,000 amphibian species currently at risk of disappearing forever.
And with over 40,000 threatened species of plants and animals on this planet, individuals and organizations have begun to take action. Zoos have transitioned to conservation centers. Donated land to sanctuaries. To make sure that these unique species thrive another day, many organizations look towards specialized breeding programs to help increase wild populations. Many large animals, like tigers and rhinos, are of extreme need of a population boost. It is very sad to know in the next twenty years a good portion of those creatures seen in Disney featured films could be gone.
Before visiting a zoo or aquarium, take the time to do the appropriate research to make sure they are focused on conservation/rehabilitation and not on the profits. Unfortunately, there are many zoos globally that still support unethical practices regarding the acquisition and welfare of exotic animals. Educating yourself before supporting an organization’s cause with a ticket purchase is paramount.
As a unit, humans and animals continue to stride forward together on this earth. Our pets light up our world, our livestock gives us food, and our wild neighbors keep the heartbeat of nature going strong. After reading this post, you should hopefully feel more curious about what you can do to positively promote the importance of the human-animal bond. In order to conserve our world, we must teach the next generation to appreciate the little treasures in it so that we can make a big impact.
Why I Wrote This
The goal of this piece was to bring awareness to the animals that play an important role in our daily lives and to the ones that are currently experiencing some form of struggle due to human industries. Through the presentation of this information, I hope that readers will go on to become advocates. (Advocates meaning educated on both sides of the spectrum and supporting a specific cause, not just a mindless follower of a hoard.) The pictures included were shot by me at conservation zoos, in local parks, and in my own backyard. I consider myself to be somewhat of an animal photographer who likes to be able to capture authentic moments and display the beauty of every subject I’m photographing. These photos can be categorized as animal portraiture – similar to the style of National Geographic.
In these photos, I use design principles like contrast, scale, composition/negative space, and texture to create a successful piece. To me, balance and simplicity are the most important qualities of a good photograph. In the above photos, I make sure that the focal point is obvious and was aware of how I cropped the imagery. When editing, I prefer that my photos – unless they are to portray an important emotion or idea – are vibrant in color. This detail allows features, like texture, to pop and adds general interest. In some of these photos, a human touch (hands holding the animal) or human trace (fence/manmade object) is used to tie the written story and images together. This blog post is a successful photo essay because all of the photos string along to create a bigger picture. If you noticed, I carefully correlated the subjects I covered to each photo I was going to use. I also made sure to shoot my photography first and then craft my story. This way, the photos felt truly integrated and I did not force them to fit in my narrative. This blog was very much a passion piece for me and I hope it showed through the attention to detail and care put into it. Thank you for reading!
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