A clickbait for wildlife feeders with confirmation bias
‘Happy hormones’ dopamine and oxytocin are released in our heads when we share food with animals. Seeing them, so satisfied with what I can offer, I feel I am like a big person; I feel I am kind; I am taking care of them, this is unconditional love! I love animals!
But in the back of my mind, I’ve always felt that feeding wildlife is somehow bad? I just never knew why. Look at all the birds that seem helpless; that monkey seems desperate; poor little wild boar must have gone foodless for days now…how can helping the needy be bad? This is the problem in our societies – selfish, apathetic. I am not going to sit here and watch them starve, I want to help them! (Also, I have mouldy bread and soggy biscuits that I couldn’t finish in time because I didn’t plan ahead on how much food I actually needed). Look at how cute they are chewing food that I provide – except you, rats, you filthy, ugly, disease-spreading abomination… I love animals!
How would they even survive without me? I feel good because feeding animals is the only thing that gives my life meaning; I feel less lonely, as I am needed. Plus, in an increasingly urbanised world, the urge for people to reconnect with nature has grown stronger. I only experience nature through interacting with wild animals, like many famous people do on the media.
Jane Goodall famously befriended the chimpanzees after years of following and handing them bananas; David Attenborough bottle-fed a rescued sun bear cub; What about Steve Irwin with his crocodiles? Wasn’t that badass! If my 5-year-old could get brave enough to feed a monkey, I would consider him worthy of being my child. And not to forget Snow White, singing to wild animals and stuff. I believe the message being conveyed here is this: if a wildlife researcher, a rescuer, a zookeeper, and a cartoon character is allowed to feed wild animals, so should any person; just as a layperson should be permitted to administer drugs herself, like a trained medical practitioner can. #equality
Me feeding wildlife can also help boost local tourism and small businesses! You see, the tourists are on a constant look out for novel objects to take selfies with and to post to social media so that they can get followers’ attention to read some totally unrelated life quotes in the captions. Food provisioning for wildlife can ensure that wild animals – the more endangered ones the better – would hang around a particular area. This will make sure that tourists have the chance to take a close-up selfie with the animals, thereby promoting the place to become a tourist attraction, boosting our economy! I wouldn’t exactly call myself a ‘hero’ though, that’s reserved for the politicians who barely do enough to enforce a “no feeding wildlife” law.
But if occasionally, the animals – now lured closer with the humans – are forced to deal with things like:
- roadkills or car accidents;
- hit by psychopaths;
- injuries to children or damages on people’s possessions;
- offsprings kidnapped to supply pet trading chains;
- complaints from local residents that can lead to and have led to animal culling by wildlife management
Then, that’s just too bad. Because sacrifice must be made for short-term gains, at the costs of long-term sustainability. Commercial tourism operators who base their businesses on selling wildlife food provisioning to the ‘wildlife loving’ tourists, would agree.
I mean, this is what God(s) intended. Humans just naturally love to share their (surplus) food (with whom they happen to adore). The Judeo-Christian view is that animals are subordinate to humans, created for humans’ exploitation and pleasure. Hence, if a Christian so chooses to enjoy feeding a wild animal, it is within her human rights to do so. In Islam, generosity is one of the main principles. Charitable acts like giving food to animals show generosity, and Allah rewards charitable actions. Buddhism sees animals as humans’ equals. Some Buddhists even feel a sense of responsibility for the happiness of all living beings, from which they earn merits in the hope for good karma. In other religions like Hinduism, animals are worshipped as gods, and so, to provide for the gods is believed to ensure themselves a better reincarnation. Never mind that these are pretty much open for interpretations. One only chooses what is most convenient for them to believe in, no? I chose mine.
Haters will say:
- the animals will lose their foraging instincts;
- human foods are not healthy for wildlife;
- feeding wildlife increases aggression levels and conflicts among animals and humans (they discriminate against infants and toddlers, saying that they are too weak to defend for themselves);
- feeding wildlife facilitates disease transmissions to and fro humans and wildlife;
- the balance in wildlife populations will be broken. Number of animals may either decrease dramatically due to disease outbreaks originating from contaminated human foods; or increase dramatically due to extra calories provided.
There’s more but I don’t even want to listen. Haters have even gone so far as to create a series of infographics to raise awareness about the negative impacts of food provisioning to wildlife. To them, I say: how am I supposed to think so far ahead?
The first-person singular pronouns ‘I’ and ‘me’ in the above soliloquy represent a fictional character. All opinions are those of the character and should not be confused with the author’s or of Langur Project Penang (LPP). We welcome civilised discussions in the comment section.