By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Raju got freed from an imprisonment in India last week after a 50 year sentence. Shackled with iron bindings studded with spikes and starving, the captive at first winced then cried tears of joy when his rescuers finally relieved him of the pain. That wasn’t the first time Raju cried. He cried when he was caught and then throughout his ordeal when he was sold and beaten. He cried when he was forced to stand outside of temples begging for food.
Raju’s story isn’t unique in a part of the world where life is cheap, especially non-human animal life. Raju, you see, is an elephant and elephant’s don’t have emotions were are taught. They are chattel in the mind of the law and any similarity between them and the dominant species on the planet is purely coincidental.
I don’t know where or how that idea started. Maybe is was in the Middle Ages when the more religiously deluded among us would burn bags of cats reasoning they didn’t have souls and thus could feel no pain — their plaintive and horror-filled cries notwithstanding. Or maybe it was before that when circumstances dictated that we had to round up and domesticate our fellow creatures for food or transportation or just for the sport of killing them.
“It was a very emotional moment for us, because we’ve never seen an elephant cry like that,” says Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS who rescued the elephant. “He was weeping.” Wildlife SOS is a London-based animal rights organization.
The director of Wildlife SOS, Nikki Sharp, added, “”[The rescue team] went in to rescue him and [his captors] had bound him up so tightly that he was in a lot of pain,” she said. “The vet and our team came with fruits and just started speaking softly to him and to reassure him that we were there to help, and it was at that time that tears flooded down his face. ”
It’s hard to understand man’s inhumanity to his fellow humans but it’s unfathomable why anyone’s wrath would be directed at an animal. Especially one as kind and human-like as the elephant who lives in family structures tending their young every bit as carefully as any doting human. I know that we have to manage the number of wildlife both for our sakes and for theirs but seeing Raju and the very human signs of relief and joy make me wonder again about who deserves the top place on the evolutionary tree of life.
~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor