I stood on Noordhoek Beach today where 19 whales had stranded themselves in the early hours of the morning. As with most strandings (I suppose), the scene was fairly chaotic. Officials doing all they could to keep the animals alive and comfortable and well-intentioned volunteers trying to help where ever they could.
From the corner of my eye I spotted a boy of about 8 or 9 years playing around on the dead carcass of one of the whales. Not just touching it as many of the spectators felt wont to do, but playing on it like it was a Jugle Gym. Pulling on the dorsal fin, standing on it “conqueror-style” with his hands on his hips and one foot on the carcass, even jumping around on it. This annoyed me to no end – I’m not exactly airy-fairy about these things, but it seemed so wrong to me that a magnificent animal would not only perish in such a sad way but then also have to lay there to be exploited by this young man (brat) as a temporary source of entertainment. I bemoaned this to my husband, who agreed with the sentiment. After some deliberation I decided not to go and drag the kid off by his collar as emotions were already running high on the beach and I was pretty sure that his parents (where ever they were) would come and drag him away by his ear as soon as they saw how he was behaving.
He carried on in this way for about 20 minutes while I had to work really hard at biting my tongue and trying to look the other way. Then, to my utter astonishment this same little boy comes running towards the woman stand right next to us. His mother had been standing next us all along – hearing clearly the comments we had all made, knowing full well what her son was doing and she CHOSE not to do anything about it!
How are we supposed to raise a generation of adults that respect the earth and it’s valuable resources if we do not start by teaching our kids to respect each individual creature (living or dead)? We are faced with very serious ecological problems – we are running out of water, we have holes in the ozone and the consequences of global warming are dire. Fixing these problems is not the responsibility of governments and environmental agencies. We are responsible for treating our natural environments with the respect it deserves and teaching our kids to do the same.