Purebred animals continued to be commercially bred on each island
From September to December 2008, the vegan conservation group Sea Shepherd waged a fight to protect the ecosystem and all the animals of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. This blog recounts what happened in that time, serving for the group.
The post below details the days leading up until my departure date from the Galapagos.
First Campaign End
My efforts to get animals adopted started to go sour. Although I was able to help get a few animals get adopted by responsible owners early on, I later found myself faced by unfortunately capricious animal adopters. This was a typical conversation I eventually had every single day:
Adopter: “Oh, this is a beautiful cat, can I adopt him?”
Me: “Yes! But having a cat is a great responsibility, are you sure you’re up for it?”
Adopter: “Oh absolutely! I want this cat, and he’ll be my new family member!”
Me: “Great! This cat had absolutely no place to go so it’s wonderful he has a home!”
The next morning:
Adopter: “So, I’m bringing your cat to you this morning.”
Me: “What?! He’s your cat! I have no place to bring him! He’s not allowed in my apartment even!”
Adopter: “Well I just don’t have time for a cat.”
Me: “But you said you would take care of him! I looked for five days straight and there’s no other place for me to bring him! I’d have to sit on the street with him until I find him a home which would take weeks!”
Adopter: “Well I shouldn’t have taken him. But I’ll do you a huge favor. I’ll keep him for the next two hours while you find him a new home in that time. If you don’t take him after that I’ll just have him euthanized. I’m going to a party tonight so I don’t have time for a cat, it’s better if he just die now.”
It was sobering to discover that so many people in the Galapagos had the same death-before-personal-discomfort attitude as so many owners everywhere elsewhere in the world. And, on a personal note, I was at a loss as to what to do at that point. I ran completely out of resources to try to help these animals with, and I ran out of money in general (not as in, “Oh man, I’m so out of cash,” but as in, I stopped eating because I had no money to buy food with). Somebody had leaked information and blown my investigations, the cat I loved just died, and I was supposed to leave the islands in a few days.
Finally, I decided I at least had to find a place to bury Nikki Wolf. I went to a friend’s property, buried his corpse, and then I visited my mentor (who fed me, which was a plus in visiting).
I had to agenda and nothing to say. But my mentor sensed this, and finally said, “Look, I more than anyone else know how frustrating it is to pursue any of the goals you’ve been trying to accomplish here. But I’ve been watching your progress and can now tell you why you’re having such problems trying to fix these social issues. You’ve been trying to lead government agencies to solve widespread problems. But think about this. When’s the last time you’ve ever heard of a government solving a widespread social problem? It never happens because governments DON’T solve problems! If anything is going to improve in the world, it’s because the individuals will make it happen.”
And there it was, staring me in the face. I was trying to get governments and people with guns, the ones who facilitate corruption and social problems, to try to solve the problems they profited from. My entire task was an exercise in frustration. If I was to cause anything to change for the better, I had to get the people to want to change things for the better. Even though so many people around me were trying to blow my investigations, so many were constantly choosing to victimize animals and supporting poaching and smuggling, even though so many locals hated Sea Shepherd, and so many people were trying to increase their comfort levels at the expense of the ecosystem, I still had to find common ground with all of these populations somehow.
I canceled my departing flight from the Galapagos, setting my new departure flight date for a month later, so I’d leave right when my visa expired and I absolutely had to leave the Galapagos. Friends started coming by and giving me food, so I wouldn’t starve. Sea Shepherd handled all my accommodations and utilities. I scrounged and borrowed money to stay afloat. It wasn’t very comfortable living, but I had enough to survive another month.
So then I got started. My goal was to ensure that no creature, indigenous or introduced, would share my poor cat’s fate. My first task, was to go to every single person who told me to leave the Galapagos, talk to every resident Galapaganean who had zero faith in my mission there, and talk to them, and find out exactly why they thought my goal to help the ecosystem was futility. “You stupid vegans come here and try to make all these changes but you make no sense and you should just leave!” Yes yes, but WHY? I had to change my tactics, and I wouldn’t know how to reach the locals until I found out why they hated me.
The answers were very telling. Every person I talked to boiled their arguments down to the following:
1: “You judgmental foreigners come here and try to crush indigenous Ecuadorians saying, ‘Oh, you primitive people, THIS is how you should run your own culture!’”
2: “You rich gringos come here and antagonize all the poor locals who are just trying to make a living!”
3: “Don’t you understand? Cats and dogs are the problem here and no one is going to support vet care when animals are destroying the islands!”
4: “Save the ecosystem?! How ignorant are you! Don’t you see how much our education and our own health care is lacking? How dare you try to help animals and the environment before people!”
And thus, I had my new plan to tackle problems here.
Next Monday’s post will start to go over each new tactic.