Bob, "Bob, the Tortoise", and pinheads…

My friend, Bob, and I were lamenting the sad state of affairs in concern for animal welfare.

His pique was raise by the story of Michael Vick, the NFL “star” indicted by a grand jury with animal cruelty over dog fighting and a “kennel” they owned and ran to train dogs to fight. Allegedly, when dogs didn’t perform, they were “executed” in various manners, from hanging and electrocuting, to drowning or slamming them down on the ground. Allegedly, some dogs were starved in order to make them more aggressive. The 18-page indictment is pretty damning and, as one expert had said, others have been convicted on less evidence.

Mine came after reading the story of “Bob, the Tortoise”, the 25-year old family pet, who was stolen, tortured, mutilated, and left for dead (the perpetrator called the owner to tell them where Bob was, presumably to add to the family’s pain). Bob has survived the attack which left him with multiple deep stab wounds and cuts on his body and shell. Whether he will continue to thrive, is, at this point, unsure.

What particularly angered me was the attitude of some commenters to the story. While the bulk of the comments were from people wishing Bob well and that the perpetrator be brought to justice, some of them were from people who accused the others with misplaced concern.

  • “i understand your quote but shouldn’t the greatness depend on how we treat our people? i wish we had such an outpouring of emotion for the homeless or needy right here in the city of ventura.send funds to those kinds of things. i mean really people let’s put things in perspective.” [in response to a quote by Ghandi “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.]”
  • “I didn’t see anyone donating money to help pay for the hospital bills of the guy who was attacked at the gas station the other morning. Where’s the public outcry for that story? that’s what i meant about perspective.”
  • “some people cease to amaze me!!you feel worse for a turtle than for a human being!!?? thanks for summing up exactly whats wrong with society today.that just falls into the category of ridiculous!!human beings are at the mercy of human beings 100% of the time. a little old lady is as vulnerable to a strong armed robber just as bob was vulnerable to the nutjob that did this.lets get real people!”
I’m not sure I understand why people assume that caring for animals and being outraged when one is treated like this means that we “don’t care about people”. There seems to be the assumption that writing a letter in anger about the cruel treatment of an animal means we don’t get angry at the murder of a human.

The fact is that people who harm animals, and this is a proven fact, are more likely to hurt a human. Studies have shown that serial killers got their start torturing animals.

The fact, too, is that, like children, animals are, by and large, defenseless. They are at our mercy and it is our duty to BE angry. Does it mean I don’t care about the homeless? Does it mean that I couldn’t give a crap about an old lady mugged? Of course not. The fact is that, the homeless have supports (which I and others contribute to) and animals do not. While I get angry about the torture of Bob, I also generously support Child Haven which helps homeless and destitute children in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Tibet.

Of course, often from the same people, you get the complaint “Why do you go out of your way to help kids in India when there are destitute children, here in Canada?” Well, I do… but also because our social network, which the very same people who complain about me “not caring about our homeless” often complain about paying into, exists, unlike countries like India where there is no safety net for the less fortunate.

For every group we care about and care for, there is always someone who makes a point of wingeing about why we care for this person instead of that one, this thing instead of another.

And THIS is the point of the quote from Ghandi, as well as the one by that other great humanitarian, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25).

A society that cares for its animals is more likely to care for the poor, the homeless, the destitute, and the defenseless. Quite frankly, I don’t care to be part of a society that holds the cruelty of one thing over another or one person over another.

An addendum to the “Bob, the Tortoise” story…

“An arrest was made Thursday in the vicious attack on Bob, a 42-pound (19-kilogram) pet tortoise who was slashed and stabbed after being stolen from the home of an autistic boy.

Police said the attacker tried to cut Bob out of his shell. His hind legs were badly cut, a toe was cut off, his neck was slashed and his shell was punctured. He also was thrown against a wall.

Jose “Tony” Mosqueda, 18, was booked for investigation of cruelty to animals and grand theft.”

As for Bob?

The tortoise was being treated at Turtle Dreams, a rehabilitation center. He remained in guarded condition and was being fed through a tube in his neck.

“He’s getting more relaxed and coming out of his shell” more often, said Jeanie Vaughan, the center’s owner. “If he continues without any infection, I think he’s going to be fine.”

Police advised the Sullivans of the arrest. “They were just very thankful,” Detective Sgt. Rick Murray said.

Dorothy Sullivan said Bob did an amazing thing when she visited the center earlier in the week.

“He took his first steps,” she said. “He brought his head completely out of his shell … and then he struggled to his feet.”

The tortoise collapsed but then managed to take eight steps.

“When he finished, he had a tear in his eye … as did the rest of us,” Sullivan said. “It was an excellent, great sign.”

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