Save the Rhino, but Kill the Cow?

The wildlife conservation world is abuzz after learning about the extinct status of the Western black rhino in Africa by the IUCN yesterday. Rhinos have been hunted to extinction for their horns, which supposedly possess medical properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. There is no scientific proof. Conservationists have been working tirelessly to protect these endangered pachyderms. They are truly heroes.

Yet, I wonder if some of these very passionate conservationists, upon hearing the news of the extinction of the Western Black Rhino, went home to a steak dinner to comfort themselves.

All this got me thinking about the way we view animals.

Are animals considered worthy only when they are on the verge of extinction?

I wrote an article titled, The Last Black Rhino a few years ago about my search for this beautiful animal in Kenya. The plight this animal is in is truly outrageous. Act For Wildlife website states: “Armed with snares and guns, poachers kill rhinos for their horns, which they sell on the black market for traditional Asian medicines, and for ornaments. And they’re getting smarter, better funded and more organized. They’re finding ways to remove the horn quicker to avoid being caught. In some cases, they don’t even wait for the rhino to die before hacking away the horn. Meanwhile young calves, whose horns haven’t yet developed, are left motherless and alone.”

While it is a sad situation, animals around the world face similar fates. When you are an animal lover, you don’t distinguish. The rhino calf and the baby cow have the same emotions of fear and helplessness upon being violently separated from their mothers.

To me, tranquilizing a rhino to cut its horn is just as horrific as dragging a dairy cow onto a truck as if it wasn’t a being with emotions and feelings, after it spent its life confined to small stall, giving milk, and suffering the loss of each baby she birthed.

Killing an elephant with an AK-47 to sever its tusks for ivory is just as heinous as putting a bullet in the horse’s head when he failed to perform on the racetrack.

Raising tigers on farms to harvest their parts to sell them on the black market is equally as detestable as confining pregnant sows to gestation crates.

There’s the argument that elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers and other endangered wildlife need our protection because of the role they play in the eco-system. While I agree, I just can’t fathom the notion of seemingly animal loving conservationists and others who don’t extend the compassion to their dinner plates.

I’ve been blessed to be in the presence of the above animals in the wild, and I hope and pray that they get to live forever. However, I have also been in the pleasant company of farm animals. I dare those who say these animals don’t matter as much as the others to look into their eyes and feel their souls, connect with their emotions, and not get inspired to protect them too.

Here’s to a better world, where all animals are treated equally.

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, Fodor’s, Forbes, USA Today and many more in a career spanning ten years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

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