Ed Wood was never so profound as in that profound snippet of dialogue from “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”
Last week a female dolphin was washed up on the sand at Quintana Beach County Park in Texas. According to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which posted about the incident on Facebook, beach-goers discovered the distressed sea mammal and, not having a clue what they were doing, tried to push it back out into the ocean. Then some of the morons attempted to ride the creature, which soon ended up back on the beach. Again stranded, it was harassed by the crowd that had gathered until it expired. By the time rescuers arrived to take care of it, officials said, it was too late.
“This type of harassment causes undue stress to wild dolphins, is dangerous for the people who interact with them and is illegal — punishable by fines and jail time if convicted,” the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said.
What’s the matter with people? I don’t understand this kind of sick incident, and there are a lot of them. Human ethical systems don’t apply neatly to the treatment of animals, but they a basic understanding of them still helps. We can’t understand how animals think, but the Golden Rule isn’t completely useless: my late mother in law, when she saw a grand daughter pulling a cat’s tail, yanked the girls’ hair, hard, and said, “Do you like that? No? Then don’t do things to animals you don’t like.” If you were exhausted, terrified and stranded on a strange beach, would you want someone to try to ride you?
This shouldn’t be hard.
Kant comes in useful too: using an animal as a means to a selfish end should at least ping one’s ethics alarms. If the human need is genuine and serious, then we are in the realm of balancing and utilitarianism. Harassing and teasing a wild animal in stress for human amusement can’t be justified ethically. The Hippocratic Oath is also germane: when dealing with animals in the wild, first do no harm.
Then there is basic humility and common sense: if you encounter a distressed animal in the wild and don’t happen to be the reincarnation of Steve Irwin or Marlin Perkins, leave the creature alone and find someone qualified to help.
This story has upset me all day. I hope they can track down those dolphin abusers, fine the daylights out of them, and then lock them in a room where every episode of “Flipper” is playing on a loop.