Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why do we fear being eaten when we are more likely to die from what we eat?

Laura feeds some lambs. (Not only is Laura having a good time, she's doing something kind for some non-humans and she's entered the SAT Shark Girl Giveaway - see details below).
An interesting thought for the day...

All of this discussion about Shark Girl has me thinking about humans before we were on top of the food chain. Humans evolved as and with animals, as predators as well as prey…and even though we fear being eaten by something (e.g. loads of people are disproportionately scared of sharks, yet humans are far more likely to consume sharks than the other way around), the truth is that most of us are now more likely to die from mundane activities like overeating, or eating the wrong stuff.

Why haven't our fears caught up with our urban existence?

This passage, highlighted from a chapter by David Fraser, says it nicely.

“Science is an important source of beliefs within our culture, but it is only one source. It is also a relatively recent source which so far has dealt with only some of the questions that concern us. Science has greatly reshaped our beliefs about how to prevent infectious diseases but has told us remarkably little about how to prevent feelings of guilt; science has reshaped our thinking about the movement of stars but has left our understanding of love and ambition largely to the realm of literature.
And in some cases, the insights that we gain from science are slow to enter popular understanding perhaps because they seem less immediate than ideas that can be passed on in art, literature and the media. Thus, for example, people may avoid camping in bear habitat because of a traditional fear of wild animals, but continue in activities such as over-eating which (science indicates) involve much greater risks.” - David Fraser, 2008.
(NB Full credit to Dr Pauleen Bennett for pointing out this reference – about the history of our perception of animals – in the Centre for Veterinary Education’s Animal WelfareCourse).

Sutcliffe: minimal handling, an appropriate heat gradient, natural sunshine, close observation and assisted feeding with a bit of Hill's a/d. So far he seems to be responding well.
Thank you to all those readers who have asked after Sutcliffe the baby central bearded dragon. Yes, he is doing well and getting stronger, though natural UVB light in Sydney in winter is hard to come by! We're making the most of every sliver of sunshine (and he also has a UV light though we know not to rely completely on those). 

Meantime entries for the SAT Shark Girl DVD giveaway are trickling in. You have until August 21 to send us your entry – a photo of you helping out a non-human or several. For all the details click here

If you're interested in the ethics around zoo animals, free-ranging wildlife and captive wildlife, there is a thought-provoking lecture (divided into three parts) by Dr Dorothy McKeegan online. Check it out: part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here - allow about 20 minutes for each section).


Fraser D (2008) Understanding Animal Welfare: The Science in its Cultural Context. UFAW, Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford.