The natural world works on a very simple basis; it is the survival of the fittest. It just so happens that the fittest tend to have draftthe sharpest teeth and claws and a tendency to hunt their prey in a brutal fashion. Nature is red in tooth and claw, not green in cuddly hugs.
When Mrs G was watching the amazing TV series ‘Frozen Planet’ she remarked:
The Killer Whales came and I got scared they were going to munch on some penguins, but they didn’t. I don’t think I can watch Frozen Planet by myself; I’ll keep tensing up for the sad seal scene. (alliteration!) Being the tender soul I am, it’s watching the suffering that just makes things unbearable for me…they should be taught not to play with their food.
But nature is mean, and dirty, and predators don’t play fair or care about human feelings.
Especially mammals, they have a great capacity for learning and teamwork. They have the ability to bring down animals much larger then themselves by hunting in packs. Whether it is a pod of orcas hunting a baby whale or a pride of lions tackling an elephant, they will attack with a viciousness that has been evolutionarily driven.
If they were less aggressive than other species around them then there is the chance they would go hungry, and if they and their offspring die of hunger then they would go extinct. The same as if they were too aggressive and ate all their prey they would die out as well. They are as brutal in their hunting technique as nature will allow.
Yet is it really brutal? Are these animals displaying a streak of cruelty? Is being red in tooth and claw also vicious? You could argue that spending an hour hunting down a seal cub and then tossing it around is just a form of cetacean bullying. If what they are doing is intentional cruelty, then that suggests they have some form of higher conscience.
It is known that animals can feel pain and pleasure, but can it be that they can also show malice? Or is what they are doing is just in their nature, is it in effect just play. In the same way that a toddler does not have a developed sense of morality but does know what is fun. If the orcas are enjoying themselves spinning around a piece of ice while hunting does this makes them cruel?
Applying our own sense of right and wrong is not a valid argument for the true nature of…well nature. There the weak die, the strong survive. Wolves do not fall out with each other because someone stole your boyfriend, there is not a schism within the lion world because they believe in a different divine felinity. Great White’s do not bite of your leg just because you looked at them funny.
The orcas are doing what they do because it has benefitted them over their evolutionary history; they cannot be encouraged to be more civil to their prey because they have no concept of civility. There is no Killer Whale preaching being kind to their fellow dolphin.
In the end we shouldn’t anthropomorphise them…killer whales are not our equals…they are better than us.
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