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Freya The Walrus And Our Hearts Of Stone

This summer in Norway Freya the itinerant and sole Atlantic Walrus became a celebrity. She swam from the Arctic to Norway where she quickly became a fascination for people– all 1,300 pounds of her.

Traveling Norway’s jagged coastline Freya (a young female) attracted crowds of onlookers. She heaved her 1,300-pound body onto boats, sinking smaller ones.

She delighted people who came to stare at her. She was a curiosity and a wonder.

And Freya too seemed curious about people. Normally walruses are social animals who remain in herds and don’t travel alone. Freya did not act in a way expected of a wild animal.

Perhaps Freya was just a little different than the rest. She stood out from the herd. She was beautiful. She sunbathed and swam. She loved her life from her.

She captured the hearts of many Norwegians who came to see her at the Oslo Fjord in recent weeks. They tried to take selfies with her and swim with her. It was really (and isn’t it always?) all about them.

Curiosity is a marvelous thing. It is sparked by interest and a desire to learn more. It is nurtured by a sense of awe. It seemed that for a moment in time, human and marine mammal co-existed in harmonious and mutual curiosity.

What Freya didn’t know was that curiosity kills the cat (or the walrus). She was oblivious to the fact that humans are almost always violent in the face of a seemingly insurmountable problem.

And Freya was becoming an issue for authorities, despite her status as a protected species. Worried that her presence of her might inadvertently result in human death, Freya was shot.


She was shot stone dead.

And there is no coming back for Freya, despite funds being raised to erect a statue of her.

On Sunday Freya was ‘put down’ (or really murdered) by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. It has been a very unpopular decision for many people both in Norway and globally who are upset by her tragic death.

And isn’t that the problem with authorities? They manifest power over animals in diffuse and disturbing ways. And they justify it in the name of some sort of human endeavor.

Yet the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries are not the only ones to blame. They had warned people to leave her alone. But people came in droves, disregarding this advice. They threw objects into the water, and they tried to swim with her. Authorities believed she posed a threat to people, and that her welfare was being weakened by lack of rest.

The very people who came to see Freya also killed her by refusing to give her the space she needed.

And isn’t that the problem with humans? We act in selfish ways, determined that our experience on Earth is more important than that of other species.

We are arrogant in our posture over animals. We believe we have power over them to determine their right to live. When a problem arises, the most common solution is to kill them. Their individuality holds no concern.

This cold and monstrous attitude has played out time and again when humans and animals meet. And it is always the fault of humans.

Remember Marius the giraffe? He was shot at Copenhagen Zoo on Feb 7, 2014. He was killed without mercy and fed to the lions because he was genetically unsuitable for future breeding programmes.

Again in 2016 Harambe, a 17-year-old male gorilla, was shot and killed after a child fell into his enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.

These animals do not belong in captivity in the first place. They belong in the wild. It is their world as much as it is ours – perhaps more so as they are not destroying it in the way humans are.

An attitude of genuine respect for animals is largely lacking due to a human posture of superiority. Animal lives are almost always regarded as expendable.

This highlights a larger and less obvious issue. Humans are wiping out most of the wild animals on Earth due to global economic capitalist expansion. Loss of forest cover, plastic in the ocean, climate change and pollution are just some of the major environmental issues generated by an exploitative global economy.

And it’s all leading to decimation of wildlife populations.

A recent report by WWF states that the population sizes of wildlife has decreased by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014. It’s a runaway train, and it’s taking amphibians, mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, insects and walruses with it. And it isn’t coming back.

So buckle up, because when this train crashes it isn’t going to be much fun.

Human survival is dependent on a thriving biodiverse world. Biodiversity is important for healthy ecosystems which in turn provide a liveable climate, fresh water, energy needs and breathable air.

Let’s stop this train if we can – if it isn’t too late already – and transform our attitude toward the natural world and the animals that make it up.

For they were here before us in their many forms, and we cannot be separated.

Humans are a contradiction. We are naked apes with huge and complicated brains coupled with problematic and narcissistic behaviours. We are also naked apes with compassion and love.

We are a hopeless mess, and it is hurting other species on the planet in unprecedented ways.

We should have used our big brains to find a solution that prioritizes Freya’s life.

We should have protected her.

Next time let’s act from a place of empathy. We need to leave animals like Freya alone. She didn’t deserve to die.

© Scoop Media


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