Nonno Panda and the Killer Whale
One day I got lost in the dark wood, unable to find the right way… around the zoo.
I happened to be passing by the big pool. Seeing that there were no humans around, I thought I’d say hello to my big friend, the Orcinus Orca.
I ventured cautiously into her area, but there was no sign of any swimming mammal.
“Gosh!” I wondered. “Have they moved her to a bigger pool?” I decided to turn back.
All of a sudden I heard a noise of splashing water behind me but it was too late to do anything about it. Basically I got drenched. “I knew it!” I shouted. “You always do that to me! I should never turn my back on you!”
Orca was looking pretty amused, but I was not amused!
“C’mon, Nonno Panda, don’t be like that! It was just a joke!”
“It’s an old joke, my dear, and a boring one too,” I said, as I tried to shake myself dry.
“I have to get some fun out of this big bath I live in, and you were the perfect opportunity,” she said, giggling.
“And you start a water-bomb fight at the expense of a friend who comes in peace to see you?” I was very cross, but my anger began to fade as I started to think she might have a point. There was not much room in that big pool for a poor whale to swish around. Orcas are quite a hyperactive bunch and need a lot of space to move around in. Otherwise, they get frustrated. But I suppose that’s the same for any animal.
“C’mon, Nonno Panda, sit on the pool edge and talk to me,” she said, looking at me with her usual puppy eyes.
I tried to put myself in her shoes. Would I really be as Zen as I am, if I was confined in such a small space? Of course not! Space is important for any animal – that’s why we get so territorial. It’s just that humans don’t understand that. So they rationalise away any dysfunctional behaviour caused by a lack of space by calling it “stress.”
So I didn’t let my anger take over. Taking a big breath, I sat down on the pool’s edge.
“So, what’s up with you?” I asked.
“Oh, Nonno Panda, I’m so sick and tired of living in this place, eating those horrible dead fish they feed me – you can’t imagine!”
“I thought you liked entertaining families and their kids?”
She replied with a quizzical look.
“I do?” she said ” Nonno, what am I supposed to do? Have you any idea what it feels like knowing I’m capable of swimming the seven seas but ending cooped-up in a wet concentration camp like this? This is like a tiny pond for me. Am I making the best of it? I try! Have I got any choice in the matter? No, but sometimes I could kill a human if I vented all my frustration.”
“You wouldn’t do that, would you?” I asked her, worried.
“Well, sometimes I think it’s the only way for humans to realise the conditions we’re being kept in. But don’t worry, I won’t ever do that. I’ve thought of another way,” the Orca said to me with a wink.
I always get uncomfortable when she winks at me like that, as I never know what she means, and I voiced my concern. “What are you plotting then?”
Orca avoided my question by launching herself back into the pool, but then turned around and came back towards me.
“I’m thinking of taking legal action against humans,” she said tentatively and backed away, fearing my reaction.
“What? Are you out of your mind?” I said, unable to hide my surprise. Once she’d edged closer to me again, I leaned over and began stroking her nose to try to get her to see sense.
“Dear friend, I told you not to watch those soap operas on the TV screens you can see through the glass room at the bottom of the aquarium. They’re there to keep the parents entertained when the kids pretend they’re in deep water, looking up at you from down below.”
“Well, they always talk about the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the country in every form. Why shouldn’t that also apply to animals?” she said, totally convinced of her point.
“Because the Constitution is something made by humans for humans, that’s why!” I replied. I felt she was getting a bit carried away. “Holy Nature! You see how dangerous it is to watch telly these days! I can understand you getting bored in this pool but taking on the 13th amendment might be a step too far, don’t you think?”
“Well, it’s too late. I’ve already given instructions to my lawyer, and he says he thinks I have a strong case,” she replied, with immense pride.
“You’ve hired a lawyer?!?” I was almost in shock. “Well! That’s as may be, but are you aware that even if you’ve found a lawyer to take on your case, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. That’s the way most unscrupulous lawyers make their money – because you’ll have to pay costs, regardless,” I said, irritated with her for being so naive. I was trying to get her to use her brains, if she had any left. We animals cannot really, fully understand the terms and conditions they add on in that small print, full of those legal words deliberately included by legal departments in order to turn simple things into a nightmare for the gullible, and guarantee a fat cheque for them. Orca, though, didn’t seem to be bothered by any of these considerations at all.
“Nonno Panda, don’t you think I’ve thought of all that already? I’m paying my lawyer on a no-win-no-fee basis.” I gulped at her answer – she obviously had not thought things through.
“So what’s the name of your lawyer then?” I was curious to find out who exactly this man was, as I had an idea she was having me on. “Perry” she said smiling. “Perry Mason” The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
She carried on going through what he’d told her about the case he might be able to make. “He claims that the fact they captured me in the ocean, then transferred me into this pool where I’m made an exhibit in front of people is enough to be considered as slavery which is against the law in a civilised country. So Mason is going to request for me to have a jury filled with members of PETA and that I should be released into an environment like a sea park where I can move freely and meet other orcas like me. The Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution stated on December 6, 1865, that all slavery was to be abolished in all States United territories who signed the agreement.”
I guess she had a point. But knowing how important a written constitution is for humans, as I read it myself in order to understand the human character, I tried to explain to her the Constitution uses the phrase “we the people,” and that doesn’t include “we the animals.” That might make a huge difference for the jury, even if it was made up of these PETA people.
“Who are they anyway?” I asked, since she kept dropping this name into the conversation, as if with them aboard she would be sure of victory.
“They’re part of an organisation of People that campaign for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (go to www.peta.org if you want to find out more)” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong” I explained to her. “It’s not that I don’t want to see you free. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. Why don’t you apply for the rehab scheme instead? It’s a much more viable course of action. You know how humans like to send people to rehab. Maybe you’ll have more luck with that, and the end result would be the same, without you getting stressed out. Because how would you survive a court hearing?”
“Yeah, rehab! The magic word these days! Funny how humans get you hooked on something, force you into cages – or in my case a pool – and leave you to rot there for years till their sense of religious guilt takes over. Then, just when the animals are getting comfortably high with their new way of living, the rehab fanfare is sounded. ‘Must get the animals back into the wild!’ So they get traumatised once again, having to readjust to another new environment.
“What about prevention?” She started to stand up in the middle of the pool waving her fins almost as if she was on the campaign. “That’s what I’m talking about. I want to expose the hypocrisy of humans. And if the only way to stop animals being captured is to enforce preventative measures, then so be it! Prevention is the buzz word. It’ll stop you being rehabbed. It would save a lot of money, which, in the current economic crises, would benefit one and all. I want to open that Pandora’s Box, so that animal rights are included in the Constitution. That way, any zoo and any environment where animals are used and abused would be made illegal in the States United. It’s a class action, to force humans to be more considerate with us.”
I was speechless. Where did she learn to talk like that? She had quite an imposing presence when she stood up straight; she almost looked like a preacher with her black and white colours. What she said made sense, but how could she expect humans to be forced to respect animals by legislation when they weren’t even capable of respecting each other? That was my fundamental argument, and I tried to put it across to her, but she seemed unable to listen to reason. She was adamant she was going to make the whole of the States United aware of the problem.
She performed well, following her instructions to the letter. That kind of indoctrination saddened me though, however hard I tried to make her see sense. I explained that some zoos actually protect some animal species that would be otherwise extinct in the world. She took it as if I didn’t want her to be free. She was behaving like a politician who feels they have discovered the ideal way to change the world. Although there is some truth in being an activist, my approach has always been to find a solution to any conflict by peaceful means; fundamentalism never helps in achieving that.
So I wished her good luck with her crusade and went on my way, pondering on how gullible we animals can be to think that humans have our best interests at heart. I just hoped that Orcinus Orca would not fall prey to those sharks known as human lawyers.