COMICS AND ANIMAL CONSERVATION

AMBER LOVE 30-JULY-2015 The thoughtless murder of Cecil the lion and five elephants has been in the news this week. Cecil is getting most of the coverage because he was a known lion being tracked for a study. Others have asked why we’re concerned for animals when cops are killing fellow living humans and then the far-right is trying to steer the Cecil dialog to be about abortion. I left the internet the day the Cecil news broke because the links’ thumbnail previews were of the bloody slaughtered animal (luckily before he was skinned but those came out later).

GreenHumor

When I returned to the internet, I found that people were posting majestic photos of Cecil and any lion. The Milwaukee lioness (#MKElion) that is on the loose has been chased by officers; someone shot a dog by mistake during this. I also found the African-American activists who I follow on Twitter had changed all their avatars to lions and saying they’ll wear lion costumes so they don’t get shot by American police and citizens like George Zimmerman. That asshole was also in the news this week claiming he was broke and homeless despite having crowdfunded a lot of money for killing a black teen, Trayvon Martin.

Basically, this week is no different in being all about murder. The difference is that now wildlife has been brought into what’s already been discussed. Wildlife is not an equitable argument to living humans or fetuses or cells that haven’t even attached to the uterus or legally donated stem cells (which save lives). But the energy of anger, hate, and sorrow get thrown into a blender and turned on high. The reason the ecology is important is because all humans need it whether you think you’re affected by apex predators or not. Even animals that aren’t apex, like the honeybee, need our help.

Big game hunting is sadly legal for one-percenters. They justify the bounty because the thousands of dollars they pay allegedly goes to conservation. The NJ Bear hunt is for middle class hunters as was the Great Lakes wolf hunt that removed the grey wolf from protected status in order to kill them for sport. And let’s not forget the aristocratic, legal fox hunts. There are now 156 organized clubs in North America and Canada. England is finally talking about putting a ban on  fox hunts.

At least Shark Week gets people interested in the MILLIONS of apex sharks killed each year; also finning bans and finning prohibitions are not the same thing. If you’re pissed off about the lions, elephants and rhinos hunted for sport not food, your American governments conduct hunts on non-food animals all the time. They consider it pest control. So, you should be upset about the lion killed and the elephant poachers. You should be upset about all kinds of things related to animals like factory farming conditions and the lies about “free range” labels. If you sat down to a chicken dinner the night Cecil’s murder broke, you aren’t all that concerned for animals, in my opinion. Humane slaughterhouses and farms don’t get the news coverage as those that are horribly inhumane, but your food is still dying and not all of it is from Earth-healthy sources. I’m no angel either. I still eat eggs. I’ve given up almost every kind of animal food, but eggs are my lazy vice. I can make them in ten minutes and be eating something mindlessly.

For my own sanity, not that there’s much left, I need to streamline all these subjects into their own issue. I won’t butt into the conversations of people that think talking about lions and elephants negates their experiences and reasons for being angry at everything else going on. I’m separating the wildlife preservation talk to share a couple things that relate to pop culture because it can be a way to cope or for you to share when explaining the conservation problems to younger people.

PRIDE OF BAGHDAD

PrideBaghdad

I read PRIDE OF BAGHDAD a long time ago and I unfortunately don’t have an in-depth review of it. I remember a couple of key things about this story by Brian K. Vaughan. First was the beautiful art by Niko Henrichon. I don’t have my copy anymore and suspect it was part of my possessions that “got lost” (aka, stolen) by movers; but I believe Henrichon also did the coloring and it was gorgeous. The entire book was a visual masterpiece. Then I was struck even more. It wasn’t until the heartbreaking end when I was sobbing that I realized it was based on a true story about the Baghdad Zoo and American soldiers. NPR has a short interview with Vaughan from 2006 so you can learn more about it.

“In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD raises questions about the true meaning of liberation — can it be given, or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity?Based on a true story, Vaughan and Henrichon have created a unique and heartbreaking window into the nature of life during wartime, illuminating this struggle as only the graphic novel can.” ~Vertigo Comics

XOC: THE JOURNEY OF A GREAT WHITE SHARK

XOC-cvr oni matt dembicki shark

XOC: THE JOURNEY OF A GREAT WHITE was a graphic novel that fed into my lifelong fascination with sharks. I didn’t read much as a child, but I loved books with pictures. I had a small shark handbook that I used to read bit by bit about the sharks I found most interesting. I loved that I knew a fact about one of them before Shark Week hosts mentioned it. When I was at a comic book shop event where several creators were signing and meeting people, I spotted this book on one of the tables. Lo and behold, the creator of the book, Matt Dembicki was there and I got to enjoy a personal conversation with this person who made a comic book about the very subject I loved. Later, I reached out to Dembicki and had him on the Vodka O’Clock podcast as a guest to talk about this incredible book. It’s educational without being dry or boring. The marine life creatures aren’t huge caricatures in personality like FINDING NEMO. It’s toned down, but still anthropomorphized to narrate the journey of a female Great White who needs to migrate to give birth.

This week, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld California’s shark fin ban. However, the United States already had a ban back in 2000 signed by President Clinton. It prohibits ships with the U.S. flag from possessing fins; other ships with shark carcasses on board and coming into a U.S. port must meet a weight requirement where the fins are not more than five percent of the dead shark weight.

A DANGEROUS LIFE

ADangerousLifeCover_SheilaHamanaka

Here’s one that I haven’t read, but it made the news. It’s a comic about the ivory trade called A DANGEROUS LIFE. It’s written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka and published by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“It is important that young people all over the world understand the true cost of ivory in innocent elephant lives,” remarked AWI President Cathy Liss.“ Just as we were about to present this book to the Library of Congress, we received the devastating news that Satao, one of Kenya’s most beloved elephants, had been felled by poachers who coveted his famously massive tusks. We need the world to know that this is happening and that we must not only support strong enforcement, but cut off demand. It is our hope that A Dangerous Life will educate and inspire its young readers to become advocates for elephants and do their part to help society turn away from ivory.” ~AWI online

Virginia Democrat, Jim Moran, former U.S. Representative has been honored for his dedicating some of his political career to conversation, honest labeling of products, and sponsoring bills to end dog and cock fighting, among other achievements. Moran was at the book launch for A DANGEROUS LIFE. President Obama was recently in Kenya and discussed the ivory problem. He announced U.S. bans on ivory trade. – something I thought we did decades ago.

PHOTO: CATHY LISS, AWI
PHOTO: CATHY LISS, AWI

LOVE: THE TIGER

FREDERICO BERTOLUCCI
FREDERICO BERTOLUCCI

Another new book that I haven’t gotten to read is LOVE: THE TIGER by French writer Frédéric Brrémaud and Italian artist Federico Bertolucci. Book reviewer John R. Platt at TakePart.com said, “The book, which was recently released in the United States, contains no dialogue, narration, or sound effects. It is told completely through action, like a silent movie.” Published by Magnetic Press, LOVE: THE TIGER is part of series. The absence of dialog at least means there are no translations to go through.

“LOVE: The Tiger won the Special Jury Awards at the 2011 Lucca Comics Festival, and is the first of several volumes focusing on a different wild animal in a different natural environment.  LOVE: The Fox (coming in Fall’15) explores woodland wildlife, while LOVE: The Lion (Winter’15) focuses on life in the Serengeti.” ~Magnetic Press

LOVE-PLANCHE-2-718x1024Feel free to post information about other comics that help bring awareness to animal conservation issues. I look forward to seeing what others are out there.