Please Don't Feed the Animals

I went to a park the other day where a ranger was “on patrol”. I saw a sign that said, “Please do not feed the animals.” I thought it strange. Why, I wondered, should we allow the animals to go hungry when we have a tremendous abundance of food with much of it going to waste. I wondered why we should NOT feed the animals.

I queried the ranger, “Why NOT feed the animals. It looks like they could use a bit of food.”

The ranger replied, “Well, there are MANY reasons. One reason is that we have many visitors here each year. If all the visitors routinely fed the animals, they would grow quite fat. Also, they would not have to forage for their food, and would become dependent upon the visitors for food. They would ‘forget’ how to forage for themselves and lose their independence. Not only that, but they learn to eschew their natural food and prefer ‘human’ food—which is not healthy for them. Also, since they don’t forage, they don’t get exercise, they develop health problems, and die early because of the improper diet and lack of exercise.

“If they become accustomed to being fed by the visitors, they will EXPECT to be fed by the visitors. As such, any visitor that did NOT give them food would disappoint them. A disappointed animal is a dangerous animal. The animal might well attack to secure the food to which he expects and believes he is ‘entitled’. This is not particularly hazardous if the animal is a squirrel—a bear is another story. Raccoons “vandalizing” garbage cans are quite common.

“If visitors were allowed to give out food, animals from all over would migrate here. The area would be overrun with various animals—which would lead to territorial fights among the animals. As more and more animals migrated and the supply of food remained constant, the animals would become very aggressive in their demands for food.

“Feeding such animals is fine if they are in some form of ‘captivity’, where the amount and type of food can be controlled, but it is not a good idea to feed such animals in the wild when they are free—particularly when the type and amount of food cannot be controlled.

“If an animal is injured in some manner, we often take them in and care for them and feed them—but it is strictly a temporary measure. We cut them off from dependency as soon as possible and place them back in their natural habitat.”

I asked the ranger if it wasn’t something like a “co-alcoholic”—a person that lives with and/or supports an alcoholic in his behavior. The support may be financial or moral or other, but it allows the alcoholic to continue to lead a destructive life. I asked, “When we feed the animals, is it that we do it to ‘feel good’ about OURSELVES that we are doing ‘something charitable’ by feeding the animals, when in fact we are doing great damage to their lives?”

The ranger agreed with me and said that in his opinion I was correct.

I left the park thinking about what I had seen and my conversation with the ranger. As I drove out the park entrance, a “street person” was there with a “please help” sign. I reached for my wallet for some money to assist this person in need when I recalled my conversation with the ranger. In a moment of insight, it was clear to me that I should NOT give this person money. In doing so, I was simply allowing this person to lead the kind of life he was leading—I was being a “co-alcoholic”. I was “Feeding the animals”.

I did not give the person money. Instead, I thought about our whole welfare system and the way is works (or does NOT work). It became clear to me that we are encouraging generation after generation to become dependent. They are essentially a slave to the welfare system. In some sense, they are in captivity.

I thought about the “families” of three and four generations of welfare recipients—many obese—living in poverty; people that have been “trained” to ask for “handouts” and have never learned how to “forage” for themselves.

I thought about the people in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina that had no ability or desire to fend for themselves and simply waited for the government to provide a handout and save them.

I thought about the “migration” of welfare recipients to various states where the welfare benefits are most generous—in particular to major cities in certain states. (Where the various politicians court their votes.)

I thought about how, as more and more people are receiving “subsidies”, each segment becomes more and more aggressive in their “claim” to “their share”.

I thought about the “demands” of the welfare recipients, the riots, the “welfare rights” organizations, the demonstrations, the court cases, and thought, “The similarities are so great they cannot be ignored.”

I thought about the “War on Poverty”, and wondered about the “exit strategy”, or the “definition of victory”.

I thought about all these things and thought, “What have we done through a mistaken notion of benevolence? In a sense, we have not only accepted inappropriate behavior and dependency, but we have encouraged and solicited it for our own purposes. We have been ‘co-alcoholics’ to these people. We have not helped them; we have domesticated them.”

May God forgive us.

Anthony De Maio

October 29, 2009