Why Do You Turn the Cameras Off?
That's the question I am frequently asked, but the real question should be, "why do you have LIVE web cams?" I'll answer both.
If it were up to me there would be LIVE webcams broadcasting every aspect of what we do, 24/7, and no matter what was happening, they would continue to stream the truth out to the world. That's because I believe that complete transparency builds trust by letting people see, with their own eyes, everything that is involved in the keeping of wild cats in cages. Those who want to know the truth will watch and learn and become our greatest allies in the freedom fight to end the practice of breeding exotic cats for life in prison. Those who prefer to pass around cute cub photos and purposely blind themselves to the reality of those cubs' lives, are not the people who are going to help save them, or the planet, anyway.
I think that seeing the things no one else shows you, gives you the power to decide what is right and what is wrong. I think it's necessary for you to see every aspect of what it means to be a captive and to understand why no captive born big cat can ever be set free. You need to see the struggle our keepers go through, every day, to assist cats who have become so debilitated, by the fact that they were ripped from their moms early in life, and didn't get proper nutrition. You should be able to watch those cats struggle every day to eat enough food and drink enough water, or get frozen blood to hydrate them, so that you are empowered to speak out against the evils of cub handling. You should be able to see that even though some of the cats are skinny, lame or missing limbs or eyes.
When a cat is on the surgery table, in the Windsong Memorial Hospital, you should be right there with us, experiencing the heart rending decisions that have to balance what veterinary medicine can do vs. what it should do for the benefit of the cat. There is an old saying, "when all you got are hammers, all your problems look like nails." Thanks to advances in science and medicine we can prolong life in many ways, but who are we doing it for? At Big Cat Rescue we have only ONE determining factor when choosing a heroic measure to save or extend a life vs euthanasia and that is the quality of life for the cat.
We stream LIVE from the West Boensch recovery hospital too. You watch with us to see the days, weeks and sometimes months of recovery, so that you have an idea how we weigh the trauma of intensive care against the future quality of life a cat may be able to experience. Every day and night, as we watch the cat trying to rebound, we are encouraged and yet there is always that huge question in our minds as to whether or not this will prove worth it to the cat. Is this the choice they would make if they could tell us?
Sometimes the cats do tell us, that despite our best efforts, they aren't willing to keep fighting. Sometimes we discover in surgery, or from blood work or other diagnostics, that there is no happy ending in sight, and we make the sad decision to euthanize. Even when we know it was the kindest thing to do, it is never easy.
So why do we turn the cameras off sometimes?
There are a number of reasons, but most of them involve the fact that I don't speak for all of us. Animal abusers want desperately to silence us and they can count on many people being lazy, self centered and prone to ignore anything that doesn't support their fantasy of being able to kiss and hug wild animals. These cub pimps will take our words out of context, or tightly crop an image of a cage to make it look like our cats live in cramped quarters. They gleefully share lies about how our cats die in an effort to stir up a frenzy of hatred toward us. They will replay, over and over and over, a brief snippet of a situation to make it look as if the cat were not being given expert care. I've been the target of their hate campaigns for more than 20 years, so it doesn't upset me, because I know that when they send their minions, to post fake one star reviews, that a good number of those people will eventually learn the truth and will become staunch supporters of a ban on the private possession of exotic cats.
To me, it's worth it and the best defense is to be completely open. It doesn't bother me that some people never get it because I believe we are all evolving and becoming more enlightened. I think we are all on the same path, just different points along the road. Given my underlying philosophy, it's easy for me to be forgiving and to never let the bad things people do or say touch my heart. For some others of my team, I think it's harder to be unjustly criticized. It's hard for them to have people judge them, who don't know their struggles and the thousands of bits of information that go into every tough decision out here.
I know our vets often despair at the accusatory things people say during medical procedures about when they do or don't don gloves, or how long it's taking them to stitch up a wound, or why they are talking about things unrelated to the task at hand, or what their hair looks like; it just goes on and on. They are already under intense stress, usually having worked all day at their real jobs, then coming here to assist with a life threatening situation, involving a cat they have known and loved for years, and then you add on the LIVE webcams in the room and it's no wonder they feel such pressure. The very fact that they allow all of the filming, the frequent media presence and the LIVE streaming is a testament to their dedication. They are the practitioners of healing and saving lives, so I think there is a sense of failure that goes along with ending a life, even though they know it's the right thing to do. That becomes a very personal moment for them and the keepers in the room who are all part of that decision.
I turn off the cameras when it becomes apparent that death is probably going to be what comes next. There have been plenty of times that I was wrong and you missed some pretty amazing comebacks from the cats, but there are usually non LIVE cameras rolling that bring that to you soon after. As soon as we have dealt with the situation we always reach out to you to let you know what happened. We will continue to do that because you should have all the facts in order to make good decisions. We hope that you will use the knowledge you gain to help us kindly educate others so that we can work together to save our planet's wild spaces for the wild creatures who call those places home.