Activists, Martinets, and a Forbidden Love


Two news items caught my eye last week, concerning “animal rights” activists and nanny-state wildlife officials, and what they want to do to us and to our animal friends.

One told the tale of animal rights activists calling for the death of a baby polar bear in the Berlin Zoo. Knut, the cub, was ignored by his mother at birth, and zoo officials stepped in to save him, feeding him formula from a bottle, petting him, and playing with him. But the German animal rights activist Frank Albrecht disapproved of this, and said "Feeding by hand is not species-appropriate but a gross violation of animal protection laws. The zoo must kill the bear. If a polar bear mother rejected the baby, then I believe the zoo must follow the instincts of nature. In the wild, it would have been left to die.”

The other article related the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of a Texas woman for “receiving and transporting federally protected animals across state lines.” Amelia Rasmussen bought two ocelots in California and took them to her wildlife conservation ranch in Nixon, Texas. For this, she was fined $15,000 and given one year of probation. Oh yes – she was also ordered to pay $25 to a court fund for crime victims. (Hunh? What is that about?)

These stories reminded me of an event that occurred about a year and a half ago, less than an hour’s drive from my home. Two dirt-poor, noble mountain men, after being ratted out by neighbors, were forced by our glorious leaders to give up to captivity their beloved bear, “Windfall,” whom they had raised from orphanhood. If you are willing to break your own heart, read on, from an AP story printed in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard on October 31, 2005:

For nine days, Rocky and Jonathan Perkett heard a lone black bear cub wail from its hiding spot in a Coos County logging site.

They could drop a tree on it or rescue it. They chose the latter and for two years the bear was like family. But when the authorities got wind of it, there was trouble a-bruin.

The father and son named her Windfall and raised it for two years.

The men shared pizza and Dr Pepper with the bear and gave her free reign of their home in the woods outside Coos Bay.

The bear slept in Jonathan Perkett’s bed, took showers and even had her hair blow-dried, Rocky Perkett says.

“We’re not lying about it,” says Rocky Perkett, 54, in his thick backwoods drawl. “We lived with her. We loved her. We treated her like a daughter.”

But that kind of love is illegal in Oregon, and last week police raided their home and took Windfall.

The men face possible charges for holding the bear without permits and in an unlicensed facility.

The incident pits the heartstrings of some animal lovers against state statutes meant to keep wild creatures in the wild.

“The law says you can’t hold wild animals in any way,” says Wildlife Administrator Ron Anglin of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s illegal to transport a bear without a permit,” Anglin says. “Nobody’s going to take you to task over that if you take it to town, call the ODFW and report it. (But) you can’t take it home.”

[emphasis mine]

A later story printed in The World, Coos Bay, Oregon, November 30, 2005 told how Ron Anglin, Division Administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, wasn’t ruling out euthanasia for Windfall. He said: “From my perspective, all options are open. No decisions have been made to euthanize – but you never say never.” The article went on to tell that the Perketts faced a possible $6,250 fine and a year in jail for their offense against the state of Oregon.

Shortly thereafter, The Medford Mail-Tribune spoke of the Perketts’ plan to recover their bear. These impoverished men had decided to try to build a state-approved facility on their 1.5-acre rural property to house Windfall and other orphaned bears. Rocky Perkett, the father of Jonathan, said: “Me and my boy would like to make a lifelong career out of taking care of bears. We love bears, and bears seem to love us.” Of Windfall, he said: “We loved her. We treated her like she was a member of our family. We'd like the whole world to see her and share the love she gave to me and Jonathan.”

Well, Windfall was lucky enough to be given a cage in the Merced, California Zoo, thus escaping being slain by the state, and her human family got off with a small fine for “unlawful possession of wildlife.” Nonetheless, the scars remain. The state and world press dropped the story at that point, but my local paper did a follow-up late last summer. It seems that those poor mountain men are still trying to get her back. Here is an excerpt from the article “Bond remains for Windfall’s former owner” by Drew Atkins, The World, Coos Bay, Oregon, September 12, 2006:

Perkett said that he had no plans to visit Windfall at the zoo. He said he would not go until he had formed a nonprofit organization, built a 1-acre enclosure, and received permission to take Windfall back to Oregon under his care.

"We’re trying to wait, because when we go down there, we want to bring her home with us, back to where she’s from," said Perkett. "If we go and have to leave, it’ll be upsetting for us and for her. Bears never forget people, they say. It’d be a real sad situation. My son would be crying all the way home, and she would be screaming, crying when we left. I’m not sure we want to go through that."

[Ron] Anglin [Division Administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife] said that it was extremely unlikely Perkett would ever regain custody of Windfall. Wild animals are not suited to be raised in homes, he said, as they always retain their wild instinct.

In these stories we see the hearts and the souls of our rulers – and our “activist” would-be rulers.

I have known a few people who cannot understand the love that members of one species can have for members of another. I have always felt sorry for them, for I think that they are crippled. Such feelings go back to prehistory, and are a vital part of our human condition. The ancient Egyptians mummified and entombed their deceased pets. About 2,700 years ago the poet Homer told (The Odyssey, ch. XVII) of the return of Odysseus, in disguise, to his home after long years of war and travel, with the swineherd Eumaios:

…While he spoke an old hound, lying near, pricked up his ears and lifted up his muzzle. This was Argos, trained as a puppy by Odysseus, but never taken on a hunt before his master sailed for Troy. The young men, afterward, hunted wild goats with him, and hare, and deer, but he had grown old in his master’s absence. Treated as rubbish now, he lay at last upon a mass of dung before the gates – manure of mules and cows, piled there until fieldhands could spread it on the king’s estate. Abandoned there, and half destroyed with flies, old Argos lay. But when he knew he heard Odysseus’ voice nearby, he did his best to wag his tail, nose down, with flattened ears, having no strength to move nearer his master. And the man looked away, wiping a salt tear from his cheek; but he hid this from Eumaios…

~ (Fitzgerald translation)

And, from about the same time, we have this from Nathan’s rebuke of king David for the murder of Uriah and the seduction of his wife (II Samuel ch.12, NIV):

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

This last sounds depressingly familiar.

When the wildlife “experts” tell you “wild animals are not suited to be raised in homes, as they always retain their wild instinct,” give them the lie (as Sir Walter Raleigh put it so well). Had the stone age chiefs and witch-doctors enforced such a policy, we would have no dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cattle, or any other domesticated beasts. We ourselves are wild animals. Look at Iraq. Do you not willingly live with wild humans? How often do you read of an animal raised from the wild savaging a human, as opposed to how often you read of a domesticated dog savaging a human, or a human savaging a human? We are all animals. We are all the same. I only wish that all humans had the love, mercy, and pity I have seen in my animals. But that’s another story.

March 26, 2007