Opinion: Why Fungie is Overrated

Dawson Deng ’23

It was a very sad day on Tuesday the 20th when the beloved dolphin Fungie went missing. Fungie, a Bottlenose dolphin who was a mainstay at the County Kerry coast, a section of ocean off the coast of Southwest Ireland. The estimated 40 year old dolphin will be missed by the tourists and natives in the area,  who have been treated to the sight of the energetic and friendly dolphin multiple times. The dolphin has even become a celebrity, with a Boat tour company (Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours), dedicating an entire tour with ships to view Fungie. Fungie even holds a world record as the “longest recorded solitary dolphin”[1]. The cause of the disappearance is still debated, especially because of the lack of boats/tourists due to Irish COVID-19 quarantine, which could’ve messed up the daily routine of the dolphin. However, it is likely that Fungie is dead. This is because Fungie’s old age of 40, which would be relatively comparable to a 100 year old human.  Despite this, the Irish population have reacted immediately to the news, with desperate search parties by both private and public organizations sending out a total of 12 boats as well as taking sonar readings and sending diving teams from the Irish Navy to search up and down a considerable length of the coast. One rescuer brought up a very interesting point how the disappearance of Fungie “is as close to a missing person as could be”[1]. Now, considering the massive amounts of effort and resources going into finding this, it does bring up the interesting question of the value of an animal’s life.

The example of Fungie is just one of the signs of how much modern day society, especially in developed nations, view animals. There’s nothing wrong with caring for an animal’s life. However, it does seem kind of ridiculous how a community/country in Ireland, who is financially struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 crisis, would expend so much of their time and money towards a dolphin that is probably dead of old age or close to death. The resources used towards that could just as easily go towards helping the struggling fisherman or businessmen in the same area. It does seem like the Irish government is prioritizing or equating the life of dolphins over that of their own population.

Now, stories like these really bother me. Seeing an animal get treated in the same way that humans would generally be treated, as mentioned in the story above, doesn’t feel right.Animals are animals, they run around, fly etc, but people are people, and at a base level, humans and animals are different. I will elaborate on this. First, we have to answer the question of what is the value of an animal’s life and what humans should do with that life. These feelings of treating animals well lie under the banner of a couple of different terms. There’s animal rights,equal treatment of animals, and moral treatment of animals. Animal rights and equal rights for animals in my eyes would be defined like:all humans are animals and all animals are humans, animals have feelings, and animals should have the same rights as humans. On the other hand, moral treatment of animals is doing the right/moral thing for animals, like all cows should be free grazing and treated like the Wagyu cows and not stuffed in a small room with 200 other cows. Now, I have to point out(because it makes sense in my mind and to make the article less confusing for myself) that these two things are the same thing. If one believes that it is our duty to treat cows(for example) morally, then that person is saying that the cow has feelings and that they have a soul. This is because if one doesn’t believe that a cow is able to feel emotions and experiences, if it doesn’t have feelings or a soul, then it’s just a thing that can be shoved into a room with 200 other cows. In the end, a farmer is just going to kill that cow no matter what, but isn’t that immoral. No matter how well one treats the cow, it’s still being exploited, bred, and killed, which is immoral. The only way to treat animals morally is to acknowledge that animals can have feelings, thus forcing humans to treat them just the same as us to actually treat the cow morally. For animals rights itself, there’s nothing wrong with it, there’s actually many good reasons as to why people should feel compassionate towards other living things. First off, we live in a very inclusive society, or at least we, in the first world, are trending towards that. The animal rights movement and the shift towards more humane treatment of animals is just a reflection of that shift just generally in society. Second, humans themselves are animals, and as a result, since we have rights, then all other animals should have the same rights as humans. Third, it’s a very slippery slope when it comes to talking about animals, because a lot of people who disagree with animal rights say that animals are dumber than humans. A lot of animal rights people point out that by saying this, these people are essentially saying that people with down syndrome and other mental disabilities would be put in the same category as animals and denied human rights using the same logic.

The reasons presented above apply specifically strongly to intelligent animals such as Fungie. Dolphins, dogs,and monkeys seem to be those that connect with the animal rights crowd and with humans in general. They have a close anatomically relationship with humans, and they exhibit many human-like traits: happiness, sadness,excitement. They are the symbols for animal rights groups like The Humane Society of the United States and PETA and are at the forefront of the new animal rights organization. This new movement has many problems.

Many laws have been passed in order to adhere to these new principles of animal rights. For example, the meat industry has been rapidly changing to cater to the movement. Things such as a pound of chicken, normally raised in a brutal factory, while bad for the chicken, costs $0.87 per pound[4]. The humanely raised chickens cost 3 times as much at $2.64. This is due to the fact that farmers have to pay for habitats, food, and shelter, all of which are high quality and cost extreme amounts. This is all coupled with the fact that the “humane” farmers can’t produce nearly as much as the factory farmers  and barely break even after all of the hassle. If there was ever legislation in order to enact true humane treatment for animals, then the meat industry would basically collapse[4].This is not going into all of the others farmed from animals. Things  like honey, eggs, all of the diary products. These are all things that are staples of not only American cuisine, but cuisine all over the world. On the cultural side, 27 countries have banned circuses, which has been a mainstay of world culture for thousands of years[5]. Circuses are amazing, and now they’re gone. Animal testing is also under fire, with organizations deeming the testing of animals exploitative(which it is). But, one has to consider that scientists use animal testing as a huge part of the research process in creating groundbreaking new treatments for blindless, Alzeimers, and amzing breakthroughs of science[6]. Without these test subjects, the creation of new medicines would be hindered massively, due to the lack of availability of test subjects. Also, the ability of legal hunters to enjoy the pass time of trophy hunting is also under attack, with many groups such as PETA advocating for legislation to entirely ban hunting[7]. Animal rights activists are simultaneously seeking  to ban such things as horse racing, a culturally important sport in America’s history. Many others seek a ban on zoos and other animals within captivity. There are just so many things that would entail giving animals rights.It’s the fact that there are so many things embedded in culture that people enjoy, food, entertainment, and science related testing, things that are essential to many countries, and they are slowly being stripped away.

Believe it or not, I don’t really care about the things above. Sure, there are economic and logistical reasons why the new animal rights movement can be bad. But  if one really thinks about it, are these new issues really that important? Stuff like hunting, eating meat, and circuses are entertainment and aren’t necessary for this society, people can live without these things, and in the case of meat, probably live more sustainably. The bigger problem is the fact that these things are even being discussed and the logic that is being used to justify these changes. Look at the organization PETA. On their mission statement, it says that they disagree with extermination of pests, even if it greatly impacts the lives and property of humans: “We work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals”[7]. Or this example, where a PETA article advocates for people to not view animals as things, but as people much like ourselves.:“ Instead of calling an animal “it,” use “he” or “she”[7]. PETA also condemns “a human-supremacist worldview” and “speciesism”[7]. By saying this, they are equating the mistreatment of animals with racism, which doesn’t really make sense. First,  comparing the situation of (for example) black people, and animals  is really insulting to the black people.Second of all, when I see a black person, I see a person that I can communicate with, he can talk, walk, and do all of the things that I can do, of course I treat him “humanely”, because he’s just the same as me. If I meet a duck, what can a human and a duck do together?Finally,  there was also that campaign in which PETA declared that “All people are Nazis”, saying that all people are evil oppressors of the animals for using animals for their own good. But if PETA says this, then where’s the “All animals are Nazis”? Because millions of years ago, humans were in an inferior position to animals. However, back then, there was no such thing as a Saber toothed tiger PETA advocating for human rights. So what makes us so evil? Especially considering that PETA says that both animals and humans are individuals with souls that can make moral decisions? In the end, I believe that humans are humans, and animals are animals. Fungie shouldn’t be given a full navy search operation, and animals shouldn’t be treated to the same privileges as humans.Why? Because they’re animals. I understand the compassion that some people have for animals, and that’s perfectly fine, and nothing that I say here “debunks” any of that, it’s just weird to see people treating animals as if they are the same as humans. Animals can’t build rocket ships, animals can’t ride bikes, animals can’t talk, only humans can do that. And for Fungie, he’s probably dead, even if he’s alive, he’s lived a long and good life, so there’s no need to put so much resources into saving him just so that he can die in a couple of weeks.