All on the Same Side

Working for one of the largest and oldest global conservation organisations in the world I spent years of my life surrounded by zookeepers and professional conservationists.


They were, with little exception, some of the most committed and passionate people about their vocation I have ever had the good fortune to know and to work beside. They were some of the hardest and some of the best years of my life.


They obviously shared a great many values and beliefs, and with little exception there was one particular one I always found a little eccentric. And it's a belief I know, from various zookeeper groups I still follow, to be fairly consistent throughout the industry.


They fucking hate animal activists. Without pause or reservation.


As a vegan I also know a great many animal activists. Following vegan groups as well there is a great lot of animal activism to be expected. The core tenets of a vegan philosophy and lifestyle dictate no exploitation of animals whatsoever.


What that translates to is that vegans, and the vast majority of animal activists that may not be, fucking hate zoos. They are absolutely and under no circumstances to be tolerated.


Doesn't matter if it's an old-school menagerie where there's a bear in a concrete box that you can poke with a stick for an extra $20 - or whether it's a modern, accredited zoo with the most comprehensive and comfortable habitat money can buy. Zoos bad. Period.


As a vegan who worked at a zoo, anytime I was anywhere near a gathering of vegans and asked, "So what do you do for work?" I simply answered, "I'm a dive instructor." Because I didn't want to get yelled at for an hour.


So here are these two groups of people who are deeply passionate about a thing (animal welfare and natural, biodiverse habitat conservation)... and they're at one another's throats all the time. Because they have slightly different ideas on how to attack the problem.


I am not going to lay out my beliefs on the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, though there are, indeed, obvious benefits and drawbacks to each. It's a complicated global problem and there is no easy solution. And I don't think you have the attention span to read all the way to the end of that level of treatise.


Besides, my point is not about zoos or animal rights at all. My point is about diving.


I bring up the activist vs. zookeeper feud as an analogy. Good, fervent, smart people who are both fighting the good fight. And one another.


Sidemount is the best! Sidemount is stupid!


Rebreathers are the best! Rebreathers will kill you!


Cave diving is the best! Reefs are the only thing worth seeing!


You have to get trained by XXXXXXX! XXXXXX is a total doodie-head!


You need to carry your spare mask in your left hand pocket! Only a stroke would put their spare mask there!


Photographers are the worst! Without photographers there would be no pictures!


Everyone seriously needs to shut the fuck up. It's scuba diving. We're not curing COVID. We are not saving the rainforest. We aren't even doing anything remotely sane. And, unlike something as actually important as wildlife conservation, precisely NO ONE outside of the dive community gives even the first little hint of a damn about any of it.


No matter what level of diving we participate in, we're all doing the exact same thing: floating around and looking at stuff. Then we go get some nachos... and squabble about irrelevancies.


Yeah, we can all be better divers, every one of us. We can have a stronger and more cohesive community. We can be better.


That said: we probably won't be. 50 acres of the Amazon are destroyed every minute. It's 100° in Siberia. Anywhere between 2,000-10,000 species are going extinct every year. And the oceans are turning into hot acid.


So... I guess... whatever... carry on with bickering about the best way to secure boltsnaps while you still can.

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