It is not their fault for not listening

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:

It is not their fault for not listening
by Carole Lewis

If the public is not getting our message,
it is not their fault for not listening. It is
ours, for inadequately or inappropriately
I believe that most people who have petted a
bobcat will not be able to shoot one for fun, or
wear one for fashion. I believe that most people
who have come face to face with a tiger in a
moment of appreciation will not pay to watch
someone sacrifice the majesty of the tiger to
make him perform stupid pet tricks.
When people have the chance to see that
their choices can inflict great pain, most learn
to make better choices. I have the opportunity
to give sanctuary tours and talks about wildlife,
and the phrase I hear most often is, “I had no
ideaĆ ”
Animal rescue facilities such as mine
cannot handle the number of creatures in need of
sanctuary when public ignorance fuels the market
for an endless supply of cute and cuddly cubs.

While every animal we rescue is a sentient
creature, deserving of our efforts, we are
doing a great disservice to the hordes of animals
we cannot afford to take in if we do not devote
substantial time to public education.
Seven years ago, while up to my elbows
in cat food, at the end of a long day of
medicating and cage-cleaning for more than 100
wild and exotic cats, the director of a large,
well-funded charity chided me for my
misappropriation of time. He said I should clean
myself up and address large groups of people who
could help me in my mission.
At the time I could not imagine how the
daily chores would get done if I spent my time
talking to people, but I knew his organization
had been successful, and I kept his words in the
back of my head.
Little by little, I forced myself to
find time at night for letter writing and to
compose articles, a web site, and training
manuals and books to reach people I did not have
time for during precious daylight hours.
The results inspired me to become
more effective. I began to study successful
leaders, trying to implement what I learned for
the benefit of the animals.
I noticed that people pay more attention
to leaders who are attractive, articulate, and
well groomed. I was none of those things.
Recognizing that the messenger speaks
louder than the message, I lost 60 pounds and
threw away all of my stretch pants and t-shirts.
I invested in signature clothing that people
remember and associate with our exotic cats.
Being shy and resultantly anti social, I
had to learn how to engage others convincingly.
I read every relevant book I could get my hands
on, attended every motivational lecture I could
afford, and tried to learn from observing others.
I still do all of this because I learned that it works.
To get people to help, you have to find
out what they want from life. Then you have to
figure out how to give it to them by involving
them in what you need.
There are as many answers to that, and
as many ways to do it, as there are people. Yet
there is a pattern you can learn. I learned it
from How To Be A Great Communicator, by Nido

1) Get your thinking straight.
2) Say what you mean.
3) Get to the point.
4) Don’t waste words.
5) Be real.
6) Speak in images.

Philosopher William James said, “The most
immutable barrier in nature is between one man’s
thoughts and another’s.”
This could also be described as the most
immutable barrier between prevailing human
perception and an appreciative, considerate
understanding of the nature and needs of animals.
It is our duty to transcend it.

[Carole Lewis is founder of Big Cat Rescue,
formerly known as Wildlife On Easy Street, 12802
Easy Street, Tampa, FL 33625; 813-920-4130;
fax 813-920-5924;
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