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My story begins in Zimbabwe
with a brave park ranger named Orpheus
and an injured buffalo.
And Orpheus looked at the buffalo on the ground, and he looked at me,
and as our eyes met, there was an unspoken grief between the three of us.
She was a beautifully wild and innocent creature,
and Orpheus lifted the muzzle of his rifle to her ear. (Gunshot)
And at that moment, she started to give birth.
As life slipped from the premature calf, we examined the injuries.
Her back leg had been caught in an eight-strand wire snare.
She'd fought for freedom [for] so hard and so long
that she'd ripped her pelvis in half.
Well, she was finally free.
Ladies and gentlemen, today I feel a great sense of responsibility
in speaking to you on behalf of those that never could.
Their suffering is my grief, is my motivation.
Martin Luther King best summarises my call to arms here today.
He said, "There comes a time when one must take a position that's neither safe,
nor politic, nor popular.
But he must take that position because his conscience tells him that it's right."
Because his conscience tells him it is right.
At the end of this talk I'm gonna ask you all a question.
That question is the only reason I traveled here today
all the way from the African savanna.
That question for me has cleansed my soul.
How you answer that question will always be yours.
I remember watching the movie The Wizard of Oz as a young kid,
and I was never scared of the witch or the flying monkeys.
My greatest fear was that I'd grow up like the Lion, without courage.
And I grew up always asking myself if I thought I'd be brave?
Well, years after Dorothy had made her way back to Kansas,
and the Lion had found his courage,
I walked into a tattoo parlor and had the words
'Seek and Destroy' tattooed across my chest.
And I thought that'd make me big and brave.
But it'd take me almost a decade to grow into those words.
By the age of 20 I'd become a clearance diver in the navy.
By 25, as a special operations sniper,
I knew exactly how many clicks of elevation I needed on the scope of my rifle
to take a headshot on a moving target from 700m away.
I knew exactly how many grams of high explosives it takes
to blast through a steel plate door from only a few meters away,
without blowing myself, or my team, up behind me.
And I knew that Baghdad was a shitty place, and when things go bang,
well, people die.
Now back then, I'd no idea what a conservationist did,
other than hug trees and piss off large corporations. (Laughter)
I knew they had dreadlocks. I knew they smoked dope. (Laughter)
I didn't really give a shit about the environment, and why should I?
I was the idiot that used to speed up in his car just trying to hit birds on the road.
My life was a world away from conservation.
I'd just spent nine years doing things in real life
most people wouldn't dream of trying on a Playstation.
Well, after 12 tours to Iraq as a so-called 'mercenary', the skills I had were good for one thing:
I was programmed to destroy.
Looking back now, on everything I've done, and the places I've been,
in my heart, I've only ever performed one true act of bravery.
And that was a simple choice of deciding 'Yes' or deciding 'No'.
But it was that one act which defines me completely
and ensures there'll never be separation between who I am, and what I do.
When I finally left Iraq behind me I was lost.
Yeah I felt – ahh – I just had no idea where I was going in life
or where I was meant to be and I arrived in Africa at the beginning of 2009.
I was aged 29 at the time.
Somehow, I always knew I'd find a purpose amongst chaos,
and that's exactly what happened.
I'd no idea though, I'd find it in a remote part of the Zimbabwe bush.
And we were patrolling along, and the vultures circled in the air
and as we got closer the stench of death hung there, in the air like a thick, dark veil,
and sucked the oxygen out of your lungs.
And as we got closer, there was a great bull elephant,
resting on its side, with its face cut away.
And the world around me stopped.
I was consumed by a deep and overwhelming sadness.
Seeing innocent creatures killed like this hit me in a way like nothing before.
I'd actually poached as a teenager and they're memories I'll take to the grave.
Time had changed me though; something inside wasn't the same.
And it's never gonna be again.
I asked myself, "Does that elephant need its face
more than some guy in Asia needs a tusk on his desk?"
Well of course it bloody does, that was irrelevant.
All that mattered there and then was:
Would I be brave enough to give up everything in my life
to try and stop the suffering of animals?
This was the one true defining moment of my life:
Yes or no?
I contacted my family the next day and began selling all my houses.
These are assets a well-advised mercenary quickly acquires with the proceeds of war.
My life-savings have since been used to found and grow
the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.
The IAPF is a direct-action, law enforcement organization.
From drone technology, to an international qualification for rangers,
we're battling each and every day to bring military solutions
to conservation's thin green line.
Now my story may be slightly unique,
but I'm not going to use it to talk to you today about the organization I run --
in what probably could have been a pretty good fundraiser.
(Laughter) (Applause)
Remember, today is about the question I'm gonna ask you at the end.
Because it's impossible for me to get up here and talk about just saving wildlife
when I know the problem of animal welfare is much broader throughout society.
A few years after I saw that elephant I woke up very early one morning.
I already knew the answer to the question I was about to ask myself,
but it was the first time I'd put it into words:
Does a cow value its life more than I enjoy a barbecue?
See, I'd been guilty all this time of what's termed 'speciesism'.
Speciesism is very much the same as racism or sexism.
It involves the allocation of a different set of values,
rights or special considerations to individuals,
based solely on who or what they are.
The realisation of the flexible morality
I'd used to suit my everyday conveniences made me sick in the stomach.
See, I'd loved blaming parts of Asia for their insatiable demand for ivory and rhino horn,
and the way the region's booming economic growth
is dramatically increasing the illegal wildlife trade.
When I woke up that morning though I realised,
even though I'd dedicated my life to saving animals,
in my mind I was no better than a poacher,
or the guy in Asia with a tusk on his desk.
As this 'over-consumptive meat-eater' I'd referred to some animals as 'beasts'.
When in reality I'd been the beast: destructively obedient,
a slave to my habits, a cold shoulder to my conscience.
We've all had contact with pets or other animals in our lives.
We can't deny our understanding of the feelings that each animal has.
The ability to suffer pain or loneliness.
And to fear.
Like us also, each animal has the ability to express contentment,
to build family structures, and want of satisfying basic instincts and desires.
For many of us though,
that's as far as we allow our imagination to explore
before the truth inconveniences our habits.
The disconnect that exists between consuming a product
and the reality it takes to bring that product to market is a phenomenon to itself.
Animals are treated like commodities and referred to as property.
We call it 'murder' to kill a human being yet create legal and illegal industries
out of what would be regarded as torture if humans were involved.
And we pay people to do things to animals that none of us would engage in personally.
Just because we don't see it up close does not mean we're not responsible.
Peter Singer, the man who popularised the term 'speciesism' wrote,
"Although there may be differences between animals and humans
they each share the ability to suffer.
And we must give equal consideration to that suffering.
Any position that allows similar cases to be treated in a dissimilar fashion
fails to qualify as an acceptable moral theory."
Around the world this year 65 billion animals will be killed in factory farms.
How many animals' lives is one human's life worth?
A meat-eater in this room will consume, on average, 8,000 animals in their lifetime.
Ocean pollution, global warming and deforestation
are driving us towards the next great mass-extinction
and the meat industry is the greatest negative factor in all of these phenomena.
The illegal traffic in wildlife now ranks as one of the largest criminal industries in the world --
it's up there with drugs, guns and human trafficking.
The ability to stop this devastation
lies in the willingness of an international community
to step in and preserve a dying global treasure.
Experimentation on animals –
If animals are so like us that we can substitute using them instead of humans
then surely they have the very same attributes
that mean they deserve to be protected from harm?
Whether we're talking about factory farming, live export, poaching, the fur trade,
logically, it's all on the same playing field to me.
Suffering is suffering,
and murder is murder.
And the more helpless the victim,
the more horrific the crime.
Next time you think an animal lover is too emotional,
too passionate, or even a little crazy, please remember
we see things through a different lens.
So in a few days, my son's gonna be born.
I find myself wondering, "What kind of world is he entering?"
Are we gonna be the generation that defines our failure as a species?
I believe our generation will be judged
by our moral courage to protect what's right.
And that every worthwhile action requires a level of sacrifice.
Well, I now offer myself, without reservation, to animals.
And when I strip away all the material belongings around me,
I see that I too, am an animal.
We're family. Together on one planet.
And of the five million species on that planet,
only one has the power to determine what level of suffering is acceptable
for all other sentient beings to endure.
Whether it's eating less meat,
contributing to the fight against poaching or speaking up for the voiceless,
we all have choices.
And small changes in our lives mean big changes in others' [lives].
So now back to the beginning.
My reason for being here is my question for you:
next time you have an opportunity to make a difference for animals,
will you be brave enough?
Yes or no?
Thank you very much.
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【TEDx】Modern Warrior: Damien Mander at TEDxSydney

15719 Folder Collection
VoiceTube published on February 20, 2014
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