Last week the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially listed the eastern gorilla as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. New research published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Fauna and Flora International found that since 1994, the eastern lowland gorilla has lost 77 percent of its population.

With four of the world’s six species of great apes now critically endangered, one might hope that this revelation generates the kind of cognizance that precipitates massive change by encouraging others to thoroughly examine how they might be able to make a difference….

Of course, like with any news, events like this only make headlines until the next big thing comes along. 

Activism in 2016

Recently, I overheard someone suggest that it was counterproductive for vegetarians to point fingers and place blame on people who eat meat for the plight of many of the world’s most endangered species and their respective habitat. 

I would be lying if I said I haven’t at times felt disheartened by others hypocrisy when it comes to their diet, but none of us are perfect, and the truth is, their argument could not be more valid. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you will accomplish very little when you make someone else feel bad about their lifestyle.

But what does any of that have to do with the status of the eastern gorilla?

Apart from poaching (bushmeat demand and the wildlife trade), climate change or conflict with humans, there are thousands of species displaced and killed every year, to varying degrees, as a direct result of factory farms and palm oil plantations.

The eastern gorilla is one of those species, along with rhinos, elephants, tigers and orangutans. Of course, those are the “A-list celebrities” of the animal kingdom, if you will, and this is only an example. There are hundreds of species that are impacted by consumer demand for meat, snack foods (palm oil), cleaning products (palm oil), seafood (commercial fishing industries) and fine goods.

When a vegetarian (or vegan) criticizes an individual who wants to help conserve a species but eats meat (I’ll stick with this scenario for the sake of consistency), it’s not so much about being right, or better, but instead about the other individual’s willingness to acknowledge how their diet and lifestyle impact the very animals they insist they care about.

Placing blame IS counterproductive, but willful ignorance is equally damaging. It’s easy to poke fun at someone who has decided to stop consuming meat or who lives a radically environmentally friendly lifestyle. Still, no matter where on the spectrum you fall, in 2016, we ALL know better, and that is this: The process by which the developed world currently obtains the vast majority of its products is grossly unsustainable.

Unlike other developing countries, you have the ability to decide whether or not you want to sit idly or not. The decision to stop eating meat or to change your lifestyle in any capacity is deeply personal, and no one should be berated or belittled in the process.

The eastern gorilla, like all species that are currently facing extinction, can only hold the attention of the general public for so long. All anyone can ask is that you continue to educate yourself on the issues you care deeply about and take into consideration how your actions may be impacting them.

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One thought

  1. Great post. Until people start to understand that we can’t simply carry on plundering the Earth things will not change enough to make a difference. In my recent post about the IUCN World Conservation Congress & the Red List I felt that the plight of the great apes and the Congress in general received almost zero publicity, while the Olympics and Paralympics are headline news everyday. Says a lot about people’s values and priorities. Everyone needs to start making the connection!


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