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A Tribute to Farley Mowat

May 8th, 2014 by Eric Phelps

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A Tribute to Farley Mowat

Few conservationists have helped change our view of wild animals as fellow beings, increased our concern and propelled us into action to protect entire ecosystems, including their terrestrial and marine inhabitants, as Farley Mowat has done.

Sadly, as his life came to an end on May 6, we can only find comfort in knowing that his guiding light will continue to shine through his many publications, including Never Cry Wolf, Sea of Slaughter and A Whale for the Killing, and many others.

With his scientific understanding of and compassion for the natural world—a rare combination to be found in conservationists—Farley Mowat dethroned us from our self-proclaimed place outside and above the natural world. This is a message we needed and continue to need to hear.

His writings and actions have led to the awakening of not only sympathy, but even more importantly, empathy – the ability of “putting oneself into the shoes of others” and caused a major shift in our attitude towards wild animals and a sea change from pure utilitarian value to an ethics of extended kinship. By instilling empathy in us, a powerful skill that can make this world a better place for all of us, regardless of species membership, Farley Mowat nurtured our innate sense of kinship and sameness among the species, rather than a learned focus on separateness and difference.

“The living world is dying in our time,” Farley Mowat wrote in 2003 (Sea of Slaughter), referring to the commercial slaughter of the inhabitants of the marine world. For their counterparts on land, fate is not more favorable. With Farley Mowat physically gone now, let’s hope we can finally live our lives among others, as a humble species and as one of many, nothing more, nothing less.

Farley Mowat, a true warrior for the natural world who courageously and unwaveringly rattled the cages of established, traditional conservation, will be thoroughly missed.

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