Is it wrong to feed wild things?

Over 11 million people liked what he did, but some say it was wrong.

Is this man making a mistake?

João Silvestrini from São Paulo, Brazil, posted a video on Facebook of one of his daily visits from a young swallowtail hummingbird. It's a totally heartwarming scene — he calls from his kitchen window, and the bird slips inside and darts around a feeder. All the while, the gentleman keeps up a string of chatter — to us and to the bird.


It really is a lovely moment ... BUT —

Some people sharing the video judged him by declaring, "leave wildlife alone." The argument for this is that feeding and taming wildlife sets a bad example and likely does more harm than good.

So, was he wrong?

I say no. And here's why.

GIF via Giphy.

It's true, feeding animals can be dangerous — and mostly for the wild things:

  • Pop-Tarts don't grow in the wild (i.e., people food isn't good for animals).
  • Getting animals used to you can put them at risk for getting hurt by other, not-so-nice people.
  • Feeding wild animals means they get close to you, pets, and each other in a way that can spread disease.
  • What starts out cute can become a bad habit (e.g., a raccoon scratching at your screen at 2 a.m. looking for a snack).

But feeding them is often our easiest way of making a connection. And as humans, we crave that connection in a big way.

From the time we are children, we begin building deep, emotional relationships — both real and imagined — with animals. I'm not just talking about household pets either. Think about all of the animals in origin stories from indigenous people. Or how about the books we read as a kids: "Winnie-the-Pooh"? "Charlotte's Web"? "The Jungle Book"? Or what about the origin stories of Spider-Man, Wolverine, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The trips to the zoo? For example, check out the animal love shared by this cutie on Humans of New York.

And the fascination doesn't end there. Even as adults, it seems that many of us feel a bit desperate for some kind of connection to the animal world. After all, animals do rule the Internet.

It makes sense. Whether or not you feel any personal, emotional connection to animals, the reality is that our cities are growing, and so is the wildlife in them.

We physically share their space and our lives are really interconnected.


You affect animals by whether or not you plant flowers (even in a window box, the right plants will delight bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds), you let your cat go outside without a bell, you toss picnic leavings in the bushes, or you take the time to help a wounded wild thing.

I once encountered a duck with one of those triple-barbed fishhooks caught on the underside of its wing. Lacking any other way of catching it, I pulled off my sweater and used it like a net to toss over the duck's wings and head so I could pick it up and carry it to a nearby vet. The woman at the desk admitted the duck and — as I stood there in my bra — asked me if I needed my sweater back. Oops. That's how instinctual my desire to hold and help this animal was. And I know I'm not the only one who has been there.

If we as humans crave a connection with other animals and believe that building relationships with some of the wonderful creatures who share this earth with us is part of our humanity, it doesn't make sense to have hard and fast rules that separate us from them.

So how should we interact with wildlife? The best answer is "Do it mindfully."

The Internet makes it darn easy to find out about all kinds of urban critters. It'll tell you that scruffy looking little bird hopping about under the bushes is probably a fledgling and its parents have their eyes on it. Or about those birds making a racket up your chimney or what the large bees want with your back door. You can learn what's harmful to them and what's helpful. And, of course, it's best to call local wildlife experts for help if you see a hurt animal.

Sharing the world with animals does involve stepping back, but it takes stepping forward too. Thanks for the inspiration João!

(Note the translation below.)

Most Shared

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular