For millennia, humans have been wreaking havoc on animals by doing things like hunting them for sport, destroying their habitats to make ourselves more comfortable and skinning their carcasses so rich people can have fashionable gloves. And now it appears that animals are perhaps striking back. In September, rabid beavers began attacking swimmers in Fairfax County, Virginia; in 2010, swarms of vampire bats attacked more than 500 people in a Peruvian village, killing at least four; and chimpanzees have recently been assaulting people and even stealing and eating babies in Africa and India.
Most experts dismiss such incidents as “odd” and pooh-pooh the theory that they are part of some larger trend. In 2008, John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote about these incidents for an article in GQ… but, it turns out, he made a lot of it up. It is true, however, that there’s something called phenotypic plasticity, which is when an organism self-alters its characteristics to cope with a change in its environment. Though it’s usually associated with plants, on rare occasions animals have been known to do some morphing as well.
Despite the naysayers, is it within the realm of possibility that animals have adapted to become aggressive and organised in response to humanity’s supreme assholery on our shared world? According to Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, probably not. “[The attacks] are much more likely to have something to do with humans invading animal habitats,” he told me. “The animals are reacting to humans who don’t know what they’re doing.”
My research also led me to James Donahue, a retiree who lives in close proximity to wild animals in northern Michigan and had some answers he received from a spiritual entity he and his wife call Abba Father. He believes the uptick in animal attacks on humans to be an omen of the “end of days”. I asked him all about it, because who even knows who’s right any more.
VICE: So, you’ve heard about how vicious beasts are waging war on humanity?
James Donahue: Yes, but I find it hard to believe that animals would deliberately go into people’s homes and attack them unless they were provoked. Animals are extremely territorial; that’s common knowledge. But they don’t pursue trouble. There are bears and cougars that live in the woods behind my home, and the only time we’ve ever really seen them is when the bears are rummaging through the trash.
What did your buddy Abba Father have to say about these attacks?
In our session he discussed the fate of the relationship between humans and animals as looking very bleak if we continue to overcrowd the world. We discussed the years of bizarre behaviour as being a byproduct of their natural design. But it is still all theoretical.
Did he have a theory as to why animals are being so mean to people?
Well, he said that animals feel threatened. After years of us violating their space, they have finally had enough and are avenging themselves as best they can. He says it has a lot to do with human arrogance. When I was young, a bird laid its nest at the foot of a tree in my backyard. Whenever I got close, she kept her eye on me. Animals are smarter than humans give them credit for.
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