COMMUNITY PETITIONS +START A CAMPAIGN LOG IN
Demand that immediate and urgent steps be taken to protect Taenia solium right now, and save it from going extinct!
TO: THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION, THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND, PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, THE SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS, AND THE UNITED NATIONS:
While the world is, not without justification, obsessive about the fates of elephants and seals, bears and tigers, whales and fruit bats, it is unconscionable that we’re neglecting other creatures which are sliding towards extinction; animals which might not, by conventional standards, be “cute”, but which have exactly as much right to survive as a wolf or a dolphin, a platypus or a rhinoceros.
Most of these poor animals have no one to think of them, nobody to speak for them. Nobody makes cartoon characters based on them, there are no stuffed children’s toys of them. Animal rights activists do not march on the street waving placards in their defence. Hardly anyone will know or even care if, or rather when, they go extinct.
And yet these are living creatures too, as much as you or me or your dog. They have hopes and dreams, and they feel pain and sorrow; we have no right to deny them what we give freely to creatures which, simply by an accident of evolution, appeal to our aesthetic senses.
Let us consider Taenia solium, for instance. This poor creature is so misunderstood that its common name is even used as a synonym for greedy – and, yet, far from being greedy, it does not even have an intestinal canal at all!
Taenia solium has a hard and dangerous life enough as it is. It starts off life as a tiny, teeny egg, one among millions and millions of others, all of them desperately competing for a chance to survive. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to fight against millions and millions of siblings if you wanted to survive? How would you like to start off life like that?!?
This tiny, tiny egg – having spent its entire previous existence snug and warm in its parent’s body – is suddenly thrust out into the hard, cold, cruel world. If it is fortunate enough not to be washed away, or dried out – fates that affect almost all its siblings, my friends – it has to somehow manage to get eaten along with food; and food which has not been boiled or cooked. If the food is boiled or cooked, the poor, poor egg will be cooked alive, too, scalded to death in its little shell along with the new baby inside. Can you imagine cooking a chick or duckling alive in its shell? Then how can you condone what happens to this poor Taenia?
But its travails do not end, my dear friends, even if it’s fortunate enough to be eaten with uncooked food, which has not been washed so the poor dear egg is flushed away. It can’t be eaten by just anything or anybody; no, the egg will have to be swallowed by a pig. Yes, a pig. Nothing else will do!
Can you imagine how fortunate our poor baby Taenia must be even to get so far? How many million die in the attempt, and just one might succeed?
Now, once in the pig’s stomach, our egg has a chance to hatch. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe; not at all! From the pig’s stomach, it has to survive the acids and juices of the creature’s digestive system, and then burrow through the immensely tough intestinal wall to get into the blood. How tough is the intestinal wall? Well, it doesn’t rip apart if you eat fish bones and the like, does it? And you’re a mere human. A pig’s is much, much tougher still.
And then what happens when our egg gets to the blood? It must find pig muscle, and burrow into it. If it loses its way, and reaches an eye or the brain, it won’t do. The pig might get seizures or go half-blind, and be eaten by a predator. No, we need our baby to find its home in pig muscle. There, temporarily – but, sadly, only temporarily – safe, it can make itself a home. If it were so lucky as to own a mouth, it could have fed; but it has no such thing, and cannot even revel in the sensation of taste. As you tuck into your gourmet meal, this poor creature can only helplessly absorb nutrients through its integument, what in your case would be a skin!
And all this is in addition to having to fight off the pig’s natural defences, its immune system! At every moment, the baby has to fight antibodies and white blood corpuscles, a bitter chemical warfare, just to stay alive! While we cry for children gassed in Syria, this poor, helpless egg is being attacked by far more dangerous chemicals, ones which might digest it alive, every single minute!
In any case, this reprieve in the pig’s muscle is only temporary. Our poor dear Taenia is in a race against time now; it has to stop being an egg and grow up into a little bladder, before anyone kills and eats the pig. Otherwise, all the effort will go to naught – the poor creature will die, wasted, a tragedy; a bud nipped before it could spread its petals in the sun and its perfumes in the wind.
And what happens when the egg finally grows into a little bladder? Well, then, it still has to wait – it has to wait for someone to kill and eat that pig. If nobody does, if the snouted, rooting creature lives to a grand old age and dies somewhere to decompose to food for scavengers, it won’t do. The scavengers will simply eat our dear little Taenia, and digest it alive.
No, the pig has to be killed and eaten – but not by a tiger or a hyena, a wolf or a lion. No! A human, and only a human, has to kill and eat the pig; and this human, once more, cannot boil or thoroughly cook the pig meat, or the poor Taenia will writhe around in torment as it is slowly, painfully, cooked to death.
As we can all see, the chances of one tiny egg winning through to get into food are small; to get into a pig, smaller still; for that pig to be killed and eaten by a human after the egg becomes a bladder, even smaller; and for the bladder to be swallowed, uncooked, by a human so small as to be almost infinitesimal. And you think winning a lottery is hard? Shame on you.
And what happens if, after all this struggle, our bladder enters the human? Well, its journey is by no means over. Before it can get washed away along with the food, it must pull its tiny little head out of the bladder, and with the cute little suckers on that head, and the hooks on the end, grab hold of the lining of the intestine – grab hold so tight that it can’t be torn away. And then, only then, is its long journey over, and it can have a little rest.
Not that life is kind to it, even then. No! Even as our Taenia now can let itself grow, turning from a bladder to an adult, it must go through the same yearnings as you or me, the same surges of romantic feeling, but they’re always, always, unrequited! It’s hardly surprising that almost never will two Taenias be so fortunate as to survive the appalling journey to reach the same human; even less, that they will be able to hold on to the intestinal lining close enough that they can meet and fall in love. One might possibly lie in one loop of small intestine, and another just another loop away – and yet they could be as far from each other as the far side of the moon. All the poor Taenia can do is grow older and bud off bits of itself from its rear end, filled with eggs which it must create by fertilising itself, since no other can do it.
Can you imagine living, not just without sex, but having to fertilise yourself if you choose to reproduce? Can you?
Such is the tragedy of the poor Taenia, my friends. Surely it deserves some pity? Some peace and quiet for the rest of its life? After all, it wants nothing more now than to stay where it is. It doesn’t cause any fever; it is even beneficial; after all, when its human overeats, the Taenia will loyally absorb the surplus and make sure that human doesn’t get fat from it. You’d think the human would be grateful to it.
But no, gratitude is something it never gets. Just as the poor animal finally has a real home in which to spend the rest of its life, just as it can, as it were, sigh with relief, what happens? Some antihelminthic tablet comes rolling down the human’s throat, and sends poison rushing down on the poor helpless Taenia solium!
Just imagine what it must feel like for the poor creature. As I said, it does not even have a mouth to eat with, or the equivalent of lungs with which to breathe. It is, in fact, totally environment friendly; it absorbs food through its integument, or skin, and what little breathing it does, it does through its skin as well. It cannot, obviously, overeat or waste resources in any way. And, equally obviously, its skin, being what it uses for these functions, is as tender as the inside of your mouth and the lining of your lungs.
So imagine what the poor, terrified animal must go through as a torrent of poison comes rushing down on it, attacking it all along its body! It’s completely helpless. It can’t run away. It can’t close its mouth or hold its breath until the poison goes away. All it can do is writhe helplessly in agony as its skin burns, taking in the evil chemicals that the poor beast knows will bring its death.
Can you imagine what your emotions would be if it were, say, a mouse in a cage which was being gassed with chemicals, and you were forced to watch? Would you not call it animal cruelty? So what stops you from rising up in protest at the agony suffered by the poor Taenia? Merely that it’s not cute?
Let me repeat: not only does this poor animal deserve peace after all it’s gone through; it doesn’t even ask for anything more than to be left in that peace. It does not, cannot, waste food or oxygen. If anything, it deserves a place of honour, statues put up in its honour, novels and poems written in praise of its struggle and valour.
Instead, it is called a parasite and poisoned to death by people who feel self-righteous while doing it.
We, therefore, demand that Taenia solium must be protected fully and without further delay. To this end, we propose the following steps:
First, that Taenia solium be placed immediately on the list of endangered creatures.
Secondly, that animal rights organisations, in particular PETA, immediately use all means at their disposal to bring to the general public’s notice the plight of this poor animal. If baby seals can be loved and protected, why can’t baby Taenia?
Third, that these poisons which murder the poor helpless Taenia solium, these so-called antihelminthics, be banned immediately.
Fourth, that people’s aesthetic senses need to be forcibly changed. If they can like an obese, huge mouthed, oily-skinned, nearly hairless, almost insanely aggressive animal such as a hippopotamus, why can’t they spare a moment to appreciate a three metre-long white ribbon of segmented ribbon-flesh, with a tiny sucker and hook-studded head at the end? Why can’t they make Taenia toys and sell them to children? Why can’t they sell Taenia eggs as diet aids, a friend that will reside inside you, just under your heart, always there to help when you eat too much, a friend closer than any other, one which will never let you down?
Help save the Tapeworm! Sign the petition today!
Copyright B Purkayastha 2016