The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion We have a lot to learn from emus

Taylor Blake and Emmanuel the emu. (Courtesy of Taylor Blake)

Regarding the July 20 Style article “Emmanuel the emu may not care about his celebrity. But the internet does.”:

Emus are feathered dinosaurs that have existed in their present form for at least 2 million years. In contrast, anatomically modern humans have existed for only about 160,000 years. Emus have survived two brushes with extinction because of humans and are currently confronting the existential threat of climate change. Probably, they will survive us. Certainly, their collective dignity is undiminished by human mockery, despite the antics of humans who laugh at the frantic behavior of traumatized captives such as Emmanuel and the emus misused by Liberty Mutual for its commercials.

We could learn a lot from emus, whose flexibility, persistence and cooperative culture have helped them to flourish despite changing circumstances, including a war in which Australian farmers used machine guns to try to drive them from their homelands. To this day, they have not ceded those lands. Nor have they consented to be held perpetually captive and forcibly bred for human amusement and profit. Their captors cannot speak for them.

Before it’s too late, let’s respect and learn from emus and other nonhuman elders who may know things about the world that we cannot yet see. Let’s have empathy, too, and release the captives to sanctuaries or the wild.

Pattrice Jones, Springfield, Vt.

The writer is coordinator of VINE Sanctuary, a multispecies community that includes emus.