“I have confronted my mortality on many occasions. And If I die tomorrow, at least I could say I’ve LIVED.” – Independent film maker, animal rights activist & adventurer Tim Gorski.
Cambridge, MA. June 16, 2010. No enormously drawling lengthy post today or for the rest of the week. Swamped with work and other commitments. (Though I’m looking forward to meeting Christopher Hitchens this evening as he gives a talk at the Harvard Book Store.) Instead a video today of a friend who in my opinion is one of the bravest men I’ve come across in life and one with a remarkable level of integrity. As I write this, images of the massive oil spill in the Florida Gulf and the innocent wildlife victims who paid the price flash through……I had canoed in those waters during my stay there and it is so incredibly sad what the incompetence and lack of accountability of BP has brought about. It was in the state of Florida some years ago that I first met the animal activist who would become my friend.
Through my work over the years I’ve often come across many environmentalists, most of whom are genuine. But I’ve also sadly come across quite a few who do it more for the publicity or funds and to get their name in the papers; or conversely there are animal rights activists who get rabid about protecting crocodiles and pythons and other wild creatures while being active consumers of the usual meat industry through the local supermarket. (I’ve always found the second kind rather interesting and hypocritical in the sense how can you tolerate the cruelty of the slaughterhouses that remove newborn calves from their mothers and a list of many other brutal ways in which many other animals are raised, handled and killed, yet take a moral stand with placards about the lives of crocodiles in the wetlands? At least the latter are having free lives in the wild!)
But Timothy Gorski is a film maker and animal activist who walks the walk and talks the talk. There is absolutely not one shred of hypocrisy about him, neither in the products he uses, the food he eats, the life he leads or the causes he defends. And this is very rare to find and see put into practice in the real world. Very rare indeed. His first film ‘Lolita – Slave to Entertainment’ which he had written, directed and produced went on to garner 11 awards and was his campaign to highlight the conditions of whales in captivity. He has also done innumerable works and projects to aid, rescue and heal domestic, wild, captive, stray and abused animals through the years and had made videos to highlight the killing of dolphins years before the documentary ‘The Cove’ was released last year. One of the most down-to-earth and humble people I have known, a couple of years back I’d attended the premier of the documentary ‘At the Edge of the World‘ with him at the Toronto International Film Festival for which he was the cinematographer and had spent several months in Antarctica on board a ship with the crew of Sea Shepherd and Captain Paul Watson. The documentary would go on to win eight awards in various festivals including the Haskell Wexler best cinematography award for Tim. At the TIFF screening when his name was called out he literally sank into his chair and gave a tiny wave, because he didn’t want to attract the audience’s attention as the applause broke out. Tim’s reward has always been in the eyes of the animals he could help and in the doing, not the human awards, though he knows the reality of marketing in this world if you wish to get the facts across. The man is an utter realist.
Anyone who has watched a video on how whales are slaughtered – literally slashed a piece at a time and killed-while-alive – will know why this cruelty is quite senseless and preventable. Yet it is not; and just this year, the US lifted the ban on whale hunts for Japan and Norway, as the ‘exchange’ of Japan’s forgiving some financial debts the US owed it. I have traveled up a few times to the north of Canada in the protected waters of the Tadoussac region to watch the magnificent whales from a zodiac and I still cannot fathom why these mammals are deliberately put through this torture in other parts of the world when so many other options of food are available to people. During those northern trips, while the larger whales kept to themselves as you watched their gigantic backs and dipping tails from a safe distance, the white beluga whales were so friendly and naive, they would swim alongside you when you kayaked on the waters.
But the tale in Antarctica and the illegal whaling operations that go on there are quite another story….. The reason Paul Watson takes preventive action and had broken out from Greenpeace which he had co-founded, is because he felt that many organizations would collect millions by showing slaughter footage but nothing was being done to actually save their lives. Only by being in the arena and in the mouth of the lion could slaughter truly be prevented or lives be saved. Something like those working for Doctors without Borders who actually go and do instead of simply talk or ‘pose’ for publicity. Here’s an interview of Tim on board the Farley Mowat in 2006 as part of the Sea Shepherd crew. At its end there are questions that speak very deeply to anyone who listens. It certainly did to me.
What I like most about Tim Gorski is his humility in person and his steely determination and zest for life. He has real life stories of adventures that he may quietly reveal over a glass of beer ranging from days lost in the Amazon (where he had to eat a rat at one point to ward off hunger); spending New Year’s eve amongst the Shan State Burmese rebels who oppose the Burmese Military Government, after he and his crew got lost in the jungles and caves between Thailand and Burma; when he rushed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina but stories there he doesn’t wish to talk about; getting swept away literally during the tsunami in Thailand and many more incidents. You know those explorers and film makers you see on some National Geographic show who are quite simply not afraid? And you wonder if they’re crazy to do the things they do or choose the places they go off to? And then when you meet them, you’re even more surprised for they seem to be the most humourous, humble and humane people you’ve come across? Well, Tim is one of them and I am proud to know him and those like him who are not afraid to defend rational ethics. There are many animals and birds big and small across the planet who I’m sure silently thank him. And I thank him personally for being who he is and as a living testament that men with unshakable and inspiring integrity still survive on this planet.
Here is a promo video of a documentary ‘How I became an Elephant’ currently in production and in search of financial help (since his company is a non-profit based on those who wish to help freely.) While horrendous facts of torture of Southeast Asia’s elephants are a reality, it is heartening to know that there is an elephant sanctuary in Thailand which tries to get the gentle mammals away from poachers and traffickers who put them through an unfathomable amount of torture to ‘break’ and capture them and either kill them for ivory or put them into hard relentless labour. Tim has been able to fund the rescuing of one of those elephants and help the sanctuary through one Hollywood donor, but much, much more work remains to be done, as acts of murder and brutality against these gentle giants still continue. What is very grounded about Tim is that he understands the complex issues of poverty, trade and survival linked to animal exploitation and is not a clueless anarchist-type activist. But a look at the following video shows the risks he takes and the heart-wrenching torture the elephants are put through. When I watch this I truly wonder how some people can salivate over spending thousands on Blahniks and Fendis and Hummers and fur coats when there are so many more realities and ethics to be aware of. Or just simply know as facts that exist, if even out of a curiosity about the world and its many truths. And even more I wonder at grown-ups who fawn and squeal over fake soft toys on Valentine’s day and Easter and other occasions while real animals are tortured everyday both in the wild and in slaughterhouses. (Warning: contains disturbing footage although most has been edited out of this clip.)
Updated 2013, as the film has already been completed
A link to his company Rattle the Cage below. Feel free to pass this link, videos or this post on to those who genuinely care for the way animals are mistreated in this world and for those who would like to get involved in his film projects.
And here is a link to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the film that took him to Antarctica. (do check it out….absolutely worth it.)
Keep up the good work, my bro! You really are an inspiration of what it means to truly live in this world….
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)
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