Modern Warrior: Damien Mander at TEDxSydney

Modern Warrior: Damien Mander at TEDxSydney


Translator: Sallyanne Craig
Reviewer: Tatjana Jevdjic My story begins in Zimbabwe with a brave park ranger named Orpheus and an injured buffalo. And Orpheus looked at the buffalo
on the ground, and he looked at me, and as our eyes met, there was an unspoken grief
between the three of us. She was a beautifully wild and innocent creature, and Orpheus lifted the muzzle
of his rifle to her ear. (Gunshot) And at that moment,
she started to give birth. As life slipped from the premature calf,
we examined the injuries. Her back leg had been caught
in an eight-strand wire snare. She’d fought for freedom
[for] so hard and so long that she’d ripped her pelvis in half. Well, she was finally free. Ladies and gentlemen, today I feel
a great sense of responsibility in speaking to you
on behalf of those that never could. Their suffering is my grief,
is my motivation. Martin Luther King best summarises
my call to arms here today. He said, “There comes a time
when one must take a position that’s neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But he must take that position
because his conscience tells him that it’s right.” Because his conscience
tells him it is right. At the end of this talk
I’m gonna ask you all a question. That question is the only reason
I traveled here today all the way from the African savanna. That question for me has cleansed my soul. How you answer that question
will always be yours. I remember watching the movie
The Wizard of Oz as a young kid, and I was never scared of the witch
or the flying monkeys. My greatest fear was that I’d grow up
like the Lion, without courage. And I grew up always asking myself
if I thought I’d be brave? Well, years after Dorothy
had made her way back to Kansas, and the Lion had found his courage, I walked into a tattoo parlor
and had the words ‘Seek and Destroy’ tattooed
across my chest. And I thought that’d make me
big and brave. But it’d take me almost a decade
to grow into those words. By the age of 20 I’d become
a clearance diver in the navy. By 25, as a special operations sniper, I knew exactly how many clicks of elevation
I needed on the scope of my rifle to take a headshot on a moving target
from 700m away. I knew exactly how many grams
of high explosives it takes to blast through a steel plate door
from only a few meters away, without blowing myself,
or my team, up behind me. And I knew that Baghdad was a shitty place,
and when things go bang, well, people die. Now back then, I’d no idea
what a conservationist did, other than hug trees and piss off large corporations.
(Laughter) I knew they had dreadlocks.
I knew they smoked dope. (Laughter) I didn’t really give a shit about the environment,
and why should I? I was the idiot that used to speed up in his car
just trying to hit birds on the road. My life was a world away
from conservation. I’d just spent nine years
doing things in real life most people wouldn’t dream
of trying on a Playstation. Well, after 12 tours to Iraq as a so-called ‘mercenary’,
the skills I had were good for one thing: I was programmed to destroy. Looking back now, on everything I’ve done,
and the places I’ve been, in my heart, I’ve only ever performed
one true act of bravery. And that was a simple choice
of deciding ‘Yes’ or deciding ‘No’. But it was that one act
which defines me completely and ensures there’ll never be separation
between who I am, and what I do. When I finally left Iraq behind me I was lost. Yeah I felt – ahh – I just had no idea
where I was going in life or where I was meant to be and I arrived in Africa
at the beginning of 2009. I was aged 29 at the time. Somehow, I always knew
I’d find a purpose amongst chaos, and that’s exactly what happened. I’d no idea though, I’d find it in a remote part
of the Zimbabwe bush. And we were patrolling along,
and the vultures circled in the air and as we got closer the stench of death
hung there, in the air like a thick, dark veil, and sucked the oxygen
out of your lungs. And as we got closer,
there was a great bull elephant, resting on its side, with its face cut away. And the world around me stopped. I was consumed by a deep
and overwhelming sadness. Seeing innocent creatures killed like this
hit me in a way like nothing before. I’d actually poached as a teenager
and they’re memories I’ll take to the grave. Time had changed me though;
something inside wasn’t the same. And it’s never gonna be again. I asked myself,
“Does that elephant need its face more than some guy in Asia needs
a tusk on his desk?” Well of course it bloody does,
that was irrelevant. All that mattered there and then was: Would I be brave enough to give up
everything in my life to try and stop
the suffering of animals? This was the one true defining
moment of my life: Yes or no? I contacted my family the next day
and began selling all my houses. These are assets a well-advised mercenary
quickly acquires with the proceeds of war. My life-savings have since been used
to found and grow the International Anti-Poaching
Foundation. The IAPF is a direct-action,
law enforcement organization. From drone technology,
to an international qualification for rangers, we’re battling each and every day
to bring military solutions to conservation’s thin green line. Now my story may be slightly unique, but I’m not going to use it to talk to you today
about the organization I run — in what probably could have been
a pretty good fundraiser. (Laughter) (Applause) Remember, today is about the question
I’m gonna ask you at the end. Because it’s impossible for me to get up here
and talk about just saving wildlife when I know the problem of animal welfare
is much broader throughout society. A few years after I saw that elephant
I woke up very early one morning. I already knew the answer to the question
I was about to ask myself, but it was the first time
I’d put it into words: Does a cow value its life
more than I enjoy a barbecue? See, I’d been guilty all this time
of what’s termed ‘speciesism’. Speciesism is very much the same
as racism or sexism. It involves the allocation
of a different set of values, rights or special considerations
to individuals, based solely on who or what they are. The realisation
of the flexible morality I’d used to suit my everyday conveniences
made me sick in the stomach. See, I’d loved blaming parts of Asia
for their insatiable demand for ivory and rhino horn, and the way the region’s
booming economic growth is dramatically increasing
the illegal wildlife trade. When I woke up that morning
though I realised, even though I’d dedicated my life
to saving animals, in my mind I was no better
than a poacher, or the guy in Asia
with a tusk on his desk. As this ‘over-consumptive meat-eater’
I’d referred to some animals as ‘beasts’. When in reality I’d been the beast:
destructively obedient, a slave to my habits,
a cold shoulder to my conscience. We’ve all had contact with pets
or other animals in our lives. We can’t deny our understanding
of the feelings that each animal has. The ability to suffer pain
or loneliness. And to fear. Like us also, each animal has the ability
to express contentment, to build family structures, and want
of satisfying basic instincts and desires. For many of us though, that’s as far as we allow
our imagination to explore before the truth inconveniences
our habits. The disconnect that exists
between consuming a product and the reality it takes to bring that product
to market is a phenomenon to itself. Animals are treated like commodities
and referred to as property. We call it ‘murder’ to kill a human being
yet create legal and illegal industries out of what would be regarded as torture
if humans were involved. And we pay people to do things to animals
that none of us would engage in personally. Just because we don’t see it up close
does not mean we’re not responsible. Peter Singer, the man who popularised
the term ‘speciesism’ wrote, “Although there may be differences
between animals and humans they each share the ability to suffer. And we must give equal consideration
to that suffering. Any position that allows similar cases
to be treated in a dissimilar fashion fails to qualify as an acceptable
moral theory.” Around the world this year 65 billion
animals will be killed in factory farms. How many animals’ lives
is one human’s life worth? A meat-eater in this room will consume,
on average, 8,000 animals in their lifetime. Ocean pollution, global warming
and deforestation are driving us towards
the next great mass-extinction and the meat industry is the greatest negative factor
in all of these phenomena. The illegal traffic in wildlife now ranks
as one of the largest criminal industries in the world — it’s up there with drugs, guns
and human trafficking. The ability to stop this devastation lies in the willingness
of an international community to step in and preserve
a dying global treasure. Experimentation on animals – If animals are so like us that we can substitute
using them instead of humans then surely they have
the very same attributes that mean they deserve
to be protected from harm? Whether we’re talking about factory farming,
live export, poaching, the fur trade, logically, it’s all on the same
playing field to me. Suffering is suffering, and murder is murder. And the more helpless the victim, the more horrific the crime. Next time you think
an animal lover is too emotional, too passionate, or even a little crazy,
please remember we see things through a different lens. So in a few days,
my son’s gonna be born. I find myself wondering,
“What kind of world is he entering?” Are we gonna be the generation
that defines our failure as a species? I believe our generation
will be judged by our moral courage
to protect what’s right. And that every worthwhile action
requires a level of sacrifice. Well, I now offer myself,
without reservation, to animals. And when I strip away
all the material belongings around me, I see that I too, am an animal. We’re family.
Together on one planet. And of the five million species
on that planet, only one has the power to determine
what level of suffering is acceptable for all other sentient beings
to endure. Whether it’s eating less meat, contributing to the fight against poaching
or speaking up for the voiceless, we all have choices. And small changes in our lives
mean big changes in others’ [lives]. So now back to the beginning. My reason for being here
is my question for you: next time you have an opportunity
to make a difference for animals, will you be brave enough? Yes or no? Thank you very much. (Applause)

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100 thoughts on “Modern Warrior: Damien Mander at TEDxSydney”

  • The earth is flat so eating meat is dead ( as humans, we are led to believe we need to eat meat, food we have all been lied to).

  • Very insightful, inspiring and awesome speech. He never once got stuck…or resorted to…..errrm, hmmm, etc…..truly…..will you be brave enough to do the right thing?

  • I became a vegetarian at the age of 12 and it's been a great 7 years for me. I have always loved animals. And I feels more deeply connected to them because of my meat free life.

  • All life kills to survive.  From bacteria to man, we all kill to live.  Vegans eat the babies of the poor nut trees, they kill the spark of life that the trees tried to procreate.  This man is a mercenary trying to save his soul and live with the ghosts of the people he killed.  I pray he makes it.  Poaching for profit is wrong.  Eating meat is not wrong.  We are what we are.

  • The universe is hostile, so impersonal.
    Devour to survive, so it is, so it's always been.

    Life feeds on life.

  • Yeah sure small changes in our habits can make a great difference in the lives of others … Good one Damien hope people understand n take things positively

  • Thank you, Damien. I work in the meat industry, and while protesters holding signs had never had an impact on me, your story certainly did. While I'm not saying I'll give up my job, as times are tough and job security is rare, you've certainly given me a lot to think about – a perspective I'd never really understood before. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • WOW. Incredible. Thank you for this amazing speech and your fierce bravery in standing up for the animals.

  • So you're a Vegan now right ? You know Plants don't want to die because you are Hungry either…so where does this stop ?

  • This guys a joke. I'm with him on his views of poaching but farming is a way of life. Meat builds complete protein. We need it.

  • im not a vegan and i am not an animal rights activist but it was still a great speech that i had the pleasure of listening to. Very talented and powerful speaker

  • good speech. several good points. nice leather shoes. another reminder….we have animal rights. humans are the ones we keep in tiny boxes for long period of times.

  • Hey guys, The best success that I have ever had was with Marks magic method (just google it) Without a doubt the most incredible diet that I have ever tried.

  • What an incredible sharing from Damien Mander; one that does not attach judgments as much as it does perception, enlightenment. I'll be sharing the link to this video to all in my email address book. Wonder how many will attack me for having shared, and how many others will give me thanks with a wish to discuss. Thank you Damien Mander, very, very much.

  • This might have already been mentioned as I didn't read all 526 comments. What about the pet food industry? It is huge. Sigh. What to do. I make homemade cat food using organic, humanely raised chickens and turkeys. But I also give them commercial pet food since they won't always eat the homemade food. There is better pet food being made these days, I recently found a non-gmo cat food! There are organic brands now too but my cats turn their noses up at it, won't touch it. I believe we have an obligation to the dog and cat populations like supporting spay/neutering programs and TNR efforts and finding homes for the adoptable homeless ones.

  • Everyone should watch this exceptionally moving video – it would change the world for animals. Next time you have an opportunity to make a difference for animals, will you be brave enough? Yes or no?” Damien Mander, you are an inspiration

  • Indeed, there comes a time when good people have got to disobey bad rules and do what matters for everything ! AGREED! Thank YOU!

  • I love eating meat. I'm not taking elephant tusks. It's not going to stop. People have been eating meat for ages. Rather dramatic speech.

  • When I saw this video 4 months ago, I was coming from a fish restaurant. I am on a paleo diet since 8 years. That day, I added one more restriction to my diet: no more living animals. Thanks Damien to push me to do that.

  • No matter what we decide to do the lion is still going to kill the gazelle. Even your house cat is going to kill a squirrel. It’s the nature of the world we live in

  • Great talk Damien. I heard you on a podcast ssponsored by the BBC World Service programme 'Outlook' which I reguarly listen to. Am passionate about the environment and cannot thank you and your front line ranger teams for all you do. What brave and isnpirational people you are. May all you do prosper and may you all eventually do yourselves out of a job because 'mission accomplished'!

  • Yeah. Blah blah blah.
    You nonconformists are all alike.
    The big question you should be asking yourself, is: if God didn't intend for us to eat animals, then why did He make them out of meat??? eh?

  • Beautiful speech! if i watched it before going vegan i am sure this video would have made me question my choices. Thank you for all the work you do. Regards from Lima Perú.
    We are a big group of vegans here and a very commited group of activist <3

  • Bravo!! Thank you so much for your heartfelt talk! I have thought about this since the advent of factory farms and the hideous rise in poaching; this was a defining moment, indeed.

  • Very inspiring speech in deed. No pretending in him.

    While I admire his belief and thank him for the work that he has done and still is doing to protect illegal hunting and poaching, I do have to say that we human are also carnivores. There are pros and cons in both being vegans and meat consumption. For example, imagine how much natural habitat has to be wiped out for crops lands if 50% of humans turns to vegans? I do minimize my consumption for red meat and large animal meat in general, and stick with seafood and poultry.

    But again, I’m with you on many other issues. Best wishes and god bless!!

  • A beautiful talk. My issue with it, and indeed with veganism itself, is this: Since the 5 kingdoms of life are arbitrary groupings invented by humans in the past couple of hundred years, who are we to decide from which ones we may take living things for our own purpose (eating or otherwise)? Today it's generally accepted that plants are also sentient. All life started at the same time and therefore, every living thing is an equally successful solution to the sole purpose of reproducing itself. So surely we should consider all lifeforms to have equal value. Of course, if we did, it would make our existence rather tricky. I don't have any answers, just questions.

  • 1:20 “There comes a time when one must take a position that’s neither safe, nor political, nor popular. But he must take that position because his conscience tells him it is right” – Martin Luther King Jr.

  • An actual real life hero you'd expect only to exist as a main character in a hollywood blockbuster film. I re-watch this on a regular basis, particularly when I am feeling unmotivated and unsure of my life purpose. The inspiration and positive influence Mander's words provide are unmatched by any motivational speaker or self-help guru, and in an odd way incredibly therapeutic, despite the grim nature of the realities being discussed. Damien's words remind me that the extent to which far greater levels of suffering occur on our planet very really depend upon our own personal growth, determination, and courage, as members of the human species. We must become better, stronger, wiser, more courageous and determined individuals, not because our own quality of life depends upon it, but because ending the suffering of millions, probably billions, of other sentient beings depends upon it. Don't ever stop doing what you are doing, Sir!

  • Just turned vegan. This talk came across my path. This guy nails it.
    As of today, 131 people didn't get the message. Too bad 🙁

  • Great speech and I'm a vegan. I did it for health reasons but slowly moving towards animal suffering. I did find it odd that he's wearing what appear to be leather shoes, BUT they could be synthetic too.

  • Excellent sensitivity and an innate understanding of the immense complexity of a world, rarely understood or comprehended by human beings today. Analytical and experienced in the complicated facets of the life which we are confronted by, all of us, every single day, no matter who we are.

  • So… What about the animals that have their habitats destroyed so there can be enough farmland for the agriculture of fruits and vegetables etc? I wonder what his stance is on that

  • I truly despise the poaching that goes on in Africa and the blatant disregard the population there has for these animals. However there are far worse things going on in Africa esp in Zimbabwe ! The human suffering there is off the charts, tribal warfare, genocide, starvation etc etc. The point that I am getting at is that if people have little to no regard for human life how do you expect them to look at animals any differently?

  • Today we are taking away every reason our men work to fight and prosper for. our wives and children through family courts and the hopes of some gaining a steady extortion payment and welfare and power over the fathers and protectors of our society…so when we no longer have reasons to protect and reasons other than force to support those that need it?…what you going to do when we decide to stop doing it all together stop working because it turns into slavery instead of family prosperity. we need to go back to center return our fathers to the family unit or face societal collapse. sooner than we think.

  • Islam says eating meat is OK. In Buddhism it is i heard, a myth that meat is forbidden. We should be kind generally to all aspects of life, like machines and water (as a Japanese scientist found). I've tried to be vegetarian, and the level of hunger and stress made it impossible, nearly, after a time. But meat is OK and we should be kind (also to animals).

  • Im sorry dude. I admire the anti-poacher action and all but I won't stop eating meat.
    I'm against disturbing the wildlife for economic profit but the animal meat we consume on a day to day basis comes from animals we farm and that wont exist otherwise. And if I raise it, I can kill it and eat it.