Here is the full transcript of anti-poaching crusader Damien Mander’s talk: From Sniper to Vegan at TED conference.
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. 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 summarizes my call to arms here today. He said, “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 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 & Destroy’ tattooed across my chest. And I thought that’d make me big and brave.