Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

It’s been about two months of my internship at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) , and I feel like I’ve been exposed to so many insightful animal-related issues, some of which I hadn't been aware of until now. I really am thankful for all of these learning experiences, and beyond grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to attend events focusing on these issues and becoming more educated.

One of the subjects I’ve been hearing a lot about lately is wildlife trafficking. It’s also something that I’ve grown deeply passionate about since I began my internship. Currently, I’m working on an intern “lobbying” project at HSUS, researching an animal-welfare issue and making a legislative bill on it. It’s definitely a challenging task, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to delve deeper into an issue I wasn’t aware of until now. I will be presenting my "bill" to address this particular issue to the staffs at HSUS at the end of my internship. That’s really not too far away so I’m pretty nervous about that.

As the title of this blog states, I don’t think that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes humans prefer to remain ignorant about certain topics so that we might not feel troubled or uneasy. But the truth is, ignorance is not only detrimental to us, but to others too. If we were to keep silent about issues going on around the world, such as the welfare of animals and the treatment of them, we are not helping anyone or anything. Therefore, we need to constantly be educated and informed about the things going on around us. I know that some of us may not have the time, but if you do have the time, and you do want to make a difference, start taking action. We need to be the voice for those who are voiceless. We need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.


Intern Presentation in Gaithersburg

Last week, my intern friends and I had the opportunity to attend an interactive presentation for interns at the HSUS headquarters, located at the other side of town in Maryland. It took us around an hour to get there, because we had to take the red Metro line all the way to Shady Grove (the last station of the line) from Farragut North (the closest station from where I work). That’s around 13 stations away. Once we arrive at Shady Grove, we had a car come to pick us up and it was a nice 15-minute ride to the office. As we entered the room where the presentation was being held, I thought it was pretty cool how it looked like something off the TV series, Project Runway.



The presentation was given by one of the staff members at the Gaithersburg’s office, Pierre, who is the Research and Enforcement Manager for HSUS’ Fur-Free campaign. He taught us techniques on how to seek out faux fur from real fur. It was a 2-hour long session on fur trade and animal trapping. During the first half, Pierre gave us a briefing on the fur industry, and then later he made it more interactive. He had us use our intuition to differentiate real furs from fake ones on one of the tables at the far end of the room (shown above).


We relied mostly on sight and tactile methods to judge them. But in all honesty, I didn’t really know what I was doing. After Pierre’s patient teachings on the techniques of how to tell if fur was real, I’d say everyone, including myself, got pretty good at it. We were given a second chance to figure out which items on another table (shown below) were faux and real and we managed to get all of them right that time!



*Note: Faux fur was once really coarse, and could easily be differentiated. However, in recent years, the revamping of faux fur products made it increasingly harder to differentiate the fake with the real. Additionally, real furs are often labeled as faux furs on some clothing found in major retailers and so customers are duped into buying something without knowing the truth behind it. With the recent globalization of fur, the cost of producing them has dropped significant and retailers can get rabbit fur for as low as £1 ($1.41 USD) per meter (1.09 yards) through wholesalers. Who knew? Hence, this really surprised me because I’ve always associated real fur with high prices. It’s scary, because this could mean that any fur items could easily be real.


The second half of the sessions consisted of Pierre demonstrating how different trapping methods work. Even though it was pretty intriguing to see how these traps work, it was kind of traumatizing. The demonstration was done with stuffed animals (but it was still traumatizing), so we could see the effects of these inhumane traps on the animals that were being caught. It was really difficult to watch, but I was glad to be educated on it through visual demonstrations. It’s more impactful that way because you get to see the real thing. The traps were really well-thought out, and when we got to try to free the animal from one of the traps, called a conibear trap, it was impossible. There were four interns trying to pull it apart. If four human beings couldn’t pull it apart, then imagine how helpless an animal is once they fell into such trap.


Through this educational session, I find myself doing the ‘test-technique’ every time I come across any fur items when I shop. When I come across real fur (which was not often, thankfully), I feel my heart sink as I’m reminded of the animals who are exploited and suffered inhuman deaths for the sake of fashion. This cruelty truly needs to end. We, the consumers, are the main force in dictating how the fur trade will end in the years to come. Stop the purchase of fur and start making a difference. These animals do not deserve to have their lives end in such appalling ways.


Public Forum at the National Geographic Grosvenor Auditorium

What do Google, Etsy, Jetblue, and the Secretary of the U.S Department of Interior have in common? They’re all on the same boat in combatting wildlife trafficking in the U.S. This week, I had the chance to attend a panel discussion with huge organizations like Wildlife Conservation Society and African Wildlife Foundation, along with those I mentioned above. It was a long 3-hour session, but it was interesting to hear more about the continuous efforts from around the world trying to stop animals from being exploited. At the end of the event, the audience were given a little surprise treat from WildAid, which was really awesome. We got to watch an ad for the “Say No to Ivory” campaign featuring the cast of The Walking Dead, the hit TV series. It was really cool because we were the first ones to see it, as it was set to air in the end of the final episode of it’s latest season (which was a couple days ago, so this is not a spoiler by any means). I’m sure The Walking Dead fans who follow the series have already gotten their share in this little treat. As a fan of it myself, it was definitely one of the highlights of the event. It was a pretty epic way to end the discussion.


During the last panel discussion. On the screen are celebrities that

supports the “Say No To Ivory” campaign


A wall of National Geographic’s issues throughout the years



I’ve actually been to Georgetown a couple times now, and that’s because it’s such a quaint and historical neighborhood with lots of things to do. M Street and Wisconsin Avenue are where all the retailers are. They are in Georgetown’s main shopping area, home to many mainstream retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and Sephora. It also offers a diverse collection of restaurants and cafes for you to satisfy your stomach, too.


Of course, if you haven’t already guessed, the infamous Georgetown Cupcake is located here along M Street as well. Georgetown is truly the perfect hangout spot because it integrates food and shopping. Also, if you’re a movie-junkie, you can venture further down M Street towards Canal Road, and find yourself at the stone steps that were featured in the movie The Exorcist. If you’re a history-geek, you can go check out the Old Stone House, which is one of D.C’s oldest building located along M Street as well. For the many times I’ve gone to Georgetown’s shopping mecca, it’s always a day well spent. The best way to get to Georgetown is to take the Georgetown-Union Station or DuPont Circle-Georgetown-Rosslyn DC Circulator bus routes. Otherwise, you can take an 18-minute walk from Foggy Bottom Metro Station as there are no nearby Metro stops, unfortunately.




Read Lizzy's previous blog posts here

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More