Goran Visnjic, Dr. Do Good
January 2005
Alysia Poe

A lifesaver both onscreen and off, ER’s Goran Visnjic offers his prescription for Protecting the world’s precious wildlife

Several years ago I saw a video of a seal hunt in Canada and was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that sort of thing was still happening in the 21st century. But it was. The way seals are killed is so inhumane. They’re clubbed then pulled across the ice with big hooks. I mean, I have a pretty strong stomach from being on ER all these years, but it still disgusts me. Once you see a video like that it’s really hard to sit on the sidelines and say “Who cares.”

I decided to team up with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) because it has an impressive history of protecting animals and their habitats all over the globe. In addition to being a leader in the fight against seal-hunting, IFAW works with local governments in Africa to protect elephants from poachers and preserve their natural environment. It also promotes whale-watching as a viable commercial alternative to whale-hunting throughout the world.

Over the years the IFAW’s efforts have yielded concrete results. It led the fight to persuade Canada to impose quotas, limiting the number of seals that cold be hunted. Many decades ago people relied on nature for survival and for creating certain comforts, but nowadays we don’t need to do that. It’s insane that seals are being hunted for their fur, or for their intestines to make aphrodisiacs; with today’s technology, we have other choices that won’t harm wildlife. Also, because of the IFAW’s actions, the U.S. and European communities have banned the import of seal products. The IFAW is also trying to create a seal-watching industry, just as it helped develop whale-watching into a profitable industry, so the people who hunt these animals can switch to tourism. Recently I was able to go on a whale-watching expedition in Washington State, and it was amazing. When you see a whale up close you can’t help but develop a huge amount of respect for this animal because it’s powerful enough to destroy your ship, but doesn’t – it just swims by and minds its own business.

What I’m trying to do with the IFAW is raise awareness of these issues and promote the protection of all life as well as the preservation of the planet. This isn’t about one species, but at the same time it is, because all things are connected. If we keep abusing the environment and taking without giving anything back, eventually the planet will not be able to sustain us. If anyone is responsible for the planet, it’s us. We have the power to destroy or protect everyone – and everything. And we need to use that power wisely.