Boycott the Zoo


9 thoughts on “Boycott the Zoo

  1. I’ll never forget the hot summer day when I vowed never to return to the zoo. The din of children’s voices still rang in my ear as I looked back to the enclosures. I was glad to leave, but the inmates could not. Their only relief was getting rid of the screaming kids at least for the late afternoon and night — peace at last. The next day it was to start all over again.

  2. Zoos can range from state-of-the-art facilities with species-specific habitats, trained staff, and veterinarians to a few cages at a truck stop. So the question can be narrowed down to whether we can justify locking up animals for exhibition at even good zoos.

    Maintaining endangered species will help preserve them. However it involves “management” that in a broad way resembles that of fish and game departments. Both focus on species preservation, which can often come at the cost to individual animals. Animals never know the lands of their origin. Harambe would never know life in his family and band and would never roam the forests that are his habitat. The babies of captive wildlife are often born in one facility and then shipped to another, thus having to leave the caregivers who raised them. If babies born in most conservation programs do not have genetic profile desired by the scientists/managers, they can end up as “surplus.” If no other zoo or sanctuary will take them, they can lose their lives as the giraffe Marius did in Denmark, killed and dismembered in front of an audience and fed to the big cats. That is not the kind of “conservation” we should want.

    Another primary function of zoos is education, giving the public who are not global travelers the chance to see exotic animals and learn about their lives. Some zoo visitors may, indeed, take that opportunity and go away with a greater knowledge and appreciation of the animals. However many, including young children, may have no interest in knowing that gorillas are the largest of the great apes, or what countries are their real homes, or how poaching and hunting have driven them to the point of extinction. Making animals live a life in captivity as learning tools is not fair to them.

    The zoos also have an economic function that may affect how zoo staff tend to favor visitors over animals. Zoos generate billions of dollars from visitors, donations, and virtual sponsorship of animals. The money pays for zoo employees and has a multiplier effect throughout the local economy. That monetary issue may prompt zoos to treat visitors as customers and try to satisfy them in the way businesses do. It may be one reason managers, such as Thane Maynard at the Cincinnati Zoo, and experts, such as Jack Hanna, rush to ensure people that the most important function of any zoo is visitor safety. Animals who harm visitors, no matter the provocation, are usually killed as zoo staffers convince people no one there values animals over humans. Keeping visitors happy and avoiding offense is probably one reason staff are reluctant to criticize bad behavior if it does not harm other visitors.

    The quest for more money is turning some zoos into entertainment centers with carrousels and train rides. Some, like the Columbus Zoo, even have pony rides and dromedary rides. The resulting noise and commotion can hardly have a calming effect on the animal prisoners, and keeping one group of animals in cages while making group haul provide rides is not the kind of venue that should be encouraged.

    The disgust with zoos as exhibitions and virtual carnivals is justified. However, people may then rhapsodize about life in the wilderness. Wild animals are better off in their own natural homes, that is not an easy life either. Predation, fights, injuries, and illness cause suffering and death in the wild. And a great part of the suffering and death among wild animals is still due to human beings. With Harambe as an example, Dian Fossey and her biographer Farley Mowat both complained over the cattle being brought into gorilla territory. They worried about the gorillas becoming the focus of ecotourism. They recount the horrors of poaching, with the gorillas being shot, speared, and filled with arrows. They describe gorillas dying in snares or slowly perishing from the gangrene the snares cause in those who have escaped with the wires still cutting into their flesh. Some poachers also function as kidnappers, and one poacher killed 10 members of a gorilla band to capture one baby for a zoo in Germany. So even if captive wild animals could be returned to their true homes, they would not be free of pain and certainly not from the pain inflicted by the ever-increasing and ever-encroaching human population.

    One alternative for wildlife conservation aside from zoos would be sanctuaries, where the animals would not have to contend with intrusive visitors. Sanctuaries would require new forms of funding and decisions would have to be made about the “surplus” animals and their fate. Killing them or selling them to zoos and possibly substandard facilities to dispose of should not be an option.

    The sanctuary issues also raises the question of why Congress has not outlawed trade in exotics/wildlife. People can buy a tigers and lions over the Internet. Most buyers do not have the resources, room, expertise, and access to veterinarians to take proper care of them. Some are bought as photo props when they are young, for example, lion and tiger cubs. When they get bigger and dangerous, they must be gotten rid of. Already overcrowded sanctuaries try to save all they can but are usually filled to capacity. However, for the big cats and some other wildlife, there are canned hunt farms, where trophies can be gotten cheaper and easier than a trek to Africa with none of the danger for the mighty nimrods. Individual should have no right to own wild animals and consign them to such a fate.

    So what is to be done with zoos? We mourn for Harambe, and Marius the giraffe, and the nameless lions shot when some demented and suicide-seeker flung himself into their enclosure in South America. Shutting down zoos seems like a great idea. But we still need to decide what to do with all the animals who cannot be returned to the wild. We need to admit that whether animals are in a cage in a zoo or are born in the wild, we cannot ensure their safety from the destruction of humanity. And that is our shame.

  3. My feeling is, so some people can’t see animals in their natural habitat. Who cares? That doesn’t mean they have to be kidnapped and sold as property for a questionable outcome. That rationale falls very flat. Nowadays, it’s virtual everything, and people may even prefer that.

    Also, accreditation and inspections leave a lot to interpretation and are not standardized, and they should be. “A barrier between the exhibit and the public” should be much more defined such as height, materials, effectiveness, etc. Knowing this, accreditation and inspections do not reassure.

    Even articles purporting to be sensitive to animal rights don’t want to assign blame. I don’t know why they can’t put the blame squarely on having zoos, period. Without zoos, none of the events we read about would happen. More attention and resources ought to go to protecting habitat.

    • Yes, and the children can do without seeing animals trapped in zoos. Most of them don’t care and can’t stand still long enough of listen anyway.

      The USDA is also supposed to oversea zoos. There are multiple instances of substandard zoos being reported, and they just issued citations, if that much, and let the abuse go on. I think poor Tony the Tiger is still at the truck stop.

      I don’t trust most of the animal groups or the authorities. They are too busy trying not to offend anyone whose donations they might lose. The organizations that speaks out the most–PETA–is the one that is the most hated for being radical and misanthropic.

      • You can’t win either way – either you kiss butt and nothing gets done, or you become radical and misanthropic and nothing gets done. At least PETA gets heard, good or bad; the butt kissers really only encourage more of the same bad behavior, and worse, by doing so allow the mistreatment to go on. All told, I’d rather be honest – we’re not a good species, and getting worse as time goes on. You can’t help but be misanthropic; it’s an honest assessment. We don’t belong on the pedestal we put ourselves on. And we’ve got clay feet.

  4. The other thing that’s very bothersome about the articles I’ve been reading about the Cincinnati Zoo is more of that happy horsesh*t about ‘let’s all try to use this as a learning opportunity so that we can do better next time’. Isn’t that what people said the last last time? And the time before that? And the time before that. The trouble is, nothing ever changes! There will be another poor animal in a zoo or a national park killed because of human carelessness, the self-proclaimed ‘superiority’ of humans, or a legal policy, or just downright cheapness, that the poor animal knows nothing of but yet has to pay the ultimate price for. Anyone want to bet?

    • Yes, this was a learning event–unfortunately, Harambe didn’t survive it. And people NEVER learn. It’s like that stupid comment we keep hearing–“we have to make sure this never happens again.” So the gorilla exhibition opens today, and people will drag more children than they can manage to the zoo, and unless the zoo is more vigilant, some stupid biped of the human variety will end up getting another animal killed.

  5. Now here’s a little girl who’s smart. When she visited one of those crappy traveling zoos at a street festival and saw a kangaroo keeling over from heat prostration, she reported it to the Ontario Society for Cruelty to Animals. I we cannot depend on our leaders to protect wildlife, maybe the people ought to report them to the appropriate watchdog. You’ll not that old ‘we’re glad to hear this so that we can do better next time’ BS. And yes, this is a little different than the cold and shivering bison in YP case because these animals are confined.

  6. The ‘prosecutor’ has flat out said that Harambe, although a beautiful animal, is still ‘just’ an animal and does not equate to human life. The Cincinnati Zoo was founded in 1875 and that says it all, I think, and this prosecutor must be from the same era. Everyone knows that a prosecutor is a sleazily political office, totally dependent on the public’s vote and approval.

    What an amazing display of propaganda to satisfy a stupid public – when I heard the parents were going to be ‘investigated’, I wrote the entire thing off right then, because you know an animal’s rights would never come before a human’s. What could they possibly be charged with? They may have been inattentive, but that isn’t a crime. The zoo is the party responsible, and what a deflection from their responsibility.

    I see the gorilla exhibit, complete with tacky signage, reopened today. But at least some of the bottom of the barrel zoos are going to get much more scrutiny:

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