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Zoos & Circuses August 04, 2004 12:35 AM

One can argue the virtues of zoos until they are blue in the face, and there are some that are magnificent and contribute greatly to animal welfare, but they were still founded on greed. "Oh, lets bring these animals back to an unnatural habitat so people can pay to gawk at them." And circuses are barbaric. Do the tigers and elephants feel cheated out of their habitat? I remember being taught that our founding fathers had said "give me liberty or give me death!" do you think that a jaguar, pacing up and down along the fence of his cage, feels the same way?  [ send green star]
i am not sure i buy what follows August 04, 2004 6:04 AM

but i thought it worthy of throwing into the discussion: "I have heard nearly as much nonsense about zoos as I have about God and religion. Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are "happy" because they are "free." These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or of an aardvark is rarely exalted). They imagine this wild animal roaming about the savannah on digestive walks after eating a prey that accepted its lot piously, or going for callesthenic runs to stay slim after overindulging. They imagine this animal overseeing its offspring proudly and tenderly, the whole family watching the setting of the sun from the limbs of trees with sighs of pleasure. The life of the wild animal is simple, noble, and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its "happiness" is dashed. It yearns mightily for "freedom" and does all it can to escape. Being denied its "freedom" for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So Some people imagine. This is not the way it is. Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such a context? Animals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor in time, nor in their personal relations... ...A good zoo is a place of carefully worked-out coincidence: exactly where and animal says to us, "Stay out!" with its urine or other secretion, we say to it, "Stay in!" with our barriers. Under such conditions of diplomatic peace, all animals are content an we can relax and have a look at each other. In the literature can be found legions of examples of animals that could escape but did not, or did and returned. There is the case of the chimpanzee whose cage door was left unlocked and had swung open. Increasingly anxious, the chimp began to shriek and slam the door shut repeatedly-with a deafening clang each time-until the keeper, notified by a visitor, hurried over to remedy the situation... ...But I don't insist. I don't mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people's good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both." from pages 15 - 18 of "Life of Pi:A Novel" by Yan Martel. A fabulous, spiritualy upliftng read, whatever your views on zoos and religion might be!! peas, ~daivd  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Maybe I wasn't clear... August 04, 2004 11:17 AM

I never said that zoos are bad. I love them! But I can't get past the pangs of guilt I have going to them. For animals like and albino peacock, a zoo is almost indispensable! I merely leave it open for discussion that an animal MIGHT want to be free living with the predators and parisites than living safely in a zoo. We say it all the time "I will not tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death". Who is to say that non humans don't feel the same way? I am in no way saying that they absolutely do feel this way, I'm just saying that there is no way to know for sure that they don't. I am well aware of the dangers facing wild animals in thier natural habitats, and zoos are wonderful tools for educating people about the animals in the wild, and captive breeding is very nessesary for some species. I say that zoos were founded on greed because in the 18th & 19th centuries here, and in some countries, presently, the directors cared nothing for the well being of the animals. They were housed in small concrete cells. Exhibits have come a loooong way (in the US) since then. Perhaps I need to spell myself out a little more.  [ send green star]
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