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Judge: Zoo “Delusional” to Believe Its Elephants are Happy

Judge: Zoo “Delusional” to Believe Its Elephants are Happy

Los Angeles zoo officials who believe they are treating their elephants well are “delusional,” according to federal judge John L. Segal. As the Los Angeles Times reports,

“He painted a particularly unflattering portrait of the zoo’s ‘senior elephant keeper,’ who he wrote displayed at trial ‘somewhat shocking gaps in her knowledge’ and ‘surprising misconceptions’ and who maintained an ‘anthropomorphic fantasy’ about the animals’ happiness.”

The judge also found that “the elephants’ existence is ‘empty, purposeless, boring and occasionally painful.’”

The judge’s harsh criticism was his conclusion in a lawsuit against the L.A. Zoo for abusing and neglecting the elephants caged there. Judge Segal stopped short of calling the zoo’s treatment “abuse” and failed to confiscate the elephants from the zoo, but he agreed with the plaintiffs that the elephants were suffering terribly despite the zoo’s “delusion” that they were treated better than many humans.

The lawsuit accused the zoo of penning the elephants in a space that is too small, causing boredom and excess weight gain: the elephants have only three acres, but in the wild they would roam for up to 18 hours a day. The plaintiffs also alleged that the ground in the exhibit was too hard, leading to foot and joint problems. The one male elephant among the three in the zoo, Billy, bobs his head up and down for hours, a sign of emotional and mental distress.

Many commentators had been skeptical about the plaintiffs’ allegations that the zoo mistreated and neglected the elephants, including interviewers on Varney & Co., a Fox Business Network television show where I appeared to defend the goals of the lawsuit.

Opponents of the lawsuit argued that zoos are important to instill a love for animals in children. Judge Segal thought otherwise, especially when the animals are so obviously suffering:

“Judge Segal also suggested that LA Zoo visitors could see that Billy and his elephant companions were clearly unhappy, negating the purpose of exhibiting wild animals for the public’s education and entertainment. ‘The Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not a happy place for elephants,’ wrote Segal. ‘Nor is it for members of the public who go to the zoo and recognize that the elephants are neither thriving, happy, nor content.’”

The L.A. Times reported that the judge ordered the zoo to “make changes that include instituting daily two-hour exercise periods, forbidding the use of electric shocks and tilling the habitat’s soil so the ground is softer.”

This is the first time that a judge has ordered a zoo “to improve the way it cares for its animals,” according to Plaintiff Aaron Leider and The Huffington Post. The judge’s recognition of elephants’ emotions and mental need for stimulation is part of a swelling sea change from recent times when animals’ feelings were not acknowledged or taken into account under the law.

Related Stories:

Care2′s Piper Hoffman on Fox Business Network Explains The Problem With Zoos [Video]

Top Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants

Dondi the Elephant Dies in Massachusetts Zoo


 

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Photo credit:Kevin H.

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9:49AM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

That poor elephant looks so miserable. I have not been to a zoo in about 25 years and that zoo was the Bronx. The animals there all roamed free and people were in cars that went through the park, over the animals heads. Still I never wanted to go back. And yet some say that most of the endangered species only chance is in the zoo, where they can breed them in hopes to return them to the wild, where hopefully they will not be killed.

7:32AM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

12:33PM PST on Jan 16, 2013

A great judge.

3:53PM PST on Jan 15, 2013

THIS POOR GUY....HE LOOKS LIKE THE SADEST ELEPHANT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY
LIFE....HE IS LONELY, IN THE HEAT, WITH NO WATER OR POOL, NO SHADE...NO, MR.
ZOOKEEPER, YOU HAVE VERY SAD ELEPHANT. THE NICEST THING YOU COULD DO
WOULD BE TO BRING HIM TO AN ELEPHANT SANCUTARY. YOU WOULD GO TO HEAVEN FOR THAT DEED. BUT NOW SIR, YOU WILL SURELY GO TO HELL.

12:07AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

The Judge John L. Segal obviously knew the Truth behind the zoo keepers hidden agenda. But I am bit sad to learn why HE did not order these innocent Elphants be sent to a Sanctuary some where they can live like real Elephants. People need to keep a watchful eye on these crooks who are admantly wanted to keep the Elphants behind simply to gain the Profit. Those are Greedy scums. No excuse for Abusing an Animal for any reason. I hope those zoo keepers too will suffer the painful and much sufferings before they die.

8:17AM PST on Dec 7, 2012

The judge is right.

9:21PM PST on Dec 6, 2012

I've only just read this & are glad to hear that at least the judiciary seems to be aware of the the abuse occurring in Zoo throughout the world. I commend LA a trailblazer in so many areas, & now bringing further pressure on zoo & their 'care' of the animals they enslave.

9:49PM PDT on Oct 30, 2012

Perhaps we humans should be the ones kept in zoos and other places of entertainment and public display. We serve no real purpose on this planet except to pollute it, over-populate it, pave it, spew co2 and methane into the atmosphere, and expoit, torture and otherwise use nature and all other life as commodities, "resources."
And, we still cannot figure why this "Superstorm" hit us this week. This species will not only do itself in, but will probably take all other innocent life with it.

2:52PM PDT on Sep 29, 2012

Judge Segal clearly did his homework involving this case. Definitely a step forward. Zoos are not for me, however there are animal displays that are beneficial to both humans and animals alike. The Wildlife Conservation Society in Alaska comes to mind. There are a couple of facilities here in northern AZ which also fit the criteria.

4:11PM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

Mild understatement

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