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


 

Photo credit:Kevin H.

221 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R20 days ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R20 days ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R20 days ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R20 days ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R20 days ago

TYFS

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William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thanks.

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Jeaneen Andretta
Past Member 4 years ago

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.

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Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Claud V.
Claud Veiga5 years ago

A great judge.

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Lindy Eduarte
Eugenio Eduarte5 years ago

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.

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