Ever since my youth, zoos have depressed me. Walking about looking at the lethargic humps of fir, the baleful glazed expressions of the inmates… I shudder just recalling the old memories.
Zoos are inhumane. As Jane Shankman wrote to the Chicago Tribune on May 26, 2005:
Ossining, N.Y. — This is regarding the deaths at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the non-human animals there are captives.
We can call it “education,” “conservation” or an opportunity to “take the full measure of an elephant.” The sad truth is that these animals have not volunteered to be specimens, far away from all that is natural for them, and not a single one would chose to remain there if it had a choice. Zoos exist to entertain humans. It is time for our society to evolve beyond this and show true respect for all life, including that of animals.
I agree; maintaining a menagerie is anachronistic. The time is long past to end the abuse of the animal kingdom for the titillation of humanity. With all the cameras in the world, a more reasonable approach to species education would be to film them in their natural habitat, thus opening the possibility for further study. It’s doubtful we can learn much more from an incarcerated iguana than we can from a free one.
Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is getting a lot of bad press lately. May creatures have dies lately in connection to this one facility. Protesters, by nature extremists, have leaped into the media fray obscuring fact for political gain. On May 19, the Chicago Tribune had this to say:
Lincoln Park Zoo is embroiled in controversy triggered by the baffling and heartbreaking deaths of nine animals since October. Three elephants, three rare monkeys, two gorillas and a camel have died either on site or in transit, a toll that has damaged one of Chicago’s favorite institutions.
The zoo’s president, Kevin Bell, offered to resign, an offer rightly rejected by the zoo’s board. Meanwhile, animal rights activists have seized on the deaths to challenge Lincoln Park Zoo’s practices. Protesters chanted Sunday, “Lincoln Park Zoo, what do you say? How many animals died today?”
At this stage, the zoo’s critics are going more on emotion than fact.
Isn’t that the way of most public protests? It is fashionable in certain circles for people to gather in public shouting rhetoric. Hatred is rampant in our society, often formless until some side issue like this one causes an excuse to vent our trapped hostilities. Rarely does such activities improve matters.
In support of the zoo, Peter Vilkelis writes:
Chicago — Those in an uproar over the recent events at Lincoln Park Zoo seem to forget that death is a part of life. Simply because an animal dies does not mean that a crime was committed. The zoo community is grieving over these deaths.
The behavior of these self-obsessed zealots at a recent protest was like taunting survivors at a funeral (”Protesters assail zoo; amputation revealed; PETA lists demands as Lincoln Park confirms ape injury,” Metro, May 16). The anti-zoo radicals revealed themselves to be mean-spirited haters. They chanted slogans to the effect that zoo employees are the equivalent of SS guards. On the contrary, it is the people who work at the zoo who are the true animal lovers. To claim that they intentionally inflict pain and suffering is libelous. These protesters should find something constructive to do.
I am proud to support Lincoln Park Zoo.
I detect some hatred here as well. This extreme position is just as unhelpful as the opinion he complains about. Still, Peter has a valid view in is depiction of Zoo personnel. They wouldn’t be doing such work if they didn’t care about the animals.
The sad fact is zoos have become more necessary lately for the survival of an increasing number of species, because humanity hasn’t the foresight to cordon itself off from harmful, reckless multiplication; like a gas, we’re expanding to fill all available space. Soon there’ll be nothing left but institutions like our zoos to keep the benefactors of Noah alive.
A necessary evil to counteract an unnecessary problem.