In the past few weeks the news has been abuzz with several stories coming from zoos around the world. These articles tend to attract quite a few readers it seems, mostly because people seem to think it’s kinda cute when animals prove us they’re smart, or that they can take initiative in a given situation.
There was this octopus^ that managed to escape its prison through some pipe, much to the delight of its human wardens. Then, a bit less funny was this chimp^ who had to be tranquillized while doing what it knew best – having fun above the ground. After the chemical did its job, during some not particularly dignifying minutes, the chimp fell and was skillfully saved from hitting the pavement.
Then, things turned nasty when a tiger killed^ its keeper at yet another location. It is now when humans finally start showing compassion. Of course, its towards their fellow, a keeper, which apparently had a good bond with the tiger. And let’s not forget the deaths at SeaWorld^, a place where patrons used to eat lunch while trainers did tricks with killer whales, one of the most intelligent mammals in the world.
I deeply regret that humans have died while “working” with animals. I think that this can be prevented if we start treating these beings with the respect they deserve. This doesn’t mean that we should stop hunting animals if it is in our nature, but it does mean that we should start treating them with respect.
So then it should be of no surprise when I’m going to write that: no, it’s not cute at all when animals escape the zoo. These creatures do not belong in the zoo. Even though a zoo has the side effect of educating people about animals, it also spreads a terrible message about the way we’re running things on this planet.
Last year I’ve visited a place where they had various animals in a covered enclosure that only had two sets of windows. Three monkeys were gathered in front one of the windows, looking at the world outside. I didn’t have to be an expert in animal body language to understand that those monkeys felt miserable. Maybe I’d feel better if I could unsee that image, but I prefer to have it burned into my brain, because such a memory will help me keep my energy when advocating animal rights on this planet.
Try imagining living your entire life in a space equivalent to a football stadium and perhaps you’ll partially understand what most animals feel like in a zoo. In one place, I’ve seen three different species of felines being crammed between five glass walls. What we’re doing to our fellow life-forms is degrading and unfair.
Education about animals can happen in a myriad of ways. Television has been around for many decades. With the advent of Virtual Reality, we’ll soon be able to visit natural habitats from the comfort of our homes. It’s time to say goodbye to the concept of a prison for animals. Let’s not forget in what period of our civilization these places have been invented.
I’ll close this off with this cute series about how things would look if the roles of humans and animals would be reversed:
Updated on April 30, 2016: no later than three days after publishing this, I’ve learned about this plan to create a dolphin park in the Arizona desert^. The builders fended off criticism with the usual claims of such entrepreneurs – that the animals will be well taken care of and that the place will offer “education” to our young. You can be well taken care of in prison, but it’s still a prison. As for education, what sort of example are we offering children when their parents cage animals for money?