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A Moral Crisis At The Zoo

I have purposefully avoided taking my child to the Zoo. Even though I can acknowledge that the agenda of zoos is most likely conservation and cultivating an appreciation for wildlife – I still can’t help but feel that the animals are imprisoned in a purgatory of unimaginable mental desolation. They are trapped in small confined “natural” habitats where humans gawk at them by the thousands, energetically raping them with their expectant eyes. Even the thought of the zoo overwhelms me with grief – the bleak reality that we have destroyed these creature’s territories, and now keep them in jail for our own amusement.

So when The Munch expressed interest in wanting to go the zoo, I debated telling her all that… and of course adding in a manifesto about poachers and the ever shrinking rainforest – but she just kept insisting that seeing a zebra would be cool. Besides, it seemed like a pretty dark conversation to have with your 3 year old on a a Sunday afternoon.

My parents had already brought Munch a few days before, and she wanted to go back with all of us to show me the animals. So my mom, dad, Munch and I all went to the zoo, as I grappled with twisting sentiments of not wanting to support this torturous eco system, but also acknowledging that from Munch’s perspective it was pretty amazing to see a panda bear.

My dad and I are both people who can never enjoy a moment because we are too busy over analyzing and judging. While Munch and my mom could appreciate the experience for what it was, my dad and I kept whispering to each other about the moral conflict. We would then look at people with disapproving eyes and flinch with disgust at those ignorant enough to pound on the glass in hopes for some attention from the unsuspecting spectacle inside. The sad being wondering why every one was looking at them while they were trying to snack on bamboo and scratch their ass. The only solace I had was when my dad reminded me that the trainers probably really loved these animals, and that they all looked like “nice women in khaki shorts.”

Yet here is the problem with witnessing a wild animal in a contained environment – it takes all the magic out. If I saw a Bengal Tiger out in nature I would shit a golden egg, but at a zoo you are like “yeah, that Komodo dragon is pretty neat, now lets go check out the gorillas.” It is so easy to flip through these beings like old magazines at the dentist. They are too accessible because they are enclosed. You didn’t have to put in any effort to find them, expect for maybe walking through a crowd of people.


5 Responses to A Moral Crisis At The Zoo

  1. Laszlo Nagy says:

    I think I am with you about zoos. I once saw a gorilla and we looked at each other in the eyes and he hated me. He was so pissed off. But I could not blame him and I felt just awful afterwards that I had ever been there. Somehow I get the sense that the folks in Aquariums are happy. But I think mammals in zoos are not happy for the most part. So I just want them to be happy. I can’t say anything else about this except that one either hang out and pet the tiger or make sure the tiger has more space. I realize this is questionable solution, but if they really are to be animal ambassadors, they should be cared for more. I guess I’d feel better if there was some nice zoo keeper hanging out with them for a lot of the time because then … I don’t know … I wish I had the answer. I don’t want to hate on zoos but I worry about the mammals in them.

  2. olga davidson says:

    I hear you about zoos too. They are yet another lovely thing that British colonialism has wrought. They even put naked African tribeswoman on display. And then there are circuses. But now, there is a very strong ethos about zoos and the “nice woman in khaki shorts” really do love the animals and play with them and the Washington Zoo is for conservation and education, not profit. Afterall, it is free. I hate zoos but children love them and many grow up to be conservationist. I suggest to you that you show many pictures to Adelia in art books and teach her the names of famous artists. Then we can take her to art museums and talk to her about why the nice lady is naked at the picnic and all the men are clothed. Or why the nice man is bleeding from his hands on the cross. Or why the men are grabbing at all the women and the women are crying. Or why………..you know, Arabic calligraphy is really lovely.

  3. Toni Nagy says:

    Hahahahah Let’s go with the calligraphy

  4. teneisha says:

    Did they really put naked African Tribeswoman on display? That is…really messed up.

  5. teneisha says:

    What is hard about this, for me, is the difference between each Zoo. For example the San Diego Zoo has a ton of room for some animals, actual acres…But then the sun bears *look* like they just have a little ledge, but supposedly they have a ton of hidden space behind the curtain so to speak. Here in Atlanta the enclosures are small for a few of the really big animals, like the tigers, who are always PISSED. Why would the Zoo do that? Was there an emergency Tiger transfer and no other Zoo’s could take them? I have no clue…But they need a bigger enclosure.

    I try to focus on the conservation aspect of it. We are members at Zoo Atlanta and at the Georgia Aquarium (which has the largest single tank aquarium in the world). Both do great conservation work…Maybe I should be a better member and speak out for the Tigers…

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