Zoos and Conservation

There are some within the animal welfare advocacy community (*cough* PeTA *cough*) that feel that all zoos should be shut down and the animals released to the wild. As an advocate for both animal welfare and conservation I respectfully disagree.

Some would have you believe that zoos are terrible places where the animals are mistreated and live out their days in cages while pining for their native lands. Advances in containment, specifically glass technology have allowed zoos to replace the cages with windows. This allows for better viewing and photo opportunities for the public while still being strong enough to contain the animal and allow the animal to feel secure.

Zoo animals are better cared for than most people. The enclosures (notice I did not say cages) are designed by experts to mimic the natural habitats of the animals that occupy them. Keepers provide them with enrichment activities that promote their natural instincts. They’re provided with the best medical care whenever they need it and their nutritional needs are met so well that their diets are probably better than those of most humans.

Zoo animals are captive bred and this is done responsibly. They have no idea what their native lands even look like and have no concept of how to survive in the wild. If we followed PeTA’s logic and released these animals into the wild, they would die. Zoo animals live much longer and have a better quality of life than a fair number of their wild counterparts. It would actually be crueler to release them than it would to continue keeping them in zoos.  At least at the zoo there’s less chance of them dying of disease, no chance of them being killed by a predator or shot by poachers, and no chance of them having their young ripped from them for sale in the illegal black market pet trade. It’s true that there are bad zoos out there that are barely more than illegally kept wild animals inappropriately contained and improperly treated in someone’s back yard. Those places absolutely should be shut down. However there are some zoos commonly referred to as popcorn parks or popcorn zoos that rescue animals that were being kept illegally and improperly by private citizens.

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Bubba also disagrees with PeTA’s position on zoos.

Zoos play an important role in conservation. Ask any wildlife veterinarian or conservation scientist why they do what they do and they’ll probably say that their parents took them to the zoo when they were children and it inspired them to help care for and protect animals and our planet’s ecosystems. Zoos maintain a collection of animals, some of which are critically endangered as a way to educate the public about these animals and inspire the next generation of conservation scientists, wildlife veterinarians, and activists. Show me a child that has gotten close to a lion in a zoo and I’ll show you a child who will be less likely to illegally kill a wild lion in a trophy hunt. Zoos foster respect for all life and when you foster that type of respect, you foster a generation of people who find the idea of asking an animal to die so that you can have a trophy completely abhorrent. Many zoos have partnered with wildlife conservation organizations and have even helped to re-introduce several species that were formerly extinct back into the wild. The Philadelphia Zoo partners with The Snow Leopard Trust, Giant Otters in Brazil, Polar Bears International, and the International Rhino Foundation.

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Exhibit A

PeTA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. If you can still agree with PeTA and their demands to shut down all zoos after being presented with this information, then I seriously question your ethics. I would also point out that the “e” on all of PeTA’s branding, the letter that stands for “ethical” is lower case. Kind of says something about how important ethics are to them doesn’t it?

 

 

If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about PeTA’s “ethics,” then I urge you to research their stance on the Vicktory dogs that were rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring (and yes, dammit it was his dog fighting no matter what he or his lawyers try to tell you). To this day PeTA insists that all of those dogs should have been euthanized outright instead of being rescued by Best Friends Animal Society. In fact they insist that all dogs seized in dog fighting cases should be put down no questions asked.

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PeTA would’ve euthanized this dog. Instead he’s bringing comfort to sick children and their families.

Still not convinced? Check their stance on Breed Specific Legislation, an ineffectual set of laws that lead to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of innocent dogs every year. Yep! PeTA supports that crap. They feel that pit bulls are a breed in crisis and BSL will stop them from being bred. They want to stop them from being bred because thousands of them are dying in shelters every year due to lack of homes. BSL has made no impact on the breeding of these animals and they’re dying in shelters because BSL is LEAVING THEM WITH NO HOMES TO GO TO!!!!! How can someone adopt a dog when it is illegal for them to have that designation (Pit bull is a designation, not a breed) of dog where they live? (If you’re interested in reading my full rant regarding BSL click here) I find an organization that claims to represent the best interests of all animals, but advocates for the euthanasia of innocent dogs and discriminatory legislation pretty damn unethical.

Hypocrisy, thy name is PeTA. By advocating for the closure of all zoos, PeTA’s trying to kill the very cause they claim to support. If they were truly for the ethical treatment of animals, they wouldn’t advocate for euthanasia unless quality of life was nil and they’d oppose BSL. Maybe someone should’ve taken them to the zoo when they were kids.

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The Things We Fear Because of Science Fiction

The world of science fiction can be a magical place full of wonderful things we’ve never dreamed possible. It can also be a deeply terrifying place where seemingly innocuous objects are turned into instruments of untold horror and destruction.

The Harry Potter universe has a few examples.

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If this started speaking with my mom’s voice, I’d be scarred for life.

Howlers. Imagine being away at boarding school and receiving a letter from mom and dad. Nice huh? Well imagine if that letter opens itself and starts shouting at you in your mom or dad’s voice right then and there in front of all your friends. Not so nice now, is it? I thank God every day that my mom can’t send howlers. I’d get a ton of them from my stand-up act alone.

 

 

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Horcruxes. On the surface they’re just ordinary objects but inside there’s a piece of someone’s soul. Even worse is the way they’re made. To make a horcrux, you have to split your soul into pieces. How do you split your soul? Oh just by killing an innocent person in cold blood. Talk about off-putting.

 

 

 

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Yet another reason I dislike winter

Then there’s Doctor Who, or the Whoniverse if you will. There are several seemingly ordinary things I’m now terrified of because of Doctor Who. Statues, snowmen, people repeating everything someone says, and small black boxes to name a few.

 

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This however is not a scary visual

The terror doesn’t end at ordinary objects. There are also the things that happen all the time that we never noticed before but now find deeply terrifying because of Sci-fi show X. Take Supernatural for example. Because of Supernatural, every time a light flickers in my apartment I go running to the kitchen to grab the salt. The same is true every time I hear the pipes make noises or really any time there’s a noise and I’m home by myself. For the record, hell no I don’t go investigating a noise. If some evil spirit wants me the bastard can come and get me. I sometimes wonder how the people at the beginning of the episodes can be so stupid. You never investigate a noise! That’s a rookie mistake!

Still you have to wonder if it scares us, why do we continue watching? And for that matter, why does it scare us so much? I ran a tabletop roleplaying game made by White Wolf as part of their World of Darkness universe called Vampire the Requiem. Something I read in the player’s guide has always stuck with me.

 

The main crux of the World of Darkness is the way it peels back the veil on the everyday world and shows us the darkness that lives underneath. It’s a universe where your next door neighbor could be a werewolf or your high school principle could be a demon. Even though the idea of your neighbor morphing into a huge, hair-covered beast is terrifying, it can also be fascinating to explore the darker reaches of our imaginations and our obsession with the things that go bump in the night.

The reason that we continue watching is then exactly the same as the reason we’re so afraid. There are things in this world that happen that we can’t explain. There are phenomena that we can’t even begin to understand. That’s what people fear the most: the unknown and science fiction has a way of tapping into that most basic fear that all human beings have. We fear what don’t know or can’t explain. At the same time, it’s human nature to be curious. We continue watching even though it scares us for the same reason that people climb into rockets to explore the farthest reaches of space. Even though it’s unknown and therefore terrifying to us, we still want to know what’s out there. We still seek to understand that which we cannot explain.

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As if I needed another reason to stay out of cemeteries at night

It’s a paradox worthy of an episode of Doctor Who. Even though science fiction plays into humanity’s most basic fear: fear of the unknown, we’re still curious about the unknown and strive to explore it. We keep pressing play because it’s just human nature. Now may we please have more episodes of Doctor Who? I need more ordinary stuff to be scared of.