Wednesday, August 2, 2017

On tunnel vision, ‘wildlife’ in zoos & recurring Qs

It shouldn’t happen – but it did. Eager to promote the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) in my last post, I neglected to describe it as a grassroots group, one “made in New Jersey” 34 years ago. It deserves admiration and support for that reason alone, besides its initiatives and successes ever since.

Worse yet, I didn’t mention any of the other organizations that also work diligently for animal welfare here, often in tandem with APL.  (It does take a village – or in this case, a statewide coalition of groups with similar goals -- to assure that positive change happens for animals.)

Now, to finish putting my case of tunnel vision to rest: as a Humane Society of the US member, regular donor and freelancer, I want to give a shout-out for HSUS-NJ.  Focused exclusively on animals in New Jersey, this is a group you can’t go far without hearing good things about.

The efforts of Brian R. Hackett, HSUS state director since April ’16, include (“but are not limited to”!) lobbying for better legislation on the local, county and state levels; building the  grassroots supporter and volunteer network; working with various animal-protection organizations to build coalitions supporting key priorities; sharing resources with animal shelters and rescue groups.
As one specific there: HSUS-NJ sponsored Lobby Day in Trenton this past March. If you attended the annual event, you had to appreciate the colossal organizing effort behind it, as well as the noble goal of bringing activists and legislators together.

Unnatural “wild” animals

Those who believe a zoo is the place to see and learn about the world’s wild animals are, for countless reasons, so very wrong. One reason is this startling fact -- “Close to 90 percent of the animals now in large modern zoos are not snatched from their native habitat; they are the offspring of other zoo animals.” – from a recent book review of  THE ZOO: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of the London Zoo: 1826-1851, by Isobel Charman.

Think about that: most zoo animals don’t know how to behave naturally as what they are; they’ve never lived where or how others of their kind live. Being a zoo animal is all they know. The review goes on to say what is the bottom-line worst part of animals in zoos: “They get excellent medical care and the right diet, but still what they experience is incarceration.” 

Questions that won’t go away

Why, I often wonder, do some animal advocates try to save the animals they want to help on the backs of other animals? A current for-instance: the NJ veterinarians’ group offering a fund-raising “day of fun” at Monmouth racetrack. They boost horse racing – a “sport” known for doping, soring, needless injuries and deaths, and sending retired racers to auction for eventual slaughter – to raise money for their own cause. What’s wrong with this picture?

Another case: A “service dog” – in this case, a dog serving involuntarily (as always) with the Marines – given recognition and an elaborate funeral after he died.  His human “partner,” who had enlisted voluntarily, cited the dog’s heroism.

Excuse me, but given his druthers, would that dog have volunteered for the Marines? Is that why he existed, to sniff out bombs, and die, for humans? And there are thousands of such dogs “on duty,” with military funerals and platitudes about “partners” at the end.

Dominionism is the worldview or belief held by one species that it has a divine right
to use animals and everything else in the living world for its own benefit. –Jim Mason


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  1. Again, another thought-provoking column Pat! On "Questions that won't go away" there is much I could say on the matter, but my language might not be appropriate. I attended a Pet Expo last year and was amazed with the amount of animal rights groups versus the "performing" animals on show. I wondered why the fund-raising groups felt the need to sell raffle tickets for something that had nothing to do with the animals they are trying to help.

  2. The classic case for me is are the animal welfare groups that sponsor bingo events with Coach (leather, as in from animals!) bags as prizes. (Literally, "on (from) the backs of other animals"!)