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Jewish World Review
Nov. 10, 2006
/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan 5767
Zoo Review Sad
On the drive over to my brother's house last week-end I had mixed emotions. My wife and I were invited to join my brother Brian and his three year-old son, Max, for breakfast then a trip to the L.A. Zoo. Sure, I was looking forward to spending the day with him and my young nephew, but I hadn't been to a zoo in years, and quite frankly I never really cared much for zoos - even as a kid. It was a good opportunity to be with Brian and Max, however, so we went happily. The breakfast was good and the time spent with Brian and Max was great Ö then we got to the zoo.
Little Max had a fine time, he loved seeing the lions most of all. I took enjoyment from watching Max watching the animals, but watching the animals myself, overall, made me sad. So many of them were just lying around sleeping - out of sheer boredom, I'm sure. Others, like the Orangutans, had a world-weary sad look in their eyes. One particularly large fellow was lying on his back, pushed up against a glass window as we approached. I made eye contact with him and it was heartbreaking. He just looked so defeated.
The elephant rocked back and forth in that nervous, anxious sort of way that they do. I wondered what was in his mind as he swayed. The city council has approved the construction of a bigger elephant enclosure but it can't ever really be big enough for these creatures. They need acres and acres. The giraffes were in a comparatively large area, but given the fact that they can run free over long distances in their natural habitat, their zoo space was inadequate and at best allowed for only slow walking.
Watching the seals swim around and around in the same monotonous, nauseating circle made me dizzy, but it must drive the seals nuts. And I wonder how the mountain goats like the warm Southern California temps while perched atop a fake mountain peak. I don't think they're fooled much by the phony painted snow, do you?
By far, the most telling thing about the animals at the zoo was that so many of them simply kept their backs turned away from the crowd. For example, all four zebras, standing at different sections of the enclosure, were deliberately facing away from the people. It was so strikingly obvious to me that these animals wanted absolutely nothing to do with the gawkers. It would've been funny if it weren't so sad.
I know I must sound like some kind of animal rights zealot, but I'm not. I eat meat and I'm not ashamed of it. The taste of a really good steak is one of life's great pleasures. And I know enough about the philosophy and tactics of extreme groups like PETA and the Animal Liberation Front to be absolutely against them. Any animal group which claims that the killing of chickens is morally equivalent to the Jewish Holocaust has instantly lost all credibility for me. And any animal group that willfully destroys property or threatens people are nothing but terrorists pure and simple.
However, mistreatment and torture of animals is unacceptable. Treating our animals with kindness is the ideal and children (as well as many adults) need to be taught to handle their pets with gentleness and respect. No decent person wants to see animals hurt needlessly or made to suffer. Talking good care of our domestic pets is the responsibility of everyone who has one.
And when it comes to wild animals, I believe they should be, well, allowed to be wild. I know some will disagree, but I think animals are best served when they are simply left alone in their natural environment. There are many, though, who will argue that the best way to protect certain species is within the confines of a zoo, far away from the poachers and hunters of Africa, Asia and South America who have been encroaching on the animals' domain for decades. They have a point. I'm sure the debate will go on for some time.
As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to going to the zoo, I'd rather go to the movies. The zoo leaves me with a deep feeling of depression, frustration, and sadness and the movies usually don't - as long as I avoid any film with Sean Penn, Vanessa Redgrave or Sharon Stone in it.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby