The Bear

I remember some months ago I was reading a blog post about The Cove and was utterly irritated by a comment the author received on that post.  I can’t remember the whole comment but the part that jumped out at me was “well animals were put here for our entertainment.”

I have not always had the attitude I currently have about animals.  The idea of being a vegetarian was once an absolutely absurd thought to me.  But…I don’t think I ever thought that animals were put on this earth to entertain us humans.  But with that comment I learned that some people do think that.

Zoos, Sea Parks, and Circus type animal shows are good business.  People are amused by looking at animals in captivity and watching them do tricks.  Even my family has a membership and donates regularly to The Tallahassee Museum, which is, in essence, our local Zoo.    The Animal Kingdom at Disney World is one of our favorite places to visit.  Watching The Cove made me doubt my love and support of those two places.  What I can say for both of them though is that at least the animals in their care have room to roam.  Although they have the space for many more exhibits, The Tallahassee museum instead offers large areas holding native animals so they are at least somewhat “at home.”  They nurture sick animals back to health and offer educational resources to the public.

While in Maryland we visited the Salisbury Zoo.  This Zoo was about the same size as ours here in town, but housed some very exotic animals.  One of these animals was the Spectacled Bear.  This bear is native to South America.  Salisbury Maryland is not it’s natural habitat (although I did learn this particular bear was born in captivity).  When we stood before this exhibit, my heart broke.  I couldn’t believe the sight.  I think the bear had a small fenced in “yard” over to the side, but the area it was in as we watched it was a walled in area with a small “pool” and lots of concrete.  As we watched for 5 to 10 minutes the bear simply paced back and forth.  Even more disturbing was the pattern at which she moved her head.  At each end she swooped her head down and then back up.  I couldn’t figure out exactly why but there was a shadowy outline behind her on the wall and she literally traced it with her nose.  It was so apparent that she was suffering.  As we stood there, people walked through.  “Look at the bear.”  Then they continued on their way.  This animal was obviously in such great pain.  There was even a sign next to her exhibit that said something like “Please do not be disturbed by this bear’s behavior, we are doing all we can to help her.”  Yes, folks, please don’t bother to feel empathy for this animal…she was merely put on this earth for your entertainment.

I came home gung-ho to save this bear.  I contacted a friend who used to work for ASPCA.  I asked her if there was a way to find an animal sanctuary and initiate a rescue of some sort.  Sadly, she said that conditions are like this in nearly every zoo animals display this kind of OCD behavior in nearly every zoo and there is really little anyone can do to help the animals.  The best we can do is have some compassion for these creatures and take time to see them as more than our source for food and entertainment.  And maybe, perhaps, speak up when we witness their suffering.

**Renee’s comments are the best!  She always makes me think about whether what I wrote is truly accurate or skewed by my bad memory.  I went back to the message exchange with my friend and made the change above.  Basically animals in most places despite how good or bad the conditions are just react to not being where they are meant to be.  This bear’s conditions, in my opinion, were bad.


13 thoughts on “The Bear

  1. Alisha July 16, 2010 / 10:59 am

    I have mixed feelings about zoos as well. There’s a free zoo in downtown Chicago that I took my kids too earlier this spring. There is a gorilla there that is quit agressive: charges at and bangs on the glass. I don’t know why they won’t send him to another environment. Obviously, this one is not good for him.

    And maybe it’s because I’m an intuitive/empath, but when I look into the eyes of some of these animals, my heart breaks. I get so sad that they are forced to live a life of captivity.

    • lesleehorner July 16, 2010 / 1:30 pm

      I know what you mean, Alisha. There was also an owl there (also named spectacled, I think) and it too looked very depressed and disheveled. I just stared into its eyes for a few minutes and felt so much sadness for it.

  2. Lisa@Practically Intuitive July 16, 2010 / 12:24 pm

    I’m with you guys, too. I had a feeling of overwhelming sadness as I read your words about this poor bear. It makes my heart hurt.

    And I would have taken unbrage at the comment regarding animals being here for our enjoyment just like you. WTH? My cousin (devout Catholic) said the same thing – basically that animals are here for the pleasure of humans and they have no soul. I stared at her with an amazing amount of “You must be kidding” on my face. How can anyone truly, in their heart, believe that?

    • lesleehorner July 16, 2010 / 1:32 pm

      Yes Lisa, people take this “dominion” thing too far. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. meeshelleneal July 16, 2010 / 5:57 pm

    When I was a child my mother had a friend who owned an animal sanctuary so often I was brought along to visit with the animals and be in nature. It was one of my favourite places to be.

    I also have a friend who is passionate about wild arc ( and I donate to them in her name every year for her birthday – it has a dual purpose of making me feel good while giving her something she would enjoy.

    Thank you for speaking up when it’s needed.

  4. rageomatic July 17, 2010 / 10:41 pm

    Did I tell you I’m trying to write a cohesive worldview? It took me years to come up with an explanation of why we should treat animals with respect…yet evolution obviously designed us to kill and eat meat. There has to be that balance.

    The left backlashes against the “animals were just put here for us to abuse” instead of trying to find balance.
    And the right backlashes against the “animals are just people with fur” instead of trying to find balance.

    I like how you walk the line and say “This is really sad, and since we have the power to help we should.”

  5. Renee July 19, 2010 / 7:58 am

    Hmmm … I’ve been to a lot of zoos in a lot of different places and I have never seen a bear kept in such conditions. The Buffalo Zoo has a spectacled bear (along with several others) and they have HUGE areas to roam with lots of water and natural habitat and appear to be as happy as an animal in a zoo can be. The Baltimore Zoo, Jax Zoo and National Zoo are the same.

    While this particular bear is obviously in a bad zoo, the statement that “nearly every zoo” does this sounds like propoganda to me.

    • lesleehorner July 19, 2010 / 10:41 am

      Your comment sent me back to my message exchange with my friend and I updated the post accordingly. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with people getting their information from personal blogs. In this case I passed around some bad information about the conditions of zoos. It is not the conditions, just the way the animals react to not being in their true homes.

      • Renee July 19, 2010 / 10:48 am

        If you ever get a chance, you should visit the Buffalo Zoo. Unfortunately, due to budget issues, the county pulled funding and they had to majorly downsize, but that allowed them to continue the great care for the exhibits they kept.

        I’ve gone there a lot over the years and the animals seem genuinely happy. The bears actually play and the gorillas interact with the people in a very positive way, as do the elephants. It’s a really nice place.

        I guess I see it this way: If the animals were in the wild, they’d be fighting for food and water and always on alert for predators and possibly have incredibly short lives due to disease or being eaten by something. In a GOOD zoo, they get fed and don’t have to worry about being eaten and can be comfortable. Kind of like our cats and dogs. But I stress the word GOOD zoo. And I see zoos as a place for education rather than entertainment.

        Except when I go to Jax and see the bonobos because they’re just so funny and fun to watch. 🙂

      • lesleehorner July 19, 2010 / 11:00 am

        Speaking of bonobos, there is a new (I think) novel out called “Lucy” and it’s about a girl that is half-human half-bonobo. I listened to an interview with the author and it sounded VERY interesting. I meant to tell you about it earlier!

    • Renee July 19, 2010 / 11:03 am

      I’ll have to check it out. That sounds … interesting. 🙂

      But they are just so cool. I actually saw one tickling one of the babies once. And they watch back. They just sit there and stare at the people watching them sometimes.

  6. Nicole November 22, 2011 / 8:57 pm

    I’m not sure if you realize it or not, but the people that work at zoos actually have degrees, sometimes multiple degrees. Regardless of how you may think an animal feels, you should leave animal care to the people that actually know what they are doing. I was utterly appalled at the things that were said here.

    • lesleehorner November 25, 2011 / 2:53 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I wrote this two years ago so had to look back to figure out what was so appalling about it. I do not have any college degrees in animal behavior or care but I do have an opinion which is what I expressed here. Thank you for reading.

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