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.