Friday, December 5, 2008

A sad story I have to share

For some reason I decided to take advantage of the zoo's free admission on Thanksgiving day. It is not that I wanted to see all the animals and how cute they are and how amazing different species are. If I had gone for those reasons, I probably would have been even more surprised than I was. I hate zoos. I feel they are simply holding animals captive in depressing conditions. I do not believe they help endangered species and I question whether they really teach anyone about animals and the threat of extinction. How can you learn about respect for a species when you see the sadness in their eyes, or see they can not spread their wings or find the form of freedom they crave? I did not see one animal which seemed to have adequate space or an appropriate environment. The majority of the animals lived in cement prisons, how is this anything like what they would find in nature?

Like most humans, I related the most to the various primates they had caged up. I don't care what other people say, you can see the sadness in their faces, in their eyes. They seem so defeated. I have seen that look before. I knew a dog named Spuds who lived his life chained up in a back yard. I knew him for a short while when he lived as a dog should, in a home where he was fed well and had others to play with and care for him. Then he was taken away to the chains. All the life in his eyes disappeared. I cried every time I saw him. One day I found a way to rescue him. After I did so, the life came back to his eyes and he was the sweetest dog I have ever known. I wish I could find a way out for these other animals.

When my eyes came upon the chimpanzees I almost lost it. One of them was by the glass pane, his back mostly facing me. He was hardly moving and when he did, the movements were very slow. I could tell right away that things were not right. A stupid little boy next to the glass started to taunt him; someone else was taking photos with a flash. Both of these things were disturbing the chimpanzee greatly, and no one seemed to care or notice. I started to say out loud to my friend, "I can't believe these people can't see the pain and suffering these animals are going through. It is so sad. It is unbelievable". I doubt anyone really heard or got it. Years ago I learned a hard lesson about what goes on behind closed doors.

The animal rights group I worked for was able to get a tour of the animal facility at University of Oregon . Professors there do pointless research on rats, owls, rabbits, rhesus monkeys and other animals. After a high profile break-in during the 80s, a professor switched from using kittens and cats to rats, thinking the public would be more accepting of the killing of those animals. The stories of what happened to those cats were heart-breaking. The idea of this now happening to rats, who are one of my favorite animals, is maddening. I read about it through some court documents. I cried often during those times, learning the truth about closed doors and what happens when you are not looking.

So on this animal facility tour, we basically witnessed the animals currently being used and housed at the university. The head of the animal facility tried to talk about how well these animals were cared for and how clean the facility was. There was a lot of heartbreak for me that day, but when I saw the rhesus monkeys my heart stopped. I couldn't see one of them, but the other two were visible. One was going crazy in his cage. He would look at us and freak out, then cower in a corner. He kept repeating this behavior the whole time we looked in the room. Another monkey just looked at me. You could read her eyes. She was so unhappy. She was looking for help and all I could do was go to the next room to witness the room full of animals.

Two years later I was talking with someone who was involved in the law school's animal rights group and who had just gone on the same tour I had previously. I had not told her my experiences and she started to describe what she went through. Everything was the same. And then she got to the part where she saw the Rhesus monkeys. She told the same story I did. I started to cry. Every single day, this is what the monkeys are going through, whether we are on tour or not. The fact we witnessed the exact same behavior showed me they had no escape from their captive, tortured lives.

This is true for the zoo animals as well. As stupid families allow themselves to be herded through the zoo paths, they are unaware that these animals are unhappy every single day of their existences and those families are responsible for this torture. Their admission to the zoo pay for this industry where these animals are bred and sold to the highest bidder, not for the sake of saving any species. Thanks for listening. Sorry to share that. But it is important. I was their witness and I had to share their stories. We need to care about the zoo animals, about the animals used in animal research, and the animals we see in our lives who are not being treated properly. We cannot always do anything to help these animals directly, but there is always something you can do to help animals in general. Please do. We have that freedom.

Here is a link to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Read the positive stories of chimpanzees getting a second chance and donate if you are able.


Anonymous said...

I really think you need to exercise just a touch of research to your blog.The chimpanzees at zoos are never "sold to the highest bidder".
They are carefully and thoughtfully bred through the species survival plan of the AZA, run by Steve Ross at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
They have even recently been kind enough recently to give permanent homes to to chimps, Mikey and Louie, that were retired early from the entertainment industry.
Before you go bashing zoos for their care and breeding of chimps, I really recommend you doing your due diligence in these matters.

Chelsea said...

I have done enough research. These chimpanzees are not happy and the fact they are held captive in zoos is not thoughtful at all. Zoos breed despair, that is all there is to it. It doesn't take much to see this is not a winning situation for the animals. That is what matters to me, the animals. There are alternatives, such as sanctuaries, where their first priority is the well being on the animals.

elizabet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elizabet said...

First and foremost the issue isn't about 'the best' care it is about exploiting animals and reducing their existence to a human commodity.

There are people who breed dogs, for example, in 'the best' way possible. Great care, exercise and love. Fine. That however is irresponsible when 60 million animals are euthanized because of a lack of homes.

Humane meat is another example. I don't care how well you take care of an animal before slaughter. The fact remains that you are both removing an animal's life/existence/experience for an unnecessary source of protein (selfish and a commodity) and at the same time utilizing grain and corn that could feed starving children, for the simple want of eating higher on the food chain.

So, as you see, your concern is mute when you factor in that--with chimpanzees, and zoos on a larger scale--humans are allowing a few examples of the 'wild' to live, whilst not doing the right thing, by them and the world.

What is doing the right thing?
Protecting and respecting sustainable ecosystems and stopping the destruction of them for 'development'.

Why is building surburban homes on large tracts of forest and destroying rain forest habitat for cattle grazing land development? Seems the opposite to me. Humans are inherently flawed as we can't seem to exist in balance with the environment and it's beings.