If you want to get me angry then here is an easy way to do it. Watch an animal documentary and then describe one of the animals in it as “evil”. They aren’t evil, by calling them that people are ascribing human characteristics to animals, which is called anthropomorphisation. People do this all the time, for example believing that they can tell when their dogs are feeling guilty and it is an illusion, or better put, a delusion.
I also once watched a documentary about people who keep tigers as pets. A fair few of them ended up getting mauled or worse. I don’t think it is too controversial to paraphrase Douglas Adams and say that the only genuinely evil thing that happened in these situations was the people taking the tigers as pets in the first place. I’m sorry for them but although I know it’s harsh I can only think what the hell were they expecting? You cannot blame the tigers for doing their jobs as tigers.
(Cartoon from the Pleb)
I started thinking about all this again when I saw the following story on BBC today (the italics are mine)
Exotic animals on loose in Ohio
Dozens of exotic animals have escaped from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, and are roaming the area, say police.
Police have been receiving sightings of cheetahs, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions. Twenty-five animals have reportedly been shot dead.
The animals’ owner, Terry Thompson, was found dead at the zoo, Muskingum County Animal Farm, but police have not said how he died.
We don’t know the circumstances of Thompson’s death and I am not going to speculate. I’m sorry he is dead as I would be when anyone dies but again, the first and probably only genuinely evil thing that happened here, which has subsequently led to the rest of the problems, was the removal of the animals from wherever they were and putting them in a private zoo in the first place. If these animals were taken from rescue centres or similar then you only need to move the removal I am talking about back a generation or two and the point still stands.
Now, the police are shooting these animals to kill. Even if you don’t agree with that it is easy to see why. These are bears, tigers, lions and so on. I said before that they are not evil or malign but neither are they cuddly toys – and the police department is charged with protecting the people in the area. If someone who was not involved with the zoo is killed or attacked then it is a real tragedy. Indeed, reports say that locals have been uneasy about having the private zoo in their area for some time, with previous escapes being mentioned too.
Other reports say that zookeepers from the local zoo, probably at risk to themselves, are also out trying to capture rather than kill the animals. This looks like a better option but you can still see why the police don’t want to take any chances.
My point, again, is that this terrible situation could have been avoided if the animals had not been removed from their habitat in the first place.
Now, I think the case for zoos is pretty weak in general. Whilst conditions in most of them have markedly improved over the years, it is still not the same thing as having the animals in their natural habitat. Captive-breeding is a mixed bag. There may be a case to be made for it in terms of critically endangered animals and many programs have been successful. However, there is no reason why a captive breeding program cannot be conducted in private instead of in the public eye for all to see and in fact many captive breeding programs are done away from the public. The quick retort to this is that sometimes there isn’t enough money to conduct the programs without the money that the public brings in, which in itself shows how much of a priority is really given to the problem of extinction.
To conclude, as far as I know, this private zoo was not conducting a breeding program and the owner of the zoo, Mr Thompson, must have known the risks associated with having these animals in his care. If he didn’t know the risks then he shouldn’t have been anywhere near them. These animals are now being shot for no other reason than that they (or their parents or grandparents) were unfortunate enough to have been kidnapped earlier.
Altogether now… none of these tragedies would be happening now IF THE ANIMALS HAD NOT…