21 May 2006 ... Reading (and Zoos)
Pi was a very slow start, and all his pro-zoo writing made me sad... It's a popular book, and many people have read it and this pro-zoo (and by extension, circuses) "propaganda" might be their only exposure to zoo related controversy.
Pi says that because we have to cater to the animals' every need in a zoo -- bringing them food and medical care -- that the creatures are actually better off in zoos than they are in the wild. He sites the literature that tells of zoo animals that could escape, but didn't, or did escape, only to come back. And so, he thinks that all the animals agree that the zoo is better than the wild.
A few pages later, Pi talks about some of the cruelties that animals suffer at the hands of the viewing public. People hiding razor blades or broken glass in food for the animals to eat. "We had to deal on occasion with stone throwers, who found the animals too placid and wanted a reaction." And direct attacks on the animals, "a monkey's arm broken after reaching out for proffered nuts."
Apparently, to Pi these cruelties and deaths are okay, because zoos are still better than the wild.
Yes, well, I beg to differ.
Accredited zoos today take measures to protect the animals from the stupid humans, but the animals can't be protected from stupid, cruel zoo keepers. There are too many reports of zoo keepers beating or mistreating their charges. And not everyone who has a wild animal is accredited, or even licensed, and thus, not monitored.
There are some species that can get along perfectly fine in a zoo, I have no doubt. And, in truth, there are some species that only exist in zoos, being extinct in the wild. And, as time goes on, there will be increasingly more species of this type, zoos being their only "salvation".
But, many species, especially the mega fauna, cannot adapt to life in zoos... they die prematurely (ie they live longer lives in the wild), they don't breed and show sexually deviant behavior, they go insane from boredom.
What you can do:
Do not adopt wild animals as "pets". Wolves, wolf hybrids, big cats, exotic cats, etc, will not be companion animals. They may be a status symbol, instead: buy a fancy car and a big house. Hedgehogs, sugar gliders and prairie dogs are wild animals, too! Just because they are small, does not make them appropriate to keep in your home.
Do not support "sanctuaries" that condone breeding. These are not real sanctuaries, they are just supplying babies to zoos.
If you go to a zoo and you see something that isn't right, report it! PETA has a web site where you can report incidents anonymously, if you so choose: Be a Hero to Animals in Zoos
Anyway. Back to my books... I said Life of Pi was interesting, and I enjoyed it, despite my little disagreement above. The twist at the end was thought provoking. And I do understand the moral of the story: Without God, we are all animals.
(and, okay, I admit, I did not see the moral by myself. I read it in the Amazon reviews of the book. I think I've said before that I am just not good with metaphor and allegory... my brain is just too literal!)
So, I finished my book and went to read another one. It's called Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow, and you can get a digital copy for free at his website: Craphound: Someone.
I had no idea what to expect out of this book, I had the vague impression that Doctorow is a fantasy writer. I got several chapters read... and I'm not sure if I think this author is really creative, or really crazy!
Heh. The story starts out normal enough. And then suddenly, "my father is a mountain". I thought it was one of those metaphor things and it would be explained later in the book. But, nope! Father really is a mountain? Mother is a washing machine? Brothers are a island, a corpse, a doll? I'm not sure exactly "what" the main character is yet.
And then I decided I needed more poetry in my life, so I picked something random from the "Recent" list at Project Gutenberg. It's called Thoughts I Met on the Highway by Ralph W. Trine, and I was rather put off by the "happy, joy" text at the beginning of this short collection of poetry and commentary. "Each morning is a new beginning... courage and faith begets success" blah blah blah.
*rolls eyes* but it's only 20 some pages, and I've started reading it, so I must finish. Because I am just another crazy person in a crazy world.
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