This is a rarity; two blogs in a week, but I felt I needed to write about our experience at the zoo yesterday. I’m hoping that baby boy carries on napping so I can complete this
rant post in one go! It’s unusual for me to blog at 4pm in the afternoon, just as it’s unusual for baby boy to sleep at 4pm in the afternoon … he must be tired from yesterday.
I should begin by laying my cards on the table; I’ve never been a huge animal rights campaigner; I’m not meticulous about checking if my make up is tested on animals [mea culpa], I fully support Fox Hunting, adore steak but despite all that, am a huge animal lover, having ridden horses and owned Labradors [and a goldfish/budgie/rabbit/guinea pig once too] When I was doing charity work in India I “adopted” a street dog I named Nero. We are all complex and hypocritical creatures; I’ve written this paragraph to snow that I didn’t have an ethical”agenda” when agreeing to a trip to the zoo.
So, the zoo. My aunt, uncle and cousin live near to Leicester, and they suggested we meet at Twycross Zoo. I remember visiting when I was a child, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I am keen to take Freddie on as many day trips as possible. I realise he won’t remember these things, but in the present moment he laughs and engages with his surroundings, so I consider this educational and worthwhile. My main idea was, a jolly family day out and watching Freddie’s responses to the animals. I hadn’t particularly considered the “ethics” of keeping wild beautiful animals in pens. We live quite close to the West Midlands Safari Park, and I’ve always enjoyed visiting [not so much the “ride operator” jobs as a student] – aside from the petrol fumes from the cars, it seems quite pleasant for the animals, roaming around in rural Worcestershire.
Twycross was another matter altogether; from the moment we entered the general appearance was that of a run down, shabby place. Before we even reached the animals we commented on the weeds on the pathways, the lack of smiling staff or music. There was zero atmosphere. I realise this is a zoo and not Disneyland, but hey – their admission prices aren’t cheap! That aside, I was horrified at the sizes of the animal pens, and the misery we witnessed. Perhaps as a child I didn’t notice these things, perhaps had the exterior conditions been more cheerful I could’ve persuaded myself that the animals were too. As I lay down to sleep last night I kept seeing the sad elephant stood alone in a small field pawing the ground repetitively … the lethargic hyena, the bored chimpanzees. And I was GLAD that Freddie wouldn’t remember this visit, because I promised myself it would be the last time I’d take my boy to a zoo. One day if he’s reading this, I hope he understands why …. I don’t want him to associate wild animals with cages, performing for our pleasure.
I won’t go into the dirty baby change facilities or overpriced food and drink … one would hope the money was being spent on those animals – but I think it would be better spent rehoming them. We read in the press stories of the poor Orca kept in a goldfish bowl tank in Argentina, or lions in shoe boxed cages in Russia ….. but these poor animals are very close to home. We are rightly outraged when a dentist pays thousands to kill a lion in Africa, yet we pay money to support this imprisonment.
I studied Biological Anthropology as part of my degree in Archaeology & Anthropology. We covered primates and evolution, and the development of “musuems” – or objects of curiosity. It struck me yesterday as I watched some precocious toddler banging on the glass looking at a despairing chimpanzee, that zoos are beyond dated. Circuses used to be popular attractions with animals paraded indeed as “objects of curiosity” – these were the days before cheap and accessible travel, before the internet where one can view videos and find information on animals in their natural habitats …. No circuses I know of now use live animals. I can’t help but feel zoos too are now redundant, cruel – pandering to our arrogance.
Yes. I am aware I should probably have considered this before ….. but I really needed to get my awakening down on metaphorical paper. A confession of sorts. My name’s Verity, I took my son to a zoo yesterday and I won’t do it again.