What constitutes the humane and inhumane treatment of animals?
It’s known amongst the psychiatric community that humans may be controlled or brought to mental or “nervous” breakdown through the interference of a few basic necessities. Withhold or disrupt patterns of eating, sleeping, or sexual activity enough and the average person may either become easier to manipulate (as the military has long known) or may drive them toward acts of desperation such as violence, depression, homicide or suicide.
This is an article about the humane or inhumane treatment of animals by man. I state the above as an example of the basic necessities of any living creature, suggesting that similar treatment of animals may constitute cruelty along with the more obvious signs of abuse such as violence against animals or neglect. The problem here--the thin wavy line which I’m addressing--is that worldwide, our attitude toward
animals and nature varies wildly, thus cattle in America may be hamburgers and Prada shoes while cattle in India may be deified and revered.
On the news here in the Tampa area this morning was the story of a man who keeps tigers and travels with them, using them as props in photos. For some dollar amount, you can pose with a tiger cub kept atop a cloth-lined platform by a length of dog-leash quality chain and a collar. Behind you are the cub’s parents, each confined within their own cage. The man who keeps and travels with the tigers swore on camera that the cages he uses to transport the animals and display them are larger than what’s required by law, and that his animals are well cared for. From what I was able to see from the brief amount of footage, the adults seemed neither overfed nor lean, and either paced their confines or relaxed, probably bored. The cub’s tether looked like it would allow the animal to safely reach the ground if it leaped or fell from the platform, but did not seem like it would let the cub roam far. The juvenile tiger rolled playfully on his table-like platform, swiping at his own tail tip, crouching and staring at things off-camera that caught his curiosity just so. This made news because a few people had called a local big-cat rescue to complain of cruelty and mistreatment of the animals. A woman from the rescue appeared on camera to say she disagreed with the animals’ treatment, though whether she had seen any of the above mentioned footage or not is unclear, as was the notion she may have visited the attraction herself to pass judgment based on her own knowledge and experience with tigers and other large, exotic animals. The rescue, also in
Tampa, holds tours of the facilities and even has programs where people who pay enough can help “feed” the animals or wander the property at night with flashlights and trained guides, observing the nocturnal habits of their collection of rescued big cats. While I have not visited this facility myself, I am familiar with an employee there who has explained to me that various animals are kept in “loose”
pens...that is, there are less sturdy chain link or wood or Plexiglas structures, and more strong “netting”
type enclosures, allowing animals to occasionally lunge at visitors, which thrills the paying public who, we all know, are easily bored with animals that just lay around in pens looking bored themselves.
The Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa has begun adding more rides and hands-on activities after complaints of visitors who whined that there was nothing to do at the zoo but, “...look at caged animals.” I’ve been to this zoo on a handful of occasions and even work with the woman who helped design the
aviaries there and helped set up their lorikeet experience. Having visited the large zoos of Baltimore and D.C., and a disturbingly small facility in Pennsylvania, I’d judge Lowry as having small to adequate sized cages for most of its inhabitants, but I’d prefer to see something more animal friendly than people friendly myself. In hope of drawing more visitors, a wide variety of creatures are housed at Lowry rather
than a smaller number with more room to roam. I’m no zoo expert--I can only base what I see on what I’ve already seen. Advertisements for social gatherings with food and loud live music after zoo hours, holiday activities with live reindeer shipped in temporarily, and the addition of more rides for the kiddies bothers me in that I believe the animals would probably prefer a regular break from the noise, the smells, the morons who think its funny to antagonize them, but I don’t know this for certain because we have no way to ask the animals what they really like.
We assume what they’d like is to remain free. The reason zoos must resort to attracting visitors for more than just observing animals is to earn enough money through grants, donations, or admission just to keep the zoos well maintained and the animals well fed and cared for. Plenty of people like going to zoos just for the animals, but once you’ve seen ‘em, you generally don’t return every week just to see them
again. Exhibits must be altered, expanded, refreshed, new animals brought in, new features added to keep people returning. Education programs are added to attract visitors and money, thus special employees must be brought in to handle these programs, thus more money must be taken in to pay
these people and provide them with whatever they need to set up for and promote these programs. Gift shops are expanded to feature items with animals that are popular and don’t even necessarily appear at that particular location. Prices are high because quality merchandise is expensive and the base cost must be multiplied by three or four just to help earn a profit for the zoo after earning back enough money to keep items in stock and find new things to sell in bulk. How much money actually makes it to the
animals, and how much goes toward payroll, equipment and maintenance, food and medicine, research, loan and breeding programs, payment to specialists who are hired for new animal acquisitions, gift shop
inventory, snack bar food, cleaning supplies, brochure printing, magazine and newspaper advertisements, TV spots, uniforms... The zoo now seems more like a busy corporation than a mere exhibit of pieces of simulated habitats with little captives occupying them.
Ideally, zoos raise awareness that we share this planet with a wide variety of other forms of life, each deserving of respect and the best quality of life possible. They should help foster in us a desire to live in harmony with nature, to try and preserve what’s left of numerous species we have inadvertently or even deliberately brought to near-extinction. Ideally, zoo visitors would be enthralled with wild creatures they might never get to see in person otherwise, they would quietly observe animal behavior, take note of the diversity and efficiency of evolution (if you believe in that--if not, then just be amazed by the imagination it must have taken for God to design so many forms of life which each seem to fit together precisely,
completing the nearly incomprehensible beauty and majesty of His grand design), and happily pay or donate for the care of the many animal ambassadors we’re so lucky to be able to cohabitate with outside of their natural lives and environments.
Realistically, a number of people who mean well start zoos and find themselves overwhelmed as new regulations are passed deciding what size cages need be, nutritional guidelines are revised, new animals
are added to the endangered species list or even end up extinct, new animals rise in popularity due to the entertainment industry usually and demand for them affects monetary intake. Long-known and used ways of caring for animals are suddenly deemed cruel and new steps must be taken to avoid potential lawsuits. People lose interest in the animals and start asking for rides and hands-on exhibits instead... Realistically, most people who go to the zoo are only vaguely familiar with a handful of the animals and don’t care much about the rest. Fans of bears go to see the bears, fans of monkeys go mainly to see them and other equally fascinating creatures get deemed “unpopular” and may wind up “retired” in rescue facilities or donated for breeding or observational research. People who go to zoos want to see the animals move, so they hoot and howl at them, throw M&Ms and small rocks at them, try and wave at them leaning far over the safety rails, hold their children over the rails to show them the animals closer and even tempt the animals closer using their own kids as bait, they peel the lettering or protective covers from signs, try and feed giraffes ice cream cones, or just stand there scowling at what they don’t
like, announcing to everyone within earshot that a particular animals is ugly or stupid or boring, let’s go.
Gee, maybe rides and things are a good idea after all. They help distract the public away from the poor, captive animals.
Some people find the very idea of zoos cruel. How can we abduct animals from their natural habitats and keep them in cages for the rest of their lives, forcing them to eat whatever’s most convenient for us to feed them, humiliating them with products designed to rid them of parasites and regular checkups from specially trained zoo veterinarians? Now we see the thin wavy line come in to play as we ask, how can
we keep any animal imprisoned, out of its natural habitat, denying it sex sometimes, interrupting its diet and any schedule it may have been used to, disrupting its sleep patterns as we expect it to be up and moving about for our own personal amusement? I’m not just talking zoos now, I’m dragging in pet owners and public aquariums, circuses, farms, laboratories, police dogs, military animals, seeing eye dogs,
primates trained to assist humans with disabilities, riding stables, fur farms... Is a zoo really that awful
when compared with any of these other animal facilities? Is a zoo any better?
Where do we draw the line? Should we even bother?
In America, we tend to draw the line with aesthetically pleasing critters. That’s why a guy who keeps tigers and lets people get photographed with them is newsworthy, but hardly anyone complains about the animals at Kissimmee’s GatorLand, where juvenile alligators have their jaws sealed shut with duct tape so people can hold them for photos. Tigers are cute. Alligators are ugly. Either one of them could kill you, given the chance. That’s what makes the idea of a photo with them so exciting, as opposed to a photo of you holding a caterpillar or petting a small mutt for $15.00. On the TV show Fear Factor, people regularly must kill cockroaches or crickets to advance to the next level. Nobody seems to care but the contestants who must crunch them up in their mouths or watch them get blended into a still squirming bugshake. Nobody cares about cockroaches or crickets. They’re ugly and plentiful. Put kittens in a blender (even though millions are abandoned or killed every year in this country alone because they are unwanted) and you’ve got a whole other ballgame!
Speaking of unwanted kittens...is it cruel to neuter your pet or crueler still to allow it to breed and infest
this country with unwanted kittens and puppies we see run over in the road and in ditches all the time, being abused by cruel or ignorant owners, half-starved and parasite infested wandering through our yards, staving off starvation through the waste in our trashcans? Some people don’t think any of us should keep pets at all. Maybe that’s a good idea--we’ll all turn them loose in the wild where many will breed and completely disrupt the ecosystem, competing with native animals for food, killing native animals for food, contracting and spreading disease--even to humans. Unless you know someone willing to take in literally millions of housepets of every shape and variety and care for them all until their natural deaths, after which we all promise not to take in strays again.
Another keen idea is if we all go vegetarian, too. The best way to preserve animals is not to eat them or
even wear them, right? Fact: The number one cause of destruction of habitats in the WORLD is agriculture. You know, the plants we’re all gonna eat instead? I’ve heard so many stories from farmers
about methods to keep deer and birds and rodents from devouring crops, about using pesticides which kill all those nasty plant-eating bugs which happen to be the food source of a wide variety of non-crop threatening wildlife, of running over fox families with combines while harvesting, tossing snakes and
rodents into special machines designed to separate berries from twigs on a mass scale, not to mention just cutting down entire forests and plowing under entire fields or draining whole wetlands--homes to numerous animals of all sorts as well as their foodsources--just so we have enough cropland to feed the human race. Habitats are destroyed to keep us fed, clothed, housed, to provide roads, to produce medicines and other chemicals, to build the places where we work and go to school... Gee, seems like the very existence of the human race depends, in some form, on the cruelty to or destruction of animals
in some way. Why just go vegetarian? Be a nudist, forego cotton, silk, and leather, live in a cave or a hollow tree, walk anywhere you need to go, learn to self medicate with herbs you gather yourself, live free in the wild like an animal yourself, and you’ll still have some negative impact on the wildlife around you.
A friend of mine said vegetarianism is the way to go, and I think it’s an ideal we’re far from achieving at this point in time. Worldwide, anyway. Doing it because you hate to think of animals suffering is asinine. My friend said, “Wouldn’t it be great for animals if we all stopped eating meat forever starting tomorrow?” Again, who’s gonna take care of all the freakin’ livestock we’ve accepted the responsibility for? Why on earth would any sane being keep trying to care for a few hundred thousand chickens or head of hogs or
cattle if he abruptly lost all income? Animals would die en mass from neglect. Many might be turned loose to fend for themselves. Any mammal but rabbits can carry rabies...how’d you like a rabid cattle scare in your neighborhood for two weeks while authorities tried to figure out how to contain the crazed
animals? Cattle would roam far, devouring food normally eaten by deer or bison or rabbits or other wildlife, forcing them to starve or wander into human populations, seeking new sources of food. Wild pigs would occasionally chase or attack humans or their pets and destroy gardens and landscaping. Did you think the millions and millions of animals which are currently livestock would just breed themselves back into the wild population? Cattle and chickens came from Africa, my friend. Should we ship them all back
over there? Think of the devastation they would wreak... Many of our livestock are so “processed” through specialized breeding that they barely resemble their own wild cousins. Could they ever really breed back in? Wouldn’t we just breed out the original strain and have half-breeds running around in the wild instead? Is that the best thing to do, or is it cruel? Where can we possibly draw a line?
I currently work at a facility that houses close to 2,000 rare, endangered, and even a few somewhat common creatures--mainly birds. Many times I wish they could be returned to their natural habitats. Most of the birds there belong to the U.S. government. They were seized from illegal importers. Some came from abusive homes, some are on loan for breeding programs, some were donated for various reasons. There is no way to return any of these animals into the wild. In many cases, where they would normally live no longer exists--encroached upon by farmers and developers. Many of the animals have been exposed to parasites and diseases here in this country which could wreak havoc if released back into
their native countries--thus the necessity of quarantining animals when traveling from continent to continent. Some of the birds were captured by poachers as babies and have never known life outside a cage, without dependence upon humans. Some would seek the humans they’ve come to believe are friendly--which is why you should resist feeding or befriending animals in the wild, should they come to think a hunter is a friend, or believe people like grizzlies in their backyards begging for food. One of our biggest fears at work is of animal rights activists coming in and turning all the animals free. A few years ago, activists turned loose all the minks at a fur farm in the UK The minks ran wild, killing native animals and small pets for food, taking over habitats they were never meant to exist in, getting run over on roads. 2,000 exotic birds loose in Central Florida, where it’s currently coat and sweater weather and not African
or South American weather, where they can’t find all of their dietary needs on their own or at all, used to humans who would gladly try and catch them and sell them for drug money or even eat them, food for Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats and alligators, eating their own share of small animals and
plantlife, taking from the native species... It saddens me to know these animals must remain captive for the rest of their lives, but realistically, I can see no other way to deal with them.
The Bible mentions something about some animals being given to us specifically to do with as we please. There is no concise list of which animals nor what we can humanely do with them. On a recent TV program, an omnivorous woman asked a group of vegans if they killed black widow spiders. Of course, they reluctantly admitted, because they might harm them or their children. The people had been discussing the omnivore’s admittance that she sometimes killed rattlesnakes. She told them that where she was from, her family was in more danger from rattlesnakes than black widows--which she killed, also. A vegan woman who allegedly gave up meat because of her deep love and respect of animal life
ate a little alligator meat, then tried to justify it later with the cute critter/ugly critter plea. Chickens are
cute. Right? Fish aren’t... Right? Where is that pesky darn line...?
There are obvious signs of abuse to animals. Beating them is not considered cool unless they’re attacking you or are mosquitoes, which require little beating at all really. Mosquitoes and flies and fleas and cockroaches are plentiful and ugly, therefore they are just fine to kill...unless you believe in reincarnation on that level, the sanctity of all life upon this planet, or realize they are all food for
numerous other animals you like because they fall into the aesthetically pleasing/maybe not so plentiful
category. Manatees are graceful and pleasing animals which should be protected, but only in areas you
need them to be in so you can still operate your watercraft with wild abandon. Cattle are generally docile
and have beautiful eyes and many deer-like qualities if you get to know them...so we’ll just call them “beef” when we eat them or “leather” when we wear them so we aren’t reminded of those big, curious brown eyes fringed thickly with pretty lashes. Vegetarianism is the way to go, but only if you’re willing to forego everything we consider “modern human” and return to an animal state--which holds great appeal for me personally, except without genuine animal protein I’m one of a group of people on the planet who can’t properly process B vitamins, and everybody owns all the land anyway and doesn’t like anybody
uninvited on it. We should turn loose our pets--even the exotic ones that came from far away originally--and even shoo them away if they try to get friendly and redomesticate themselves. They started it! Wolves and other critters warming up to man for food and shelter, making the first step toward
intraspecies peace and understanding...how dare they! Lab animals? Need I go there? Form your own
opinions on that issue, but only after you’ve done enough research to know what the heck you’re so set against or in support of. All animal life is precious and needs to be reserved...but bacteria and viruses
aren’t really animal life even if it should turn out one of them is our common, most primitive ancestor. In
the entire history of human life, we have never once successfully eradicated a single virus, ever. Does that mean we’re still at the very top of the food chain or what? A woman wearing leather sneakers and carrying a leather purse was leaving a produce stand one day and noticed my parked truck with our black
lab in the back. “That is so cruel!” she complained quite loudly to her companion. Was it? Which part? The dog gets angry and trashes the house if we don’t take her for rides now and then. Maybe I should just set her free and discourage her from lingering around the house for food and attention? Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, gets angry at feral pigs he finds occasionally while scouting the Outback for TV
quality fun animals. “They’re not indigenous,” he says, justifying why he’s trying to chase them away. “They’re an introduced specie not originally found here.” Then I always wanna leap out of a tree onto his back and wrestle him to the ground, binding him up like a crocodile, forcing him into a sack addressed to Africa--Somewhere In The Vicinity Of The Euphrates, and tell the camera by way of explanation, “He’s not indigenous. He’s an introduced specie, not originally found here.”
Actually, I genuinely enjoy his program and his efforts to educate the public as well as help threatened species. And I’m not really all that confident I could successfully take him, anyway...
Line? What line? Can we ever truly co-exist with wildlife with little or no negative impact? Does it matter? Should we be doing more to try and live in harmony with nature? How far is too far? Where do pets and zoos fit into things? Is meat murder? If so, isn’t agriculture and land development murder, also? Could Fluffy the long-haired miniature Yorkie fend for herself in the wild? How many animals lost their habitats or lives for that Wheat Thin? What makes humans so gosh-darn special? If we didn’t exist, what animal would next head up the food chain? What meats does God prefer? Is that silverfish the reincarnation of
Uncle Carl? Can I safely scratch an itch? How come dead animals litter our roadways, but we clean up dead pedestrians so gosh-darn fast? Why can we put millions of animals “to sleep” every year to control their populations but not our own? Aren’t we animals, too? Doesn’t that make everything man-made natural? Aren’t we, scientifically, omnivores? Can’t we eat whatever we want? The guy in India is
horrified I’m eating chicken nuggets, and I’m horrified the guy in Korea is eating a German shepherd. Some guy in Oman is eating locusts and laughing at all of us.
I’m an animal-lover. I work at an animal sanctuary. I eat meat. I wear leather. I have pets. I contribute to
pollution problems and help dwindle the world’s natural resources--but it does bother me. I give to charities which support the preservation of natural habitats. I frequent zoos and animal exhibits. I garden and landscape. I kill most bugs that annoy me, but never spiders. I use eco-friendly methods of pest control. I’ve run over animals in roads, but never, ever intentionally. I’ve nursed sick, injured, and infant
animals to robust health and even had to bury a few that just didn’t make it. I know my impact alone on this planet is significant in terms of environmental concerns, and I seek ways to minimize it and educate others about it. I’m seeking surgical sterilization for several reasons, but one is because I have no wish to attribute further to human overpopulation. Am I normal? Am I weird? Am I a hypocrite? Oblivious?
You and me, both, spirit. Thanks for taking time to read this article. I know it’s given you plenty of thinking fodder. I hope you now understand your place and role in nature. Our very existence upsets the “balance” because we are, quite simply, up on the scales ourselves. We are all a part of nature. We have been gifted with the intellect, imagination, and curiosity necessary to accept responsibility for our impact
on this world. I know it’s hard to think beyond self, loved ones, and the present, but it’s the only way to help assure the best possible future for everyone involved. Small steps begin a long journey. A tiny frog leaps into a pond and the ripples can carry from shore to shore. Be aware if nothing else. Do more, and the future thanks you.