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Sunday, March 30, 2014

If animals are your business, then you don't kill them.

Jules: Mmmm! Goddamn, Jimmie! This is some serious gourmet shit! Usually, me and Vince would be happy with some freeze-dried Taster's Choice right, but he springs this serious GOURMET shit on us! What flavor is this?
Jimmie: Knock it off, Julie.
Jules: [pause] What?
Jimmie: I don't need you to tell me how fucking good my coffee is, okay? I'm the one who buys it. I know how good it is. When Bonnie goes shopping she buys SHIT. I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it. But you know what's on my mind right now? It AIN'T the coffee in my kitchen, it's the dead nigger in my garage.
Jules: Oh, Jimmie, don't even worry about that...
Jimmie: [interupting] No, No, No, No, let me ask you a question. When you came pulling in here, did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said "Dead Nigger Storage"?
Jules: Jimmie, you know I ain't seen no...
Jimmie: [cutting him off again; getting angry] Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said "Dead Nigger Storage"?
Jules: [pause] No. I didn't.
Jimmie: You know WHY you didn't see that sign?
Jules: Why?
Jimmie: 'Cause it ain't there, 'cause storing dead niggers ain't my fucking business, that's why! 

I don't use the word Ni**ger. It's offensive and insulting on so many levels. But I left it in for the quote. To make a point. You do what you do and if that means including an offensive word (in context) to make your point, you do it. 
That is the key though. You do what YOU do. Your business is your business. You have to always be mindful of that. Quentin Tarantino knows his audience and knows what works for his writing style. His. For others, it probably wouldn't. Would I do it? Use that word? No, I would not. But it didn't bother me in the least in the movie. I thought he made the case for those characters to act and talk that way and it came off as non gratuitous.
And that is where I start this blog. A blog about a set of people and an institution that has completely lost sight of that.

And so now..they are killing lions. Healthy lions. Young lions. 
Yup. As if it wasn't bad enough with the giraffe disaster last month. The Copenhagen Zoo is at it again.
There really is no way to spin this and have it sound good. In my world, zoos don't kill animals. Healthy animals. Young animals. Really, any animals. Mercy kills if they are old, or too sick to go on. That I get. But otherwise, no, simply, you do not kill the animals. Animals are your fucking business. Living, healthy animals. Zoos might want to think they are in the breeding and conservation business, and to some extent they are, but that isn't their main business.

 "There are only two things I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and the Dutch."

The Dutch have not had a good couple of months. First the killing of dolphins and the red sea that created. Now this. First, they kill a giraffe, a young giraffe, because it isn't suitable for their breeding program and they can't be bothered finding it a new home. Then, they feed it to the lions and let school age kids watch as the lions devour it. 
As if that wasn't bad enough, now they are killing the lions. Who will they be feeding the lions too? I know if I was that animal I would probably say NO Thanks. Seems that if you eat it, they will kill you next. Anyway, there is a lot of killing going on at the Copenhagen Zoo. Not exactly what a zoo should be known for. That is what happens in the wild. The zoo is NOT the wild.
When you operate a zoo you fully understand--or at least you should--that you can never replicate the wild. You don't put the predators in with the prey. You don't let the top stallion breed to whatever female he can. You don't let weak animals die. You don't cull animals that aren't needed. Nature does all of that.
But that is the wild. Not a zoo.
A zoo is a place where people who could never see these animals get to do that. In most ways, zoo animals are glorified pets that you can't keep at your house. Nobody can really have a lion or tiger in their house. They aren't pets. We can treat them as such to some degree in a zoo, but not in a home. They are still natural wild animals that are predators. That is how they survive if they have to. It is basic instinct. We have seen that even with highly trained animals at Circus type shows, with very experienced handlers like Ziegfield and Roy.
We also aren't God. We don't get to determine which animals have value. If we domesticate them, or trap them and force them to live in zoos..or even breed them based on some criteria we formulate, we don't then get to decide which live and die. If you are in the zoo business, ALL animals get to live. That is part of the deal. Until you break that deal.
Then the shit really hits the fan. Just as it did in Denmark earlier this week.

Why do we have zoos?
Many argue that we shouldn't. It isn't natural for the animals and they are just basically prisoners on display, no different than circus animals there for our entertainment until they are not useful anymore. That could be true. I won't really argue that point in this blog. 
But I will say that I am in favor of zoos. They do serve a purpose. A human purpose, which is maybe selfish. But nevertheless, a purpose many are okay with. I am one of them. I know many aren't. That's fine. We don't really have to agree on that. And this blog isn't about that.
I know that many of the animals in the zoo I would never get to see if not for the zoo. There is some value in that. I am curious and want to see them. Obviously, not all of us can afford or get the chance to travel to Africa, or the Brazilian Rainforest to see them. And of course, in many cases, many of these animals will become extinct in the wild and the zoo gives us a chance to save their species. Part of it is that we pay to go to the zoo and the profit from that supports the effort to save the species, give the animals in the zoo a good life, good care and as much a natural life as they can have in captivity. 
But what we assume when we support a zoo, give our money to a zoo, is that the animals are well cared for and get to live their lives to whatever is reasonable. That is the contract that we make and what makes many of us okay with the concept of a zoo. That contract has now been broken by the Copenhagen Zoo.
When the giraffe was killed, here is how the Zoo official justified their actions. 

-- Outrage over the recent killing of a healthy giraffe at a Danish zoo misses a crucial point, an official argued.
"Conservation is not always simple. It's not always clean," said Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, a European body governing 345 institutions.
"I'm afraid that when we have limited space in zoos -- and it's limited because of problems in the wild, of course, and more and more animals need our help -- then we sometimes have to make these really tough decisions."

"People have perhaps lost sight of the bigger picture and perhaps we as zoos have not been good at explaining why on very few occasions we need to make decisions like this," she said.

 No, she is just simply wrong. We understand perfectly what and why the decision was made. The zoo considers it their duty to control the gene pool of the animals, and that they are the ones to play God in that respect. They don't view their place of business as primarily a showplace for visitors to see the animals in a "nature-like" setting. In misreading how most of us view the zoo, they have not gauged the obvious backlash that the public would have when they heard of the killing and the way it was displayed for school age children. 
Mostly, we understand that excessive inbreeding is not good either, and if they took reasonable steps to avoid that, while not killing the animals they are creating or capturing in the first place, then we would probably be okay with that. But, they didn't do that.

"When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then."
As for the public necropsy, Holst said Monday that the zoo staff saw it as a learning opportunity because zoos have an obligation "not to make nature into a Disney World," but rather show those interested in "the real thing."

Why not just geld the giraffe, and not allow it to breed? Can't it still live and enjoy life, and be enjoyed, without the need to breed it?

When you operate a zoo, what you are doing IS making nature into Disney World, an amusement park for animals. There is no mistake about that. When you start to treat a zoo as the wild--and then manipulate that for human reasons on top of that--you violate the goal you hope to achieve. And you get the backlash you would expect to get. And got. And will get again. 

No, a zoo is never a real thing. The real thing is the wild. If you are going to present a zoo environment, then you have to consider who is your patron. There is a Disney element to it, and if you shatter that, you don't just shoot the giraffe in the head, you shoot yourself in the head.

 "The zoo has raised him so it is their responsibility to find him a home," author Maria Evans wrote on the petition site.

When commenting on the killing of the giraffe last month, noted  Zookeeper and TV personality Jack Hanna made it clear that isn't the way things are done on this side of the pond, calling the Copenhagen Zoo's decision:

 "the most abominable, insensitive, ridiculous thing I've ever heard of."

And he asked the question that we all do. Why does the Copenhagen Zoo keep breeding animals for which it doesn't have room?

The zoo has answered back to the critics with this gem:

 "if we just sterilize him, he will take up space for more genetically valuable giraffes."

Several zoos volunteered to take Marius the giraffe. The UK's Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which said it has the capacity for an extra male, was among several places that offered to take him. However, the Copenhagen Zoo declined and did again with the lions. 

I don't know what the right answer is. But killing them isn't it. That's for sure. Find a way. Just find a way. If this was America, you would be picketed and shut down, and then you would have to do a mea culpa. 
Maybe Michael Caine's character was right. I hate to brand a whole people by the actions of a few or an industry, but I don't see much outcry from the Dutch people over this. I don't think they even realize the damage they are doing to any sort of tourist industry they now have. 
I know for sure that I will never visit the Copenhagen Zoo, and that eventually they are going to rescind this procedure. The only question is how many more healthy, young animals die before that happens?
In my world, it is a pretty simple concept. If animals are your business, then you don't kill them. If you have no more room, then you don't breed more until you do. If your gene pool is not diverse enough, you trade some of yours for others, or you go to the wild and get some new ones. In the meantime, all the ones you currently have get to live out their lives, and the public gets to come and see them. Not see them be killed and eaten by other zoo animals. That isn't a Zoo. That is the wild. Nature. Which isn't a Zoo, and never will be. 
There is no sign at the entrance to the zoo that says "Zoo animals slaughtered here" because killing zoo animals ain't the Zoos fucking business.  

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