A gentle reminder that zoos are not the answer

A gentle reminder that zoos are not the answer

Every now and then I get inspired to comment on an instagram post from a news outlet or some account with lots of followers when they post about animal issues. I have done this maybe 5 times in my life. People on instagram are usually dramatic, and I’m not trying to get into it with someone that may be a robot or selling magic weight-loss tea or whatever. Not worth it.

HOWEVER.

When well-meaning, potentially naive people post about how zoos are wonderful because they encourage children to get involved in conservation, my face gets hot because how does anyone follow this logic. My first reaction is to be like, um, zoos encourage children to want to be zookeepers, or have tigers as pets. Most children that grow up to want to be conservationists likely didn’t get inspired by a visit to the zoo, because visits to the zoo if you are even 3% intuitive are depressing.

So I had to make the point under some news outlet’s repost of a cartoon re: zoos are great that animals cannot actually consent to being held captive and so it is unfair to arbitrarily pick animals to go to zoo jail for our own personal objectives. Furthermore doing so perpetuates the idea that we lord over animals and can do with them what we want. Finally I added that these days zoos aren’t necessary to educate people about what a bear looks like. I knew what a bear looked and acted like long before I ever saw one in a zoo. And to be honest, the only memories I have of going to the zoo are trying to hold back tears at the monkey exhibit because they were trying to get out of their cages and I found the whole situation unfair.

So anyway I made a short, sincere post and went on with my life. Well, someone responded to it. Which is fine, totally cool. Except that she had gone through my instagram feed and brought my cat into the argument. 

Image result for excuse me gif

HOW.

DARE.

YOU.

TALK ABOUT MY DAUGHTER LIKE YOU KNOW HER.

get back

in your lane

and drive away

immediately

Image result for minions boxing gif

 

I am very protective of my kitty, and this person making sarcastic comments about her pissed me off. She said that my cat couldn’t consent to being my pet etc etc, and said if zoos make kids want to be conservationists then that’s a good thing? (ok but they don’t sooo)

First of all NOBODY WAS TALKING TO YOU.

But now that we’re here, I decided to revisit the reasons I don’t like zoos. And the reasons I don’t like zoos have been meticulously researched because I wrote about it in law school. Those reasons were based on arguments that zoos were unethical and unlawful. Without rehashing those rather dry arguments, here are some more reasons zoos are lame (with counter-arguments coming first).

“Zoos are educational and teach children about animals”

So do textbooks, videos, and the internet which is included on every single phone and now even 4 year olds have their own phones, I know it’s crazy, anyway thank u, next

“Zoos teach children compassion for animals”

Ummmm I learned compassion for animals by having pets at home and having to help take care of them, watching them get sick, watching them get hurt occasionally, hearing them yelp when my clumsy self would step on their foot or something. My mother welcoming all of the weird pets we would bring to the house taught me more about compassion than staring into a depressed elephant’s face. All that did was convince me that other humans didn’t get it, didn’t realize when an animal was suffering quietly.

And anyway, since when do we need to see something in the flesh to care about it? Are humans not capable of a greater level of empathy than that? On this subject I would recommend Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar. It’s a rather extreme picture of people who dedicate their lives, and I mean every square inch of their lives, to helping people with whom they have nothing in common. As the title sort of suggests, it’s about empathizing with people we don’t know and can’t see. I don’t need to see a Yemeni child right before my eyes to care about what he or she is going through.

“It’s worth having zoos if it contributes to saving a species”

I read an interesting argument somewhere earlier (here) that submitted that a “species” in and of itself is a collection of individuals, and it’s not the existence of the species so much as it is the quality of life of the individuals that matters. How do we choose which individuals in a given species are unlucky enough to be subjected to a life of confinement? Again, that humans wield this power over animals and think we are “saving” them is narcissistic and, um, wrong. Like factually incorrect.

This brings me back to the call for human empathy – we don’t need to see these animals locked up to care about their dwindling numbers. There are so many other ways to learn about and even see animals (sanctuaries for some species; photo safaris if you’ve got the money, and if you don’t got the money then too bad for you because I don’t either, we’ll survive).

Another problem with this one is that a lot of zoo animal species aren’t in trouble. I’ve not embarked on a study of the animals housed in every zoo but it’s not like zoos are saying, “all of the species you see here are endangered and it’s important to save them.” No, all the zoos are worried about is having exhibits with hurriedly bred babies in them to bring in more money. Babies that likely won’t live as long (and definitely not as happily) as their wild counterparts.

The biggest problem I have with all of this is (obviously, by now) that people think they need to be able to see something to care about it, that it’s our right as humans to be able to see wild, powerful animals in the flesh because we want to. It’s so incredibly selfish. We take for granted the freedom we have, especially in this country, and we don’t find it necessary to bestow that same freedom on animals? Humans are too powerful for our own good. See climate change.

Image result for elephant gif

This little angel isn’t in a zoo, and we would never see something this endearing or playful in a zoo, I would predict. Until I can afford to travel to a reserve I am satisfied watching videos of elephants, cuddling my 3 or 4 stuffed elephants (yes I’m an adult), and encouraging any kid I come in contact with to do the same. And if I ever have a child and they beg to go to the zoo, I would take them (only once) and I would say, “these animals don’t belong in cages, but not everyone realizes that yet. Momma/Mommy/Mother (whatever the kid calls me) is working to get these animals out and back into the wild, where they belong.”

Also pray for me I have a job interview next week and I really want it slash need out of my current job before I completely lose my mind and actually start fighting with ppl on instagram HELP.

Moral of the story is do not MENTION my catdaughter on instagram if you do not KNOW HER however if your aim is to get a response from me then that is the way to do it.

The ethics of pets in an upcoming post… Maybe

Have a good Thanksgiving and you don’t have to eat turkey if you don’t want to! Meow

There Were Cats the Whole Time?

There Were Cats the Whole Time?

This blog is becoming more and more about human emotions than elephant issues, but I promise to mention elephants in every post.

Clearly, ABCs of Endangered Species is on hold, although I’ve picked out next few in the alphabet so maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

In the last post I talked about loneliness and sort of touched on identity, and I think now I’m going to ramble about identity, careers, and cats for a few paragraphs.

Like a lot of people I’ve always struggled with identity. Not so much labels, but more trying to figure out where I fit in the grand scheme of things. What is my purpose, how can I help, what am I supposed to do with my life besides take up space. I wonder about all of these things. And I’ve felt this confusion especially acutely in the past few years since I’m not in school anymore. In school, you’re supposed to learn, not really do, and you can put off worrying about your purpose until you leave the nest. I always thought I would figure it out when I graduated.

It turns out you have to really do the work to get to know yourself before you can answer any of these questions. I thought I could just take opportunities as they came to me and that I would eventually figure it out, without having to do any difficult work on myself. Wrong. Job after job, place after place, I still don’t feel like I have found where I fit. Everywhere I work, I feel out of place. And it’s quite frustrating not even knowing how to take steps to figure out what’s off.

I may have inadvertently let my identity sort of depend on what type of job I have. I’ve always been a strong believer in having multiple facets to one’s life – for example, I would crumble and die if I had a job where I worked around the clock, because I’d be committed to just one thing, and my personality has too many facets for me to be able to thrive doing just one thing forever. I’ve always been happier when I’m involved in lots of different things. But heading out into the “real world” with loans looming puts a lot of pressure to find a secure job, and a secure job (especially in law) takes up a lot of time and energy. For me, it’s necessary to have a job in an area I’m somewhat passionate about, or my energy plummets and I’m miserable. Like now.

It’s hard for me to compartmentalize and say, I’m doing this job not because I like it but because
-I need “experience”
-I guess I need health insurance (?)
-it’s technically in the “public interest”
– gotta make loan payments
-it’s a job ? who cares what it is, i should be thankful I have one.
I can’t do that. Despite my advocacy for not letting a job take over one’s life, I have let my identity depend on the work I’m doing. I get too worked up about the job I’m doing because I don’t think it’s “right” for me, it’s tedious and safe and boring and secure, and that’s just not for me. I’m not doing any good for anyone except myself. That’s what I think, constantly.

I’m terrified that I’ll never find where I fit, and that I’ll spend my whole life wishing I were somewhere else. So many people seem to have found their niche, or at least something they’re good at, and I’m hanging out doing the bare minimum at a job I hate. COMPLAIN COMPLAIN WHINE. Wine? Yes please.

 

Image result for wine gif

 

Which brings me to Mari Andrew and cats. I love Mari Andrew. I already loved her, then I listened to her talk at this synagogue in DC and completely lost it. She talked about how the parts of us we consider weak are actually strengths once we figure out how to harness them, etc. She also used to feel out of place but turned it into a strength because she’s really good at observing people – and I am the same way. She looks for meaning in life and definitely in her work as well, although she probably wasn’t as dramatically unhappy as I can act sometimes. Anyway, she traveled around doing odd jobs for a long time, and she talked about her job at a bakery and how she would do things to make the job meaningful.

to make the job meaningful.

Well, maybe not meaningful, but enjoyable.

That resonated with me even though it’s not a new concept to me. Of course I have tried to think of ways to make my own job more meaningful, which only work on days where I’m not feeling dramatic and angry, which is no days. I’ve made friends at work, which motivates me to go to work but doesn’t help me concentrate on the actual work. I don’t think the work would ever be meaningful to me. I usually end up finding the most joy in polishing off bags of popcorn and/or swedish fish.

What I failed to do was try to make my work day enjoyable. I’ve been at this job for almost a year, and since the beginning I’ve known there was a feral cat advocacy organization located on another floor of our office building. I follow them on twitter, etc. Just last week someone mentioned that the organization has office cats that we’re welcome to go hang out with. WHAT. HOW. DID I NOT THINK. TO ASK. THIS. SOONER.

My entire year could have been different. Petting/playing with animals is THE number one therapeutic activity for me. Hands down. And I didn’t think to go see if they had animals in the office? What is wrong with me?

Well you best believe I went down there to find the cats. And the cats were sick. And the cats were moving out of the office in two days.


Image result for disappointed face gif

 

Worst timing, but also best timing. If the cats are leaving, I’m leaving. I’m interviewing for other jobs and will hopefully find something a little more my style soon, but this is a really good lesson I will take with me to my next job. On the stupid days at work, take advantage of your environment. If you’re like me, it’s easy to live in your own head and forget that your immediate surroundings aren’t a jail cell. For an entire YEAR, I could have been playing with cats at work. I could have looked forward to going into the office everyday, I could have spoiled the shit out of these cats with treats, toys, and cat clothes. Coulda woulda shoulda. I miss those cats and I never met them.

I was so wrapped up in feeling like my personal growth was on hold because I’m at a job I don’t like. How dramatic is that? And why do I feel entitled to the “perfect job” at 28? And who says I was growing in the first place? Crying because my cat turned five and I remembered she would die one day isn’t really a sign of an emotionally mature person who is experiencing significant personal growth. (for real though why can’t our pets live forever I can’t handle it)

But I could have at least enjoyed going to work even though I don’t want to be there forever. Trying to keep the job at arm’s length zaps my energy and doesn’t leave anything left to put toward my own writing or any other hobbies besides drinking and sleeping late – both art forms which I have mastered. But I also love animals and writing, and the hardest part of trying to navigate the professional career field is making time for the things you love if you can’t incorporate them into your work. I have not mastered this.

So anyway, elephants. I guess I imagined a job where my love for elephants would be intertwined with my work. But then I remembered I paid for this website’s URL, and I should keep using it and see what happens. And I don’t have to painstakingly research every blog post and I likely won’t ever do that again because it’s hard enough to do legal research when you actually get paid to – why would anyone do it for fun, and why did I think I could be that person. So I’ll keep writing about elephants and people and cats in my free time because I love all of them except people, and I’ll quit whining about not being able to find the perfect job that incorporates all of my hobbies which would be impossible because all of my 18 different personalities have different hobbies. So.

Conclusion: Elephants are awesome. They are satisfied living their lives just doing elephant things and I wish humans would let them do that. I’m living my life doing people things, hoping I can find a way to help make the world better. Hoping I can meet an elephant one day. Hoping I can start to make sense of things. I would encourage anyone that reads this to find out if there are office animals in your building and to visit them when you feel bored or unfulfilled at work. I give you my blessing (see below).

 

Image result for elephant gif
Live footage of me giving my blessing to you