The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Asking for some zoo-based reality

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The reporter's bias was obvious. She referred to the practice in extremely negative terms. The overall tone of the story also waffled quite a bit, but came down on the side of the idea being barbaric.
Gotta get me one. The buffalo, not the lion.

I refer you here to zoos and the captive carnivores. Not just carnivores, but predators. Not just predators, but BIG ones, ones capable of turning even Shaquille O'Neal into a light afternoon snack.

The repeat story appeared on RadioLab's show on zoos last night (and I am a RadioLab junkie).

In the story the big cats are treated, to my thinking, far worse than Hairball the resident feline at the Clan Genius domicile. Hairball has the run of the place, goes in & out pretty much when he wishes, has food and also hunts. Hairball hunts a lot. I regularly find feathers in the barn, evidence that Susan's cat has not abandoned his predatory ways.
Hairball is much larger and fatter now.

Even more disturbing to me was the few audio clips from children. Upon seeing a lion munch a calf, one child said he (she?) does not eat cows. The parent said yes, we do eat cows. The parent gently pointed out hamburgers come from cows.

I've asked before - do you know where the meat you eat comes from? It's not magically produced in the back of the grocery store.  Somewhere an animal died to provide you with the protein.

My kids have always known where their meat comes from. They help with the entire process of killing, cleaning, butchering and packaging the meat. My kids have also put meat on the table with their guns.

Animals in zoos, especially those born and raised in captivity, don't have much chance to experience catching their lunch. In some places, they do. Outdoor enclosures occasionally see a wild animal fall into the pen, in which case instincts kick right in.
Must be zoo kibble.

That's rare. Most of the time, the predators eat pretty much the same stuff Hairball gets when he comes inside. Robert K., one of the show's hosts munched a bit of kibble which is fed to predators in US zoos. He said it tasted like "chalk."

Ah. Chalk. These noble beasts are fed process, sorted, shaped and dried pellets of food that provide 100 percent of the animal's daily requirements of nutrition and 0 percent of the animal's wishes.

How can I say that? At a few zoos, captive animals do get real food. But they generally don't get to kill it. It's already been killed and frozen. "Rat-sicles" the story called the frozen rodents. The animals still show much delight over this real meat.

The story shifted to China, which at the time allowed live feeding of the big animals. This is where the woman reporter engaged in her negative editorial commentary. Anyway, the big cats at the Chinese zoo crowded up around the vehicle with zoo visitors, eagerly expecting a live chicken to be hurled out a window. A chicken was tossed. A lion grabbed it.

Reality works well for me. How about you?
The REAL original recipe.

The reporter was upset.

I wonder if she is a vegetarian.

The only zoos in the world, according to Radio, which allow live feeding are in China. This is not true. I have been to animal enclosures in the US in which captive animals consumed live prey. But it is rare and generally confined to aquatics and reptiles.

The story also contains a clip about a squirrel that fell into an enclosure. One young girl refused to watch the ensuing stalk and kill. But when interviewed, the little girl said she was rooting for the cat to be successful in the hunt.

The story also points out that surveys of zoo goers would really like to see live feeding. In other words, folks going to the zoo want to see a lion chase down a calf and eat it. They can see it everywhere else vicariously. Why not in person? If zoo operators are really interested in the animals and the public, they'll allow live feeding.

It's not disgusting. It is the chain and circle of life. Children need to see this. Children need to know this. Children need to be exposed to reality.

For that matter, we all need to be exposed to reality regardless of how old we are. Live feeding at zoos, well it ain't the same as going to the African savannah and seeing a lion chase down a wildebeest, but it's close.

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