Anna's class took a field trip to the Minnesota Zoo today.
We don't go to zoos, since we believe that animals have the right to live free from ownership and exploitation (if you want to read more of me moralizing and condemning zoos, read my post, One More Dead Wolf).
We told Anna that she could make her own decision of whether or not to go on this field trip. She chose to go. And honestly, I would be a bit concerned if she chose to stay home. She's a social kid and she wants to be with her friends and classmates. She knows that simply going to the zoo on a free field trip (at least free to her and us, since we didn't have to pay anything for it) isn't going to make those animals' lives any harder. And yeah, I'm rationalizing letting her go. But the way I see it, it wasn't my decision. It was hers and I respect her right to make it. (Letting go is a long process that starts with baby steps like this, right?)
Also, she was really excited to see penguins.
I can't help but sigh. Don't get me wrong, I would be excited to see penguins too! I totally get it. But I also get why zoos are sad, sad places and I want nothing to do with them.
I gave Anna a basic rundown of why zoos are sad, sad places. I didn't do this to make her feel guilty for wanting to go (she didn't) but to clue her in on things to look for and think about while she's there. My hope was that she wouldn't uncritically accept the notion that animals in a zoo are as happy if not happier than they would be in their natural habitat.
"They try to make it like their natural habitat," she said, repeating something she heard from her teacher. I asked her to think of how big the savannah is. Now think of how big a lion's cage in a zoo is. They recreate just an itty bitty tiny slice of their natural habitat, if that. Lions move from place to place. They run distances zoos are unable to accomodate. They hunt.
"I know, but I still want to go and see different animals."
Last night, we read some of her Wild Animal Atlas book, and there was some info in there about emperor penguins in Antarctica. They can dive to depths of over a thousand feet. "The amount of water they have for penguins in a zoo," I couldn't help but adding, "would be like us going to a water park and there being just a small bath tub to sit in."
When Anna came home from school today, I asked how the zoo was. "I saw penguins!"
"What kind of penguins were they," I asked.
"I don't remember. I think they were the kind that build their nests out of rocks?"
"How much water did they have?" I asked.
"It was a pool. And it looked like there was an ocean in the back, but it was a painting."
"Like in Happy Feet? Remember when Mumble runs into the wall painting and then dives into the water and runs into the glass because the pool is so small?"
Yeah. She remembered.
Again, I didn't say this stuff to make her feel bad about going to the zoo. I said it so that she would know why I think zoos are sad, sad places. She gets this. She's also able to completely separate it from the fact that she actually got to see Real. Live. Penguins. That's understandable, I think.
I asked what other kinds of animals she saw. Some turtles and some bat rays, she said. She couldn't really tell me anything about the animals other than that she saw them. Nobody told her anything about the animals, according to her. She didn't read anything about them either. So, all in all, not really an educational trip to the zoo, which is one of those things zoos are always bragging about -- education.
After looking at some animals, they took a break for lunch. I had to pack a lunch for Anna because she was told in advance that there wouldn't be a sufficient amount of vegan food there for her. I asked what the other kids ate.
Hotdogs, she said. They ate hotdogs.
So much for having the animals' best interests in mind, huh zoos? Not only are hotdogs made from the flesh (among other parts) of tortured animals, but they're also a product of the meat industry, which is, according to the UN, “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems." Problems, by the way, which negatively effect the natural habitats of members of the same species who you keep caged at the zoo because you claim to care about ... wait for it ... the survival of their species!
But fuck that, right zoos? Who the hell is going to come appreciate the wonder and beauty of imprisoned nature if they can't dine on the flesh of animals while they do it?
Anyway, Anna went to a zoo. So ... thoughts on that? Anyone else out there had to deal with non-vegan field trips? Care to share?