Recently there was an exotic animal petting zoo that went through the Peru Mall. For those of you who do not know what I mean it is a small affair with cages where people can see exotic creatures like tiger cubs, monkeys, camels and the like. That seems like a really cool idea. You know, we live out here where there isn’t always access to those kinds of things and maybe it would be nice to see a tiger cub.
Let’s be real. There is a reason that animals like tigers and monkeys don’t make it out here very often. If those kinds of creatures are in captivity, then they require a lot of work. They need a proper habitat that mimics the kind it might find in the wild. They need a proper diet and professional, trained care.
Now, I am not going to stand on a pulpit and judge from the pages of a newspaper about how this person is wrong and they shouldn’t do that. People have the right to make that choice and people have more than enough right in this country to protest that which they do not believe in. I do, however, have a few things to say about roadside petting zoos in general.
How do you imagine that a roadside zoo gets tiger cubs anyways? Usually, the methods used are nefarious and cruel; ripping baby animals from their parents at young ages. This is obviously a terrible practice with long-lasting effects on the animals and the world around us.
Often roadside zoos are lacking in basic needs. Or rather the basic needs are all that is provided to the animals. They will have water whether it is dirty or not. They will have food whether it is healthy or not. Finally, they will have social interaction whether it is a slave-like pandering or not. The animals are not taken care of very well and when many of them grow older they are dumped into the illegal animal trade to be abused by someone or worse, killed for entertainment purposes.
Zoos like this persist because the laws regarding animal welfare in America are only recently beginning to dole out real consequences to crimes against animals. Government agencies require a heavy dose of advocacy to act. Yet, the biggest reason that they survive in this, the free world, is that people pay money for them.
For some horrible reason people find it wonderful to take a selfie with a confused and drugged up tiger cub. People think that apes and monkeys that are scared because they are behind a cage and not around other primates is cute. Yet that is the truth. We should be demanding better.
I for one will not be visiting a roadside zoo any time soon. I would prefer to show my child what conservation looks like by taking them to a real zoo where animals are treated with dignity. I would like them to see the best side of human nature; that of seeing something worth saving. I prefer this to the worst side, that which sees something beautiful and enslaves it.
BOBBY RIAHI is a writer, chef and father who wants to make the world a better place through his writing. He grew up in small towns and tries to put the world into perspective from there. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.