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ESSAY: The Lowest Form of Life
By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.
"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity
for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the
knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until
there is peace and joy finally for you too." -- Frederick Buechner
cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. ... Only reverence
can restrain violence -- reverence for human life and the environment." --
William Sloan Coffin, Jr.
is the last refuge of the incompetent." -- Isaac Asimov
harming children, there is no more cowardly an act than murdering an animal
for sport. What could possible be "sporting" about shooting a healthy elk,
deer, bird, or prairie dog from 350 yards away with a high-powered rifle
while hiding in a tree?
more cowardly and obscene, though, may be the hunters who pay a fee to game
preserve owners for the right to kill an animal from a few yards or even a
few feet away, often while the animal is in a cage. There may be no greater
example of the profound disconnection from the natural world that is
plaguing our world.
Hunter with bull elk
game ranch (Photo courtesy Broken Hart Ranch
to "Time" magazine's March
issue, as many as 2,000 hunting preserves may exist in the
with 500 in
alone. Most offer a guarantee that if you don't kill something, you don't
pay. In order to offer such a promise, traditional rules of sport hunting
are usually suspended.
The animals at these ranges are made
accustomed to human contact and some are trained to come to the sound of a
rattling food bucket. Some are confined to small areas where they can't hide
for very long. And many don't even make it out of their cages before being
is good money in this obscene practice for the range operators. Exotic
animals like the Nubian ibex, the Arabian Oryx, rhinoceros, zebra or tigers
can command $20,000 or more.
some hunters object to the practice. Perry Arnold of
who has been hunting since he was seven years old, told "Time," he
disapproves of these canned hunts. "What they got going on now, that ain't
hunting. That's a slaughter."
have seen video footage, obtained by the Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS), of a black leopard whose claws had been removed that was released
from a cage in the back of a pickup truck. It was chased by barking dogs and
hid, terrified and trembling, beneath the truck. The hunter who had paid for
this "hunt," got on his knees with his high powered rifle just feet from the
truck and shot the frightened, cowering animal. It was the most pathetic
example of how brutal a human can be towards an animal that I had ever seen.
hunted for trophies, whether they are killed in canned hunts or in regular
sport hunting, suffer much more than any animal killed for food. Since the
hunter wants an intact head for display, they will not kill the animal
quickly by shooting it in the head. Instead, they use arrows or bullets
aimed at the body of the animal, usually resulting in a wounded animal
staggering, limping, and panicked while the killer continues to shoot. Death
is often slow and painful. But the hunter has his or her trophy head to show
friends and to brag about his bravery and courage in the fight. Acts like
this are repeated every day around the nation. But where are these greedy,
soulless preserve owners getting these animals?
will be shocked and surprised at the answer, especially if you have taken
your children to the local zoo to see their favorite beloved animal. There
are 2,500 licensed animal exhibitors in the
and many of the animals in captivity will breed. Some estimates say that
when you count the unlicensed ones, there are over 15,000 animal exhibitors.
Also, many zoos have successful breeding programs that get public donations
to support their efforts to repopulate depleted, even endangered species.
what the public doesn't hear about is that when these breeding programs are
successful, they often result in more animals than the zoo can care for with
limited space and resources.
leopard in Oaklawn Farm Zoo,
(Photo courtesy Oaklawn Farm Zoo
wait a minute! You probably thought that the resulting animals from these
programs would be returned to the wild to repopulate the species.
Unfortunately, often money does not exist to carry out those lofty aims and
the animals become surplus. Animals that are not endangered in the wild will
breed as well, resulting in more giraffes, monkeys, and rhinos than zoos can
house and feed.
Singapore Zoo freely admits that even endangered species bred in captivity
have little chance of being returned to the wild. At the zoo's website,
officials state, "While for many reasons, it may not be possible to
reintroduce most captive-bred endangered animals into the wild, such animals
can be used in exchange programmes among zoos." They claim that this results
in fewer animals having to be taken from the wild.
well known zoos sell surplus animals to brokers. Even zoos that are members
of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which condemns canned hunts,
will not ask their brokers where they intend to sell the animals. Many wind
up in canned hunts.
thousands of petting zoos, roadside zoos, and smaller exhibitors have no
reason to adhere to any rules or guidelines.
Humane Society reports that the San Antonio Zoo in
sold its animals openly and even included owners of canned hunting
facilities on the zoo's board of directors. In 1994, HSUS reported that San
Antonio Zoological Society board member Betty Kelso and her husband Robert
owned the Auerhahn Ranch in
and purchased exotic animals directly from the zoo for years. Doctors,
lawyers and professionals from all walks of life leave the suburbs for a
weekend killing spree, and high priced lobbyists entertain politicians on
shooting preserves. The Wildlife Protection Network says, "Canned hunting
preserves have begun to rival golf courses as favorite landscapes [for]
wheeling and dealing." They report that former President George Bush
celebrated his victory after the 1988 presidential election at the Lazy F
(Photo courtesy Riverview
aren't animals, these are wild quail," he later said to criticism of his
yearly hunt. Bush apparently never studied biology, and has an odd
definition of "wild." The birds he shot were captive birds that were hand
fed and raised in pens.
Bill Clinton hunted on shooting preserves during his presidency. The
Wildlife Protection Network says, "Two days after Christmas in 1993,
President Clinton killed a captive bred mallard duck on a Maryland shooting
preserve owned by lobbyist John W. Tieder, Jr. Tieder is the treasurer of
DUCPAC, a pro-hunting political action committee that has given over $35,000
in campaign contributions to political candidates."
"San Jose Mercury News," in a 1999 series of articles on surplus zoo
animals, reported that the world famous San Diego Zoo has "sold, loaned,
traded or donated 33 percent of its surplus animals to dealers, auctions,
game or hunting ranches, unidentified private individuals or unaccredited
zoos whose owners deal heavily in the exotic animal trade."
There may be no greater obstacle
to reestablishing a connection with the natural world and eliminating our
many social and environmental dysfunctions than the assumptions we make
every day about how the world works. Zoos are not benign facilities
providing educational viewing of animals in their natural habitats. They are
businesses where animals are exploited yet again in our culture.
Sick animals are sometimes ignored to save
money and zookeepers are often unskilled people who have worked their way up
from jobs on the loading dock to supervisory positions managing the lives of
exotic animals. The animals are on display in the most unnatural of
conditions. How can an animal who is used to roaming an area of hundreds of
square miles be content in a 200 foot long enclosure?
as if the practices of zoos and animal exhibitors are not bad enough on
their own, now we learn that they have been supplying the obscene canned
hunt trade with surplus animals that your children may have laughed at just
a few weeks ago.
we stop treating animals that have proven time and time again that they are
thinking, feeling, reasoning beings as slaves and exhibits, we will have no
chance of healing the isolation we feel from the world and from each other.
until we end the brutal killing of animals for sport and stop these
senseless canned hunts, there will be no question about who represents the
lowest form of life on Earth.
1. See a list of things you can do to end canned hunts
from HSUS and keep track of current legislation at:
2. See more issues about zoos from HSUS at:
3. Learn more about these obscene canned hunts at:
4. See a Fund for Animals report on canned hunts at:
5. Read about case of illegal wildlife trade at the
San Diego Zoo at:
6. See the Singapore Zoo website at:
7. See some surplus animal lists from Australian,
African, and Asian zoos at: http://www.seaza.org
8. See the website of the National Organization to
Abolish Zoos at:
See their list of Zoo Myths at:
9. Read an account of a canned hunt at:
10. Find out who your Congressional representatives
are and e-mail them. Tell them that they must enact legislation banning
canned hunts in all 50 states. If you know your Zip code, you can find them
11. Contact your state representatives and
insist that they sponsor laws banning canned hunts.
Jackie Alan Giuliano,
Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in
He can be found wondering what to tell his son when he is old enough to want
to go to the zoo. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him
and visit his website at: