Saturday, July 15, 2006

Anti-circus, anti-zoo

I didn't used to feel this way. Not so very long ago I used to love both of these places, especially the circus. When I was little we visited the LA Zoo all the time. Sometimes there would be people outside picketing. They would shout, "Boycott the zoo!" over and over as we went past. "What weirdos!" I would think to myself. Now I wish I could join them.

My feelings began after a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo about 2 years ago. It's actually a very nice zoo - one of the better ones I've been to. They have a very large gorilla exhibit. The gorillas have a place where they can play outside or come inside. Zoo guests can see them in both places too. On this visit the gorillas were inside. One of them was sitting right up against the glass. A lot of people were gathered around, all pointing, shouting and knocking on the glass. The gorilla looked sad to me (I know, they always look like that), but I felt so bad for him. The gorillas humanoid features got to me. I started to wonder if he was really happy living at the zoo.

A few weeks later we visited the circus. I have many happy memories of going there as a child and I wanted to share that with my kids. We had already been when Tommy was a baby, and I loved it, but the other kids were too young to remember. I was so excited to take them there. The tickets were about $25 each, and as it turned out they were for balcony seats. I was disappointed we were up so high, but the kids didn't seem to mind. Before the show started, I went to get cotton candy - it was $10! So with $30 worth of cotton candy we started to watch "the greatest show on earth". I started to see the show with different eyes. Did the elephants really want to be here? Did they want to be dressed up and hold each others tails? Many of the acts are animal acts. One of the acts involved horses running in one of the rings. They ran faster and faster and made their circle smaller. Then, one of the horses fell to the ground and we all gasped. The trainer cracked his whip and the horse got up and the act continued. I noticed some of the horses wobbling a bit, as clearly they aren't meant to be running so tightly. I started to feel sad again. I was ashamed that I had spent money to support such a place. As we left David commented that we should wait a few years before going again to which I replied, "I wouldn't be sad if we never went again!"

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