Anima Mundi

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 15, 2014

Apologies to the great Godfrey Reggio for appropriating the title of his short film.  Make sure you take your children to see his latest, Visitors.  It has a real gorilla.

This blog post may seem very insensitive.  Because it is.  You’ve been warned.

WHY KILLING ZOO ANIMALS IS COOL

Recently, there’s been a big comotion about the Copenhagen Zoo killing one of its giraffes.

At first, as an American, I thought perhaps it was a cultural thing.  But Europeans don’t do strange things.  Belgium, the seat of the European Union, is so advanced that it’s illegal to kill children there and, certainly, in Germany, they never made lampshades and soap out of the bodies of killed Jews.

So perhaps it comes down to the fact that we in the civilized Western World of the UK, United States, and Canada can’t tolerate such things because we have become pussies.

The reality is that it’s a battle of perceptions.  Animals, in legal terms in most nations, are natural resources.  It’s why in the United States, our ocean animals are regulated by the Department of Commerce, our terrestrial and endangered animal resources by the Department of the Interior, and animals in zoos and aquariums by the Department of Agriculture.  Essentially, zoo animals are livestock.

On the other side of the coin are those with the belief that animals have souls and are sentient beings, and therefore should be afforded the right to life and, as some believe, freedom.  This is dangerous thinking.  When you start to anthropomorphize non-humans, you end up with Toy StoryCars, and Andy Dick.

What the Copenhagen Zoo did was natural resources management.

WHY CUTTING UP ZOO ANIMALS IN FRONT OF CHILDREN IS COOL

Biology 101.  That’s why.  I would give my left nut to be able to see a real giraffe being cut up.  By seeing this, the children are preparing themselves for future roles as leading doctors, biologists, and butchers.  If you can make it through the grocery store without having to explain to your child what that meat is behind the glass, good for you.  But medical students have to learn about anatomy somewhere.  I wouldn’t want a doctor that had never glanced beyond the skin.

Many moons ago, when I was a volunteer with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, one of the biology professors at Texas A&M University at Galveston would occasionally bring his freshman class through the Fisheries lab when we were performing necropsies on washed up dolphin carcasses.  We would preemptively put out buckets because inevitably two or three students would throw up, either from the smell or from what they saw.  One of the Fisheries scientists told me: “They get into marine biology because they want to work with dolphins.  They think they’re cute, like Flipper.  Then when they see the reality, some of them decide it’s time to drop out or change majors.”

By viewing that giraffe being cut up in Copenhagen, some of those children may have been steered towards the priesthood.

WHY FEEDING ZOO ANIMALS TO ZOO ANIMALS IS COOL

In times of war, zoos often fare quite poorly.  Zoo staff is minimized to usually one or two keepers at best.  Food for the animals is difficult to procure.  And often, zoos, by their locations, may be in the midst of battle zones and prime target for mortar and rocket fire.  It is quite common in these situations to kill herbivores and feed them to carnivores.  Again, this is resource management.

But zoo animals sometimes eat zoo animals in the friendliest of times.  In February 2012, there was great uproar when Ash, a barn owl at the Colchester Zoo, escaped.  And why?  Because he hit a window, got disoriented, flew over the lion enclosure, got swatted down, and ripped apart.  In front of screaming and crying children.  But one parent got it right, telling the Daily Mail: “It’s in the lion’s nature. I have taught Daniel that lions are not fluffy animals. He was very upset but we will be back in the zoo again.”

In other words, it’s natural for animals to eat other animals.  It’s nature.

WHAT COOL THINGS SEAWORLD CAN LEARN FROM THE COPENHAGEN ZOO

There’s been a bit of fuss about SeaWorld’s orcas and the lack of genetic diversity.  If the Copenhagen Zoo could kill one giraffe to limit inbreeding, why can’t SeaWorld do that with its orcas?  In fact, why not with all their orcas?  Since none are from the Southern resident population, I don’t believe they can be considered endangered.

Their dead carcasses can be chopped up in front of school children (meeting requirements for conservation AND education) and fed – wait for the great irony here – to sea lions and penguins.  Or better yet, the high protein meat can be shipped overseas to help survivors of catastrophes like those recovering from the typhoon in the Philippines or the storms in England.  Or victims of wars in Syria and the Sudan.  I wonder how many Taiji dolphins could be saved if we shipped SeaWorld orca meat to Japan.

WHY IT WOULD BE COOL IF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DISCLOSED ITS SECRETS

I have it on good authority that the Holy See has known for centuries that crows and gulls are the minions of Satan.

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Vatican Peace Doves

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WHY IT’S COOL FOR ZOO ANIMALS TO KILL IDIOTS

When a keeper or a trainer gets into an enclosure with a carnivore or a large or dangerous animal, he or she is aware of the risk and is conscientiously taking that risk.  It’s like a bus driver being aware that the potential for an accident is always there.  When a visitor taunts an animal or doesn’t follow posted guidelines, he or she is an idiot.  I say good riddance when the idiots are ripped apart by the carnivores.  Leaves us with fewer of them.  Again, resource management.

There is one exception – and that is for the one that didn’t understand what he was doing.

WHY ITS NOT COOL FOR TWO MAN-CHILDREN TO SHARE A TANK

This is a true story.  To protect the innocent, the name of the victim and of the religious order have been changed.  And the species of cetacean has been changed from orca to beluga.

There was a young man, Bob, who, by all accounts, was a man-child.  It’s unsure what caused this condition, but it is known that he did some somewhat strange things.  He was a habitual shoplifter.  He broke into the home of a famed video game designer, who then found Bob naked in his bed.

He spent some time with the Branch Davidians in their South Florida compound.  He nursed a bird back to health while there.  The Davidians would often see him stare into blank space.  Once, they had to run into the road to pull him out of oncoming traffic.  I now continue as per the Miami Herald:

When [Bob] first arrived at the temple, he would not speak and, as if
keeping a vow of silence, he would write out what he wanted to say on a
piece of paper . . .

When [Bob] was arrested June 29 for shoplifting candy bars and hot
sausages at a 7-Eleven in Vero Beach, that’s the way he communicated
with police Sgt. Kevin Delisle.

[Bob] scribbled that he was “hungry and not thinking straight and he
had bad luck,” Delisle wrote in his report.

[Bob] was staying that night on the covered part of the grounds of the
Indian River County Courthouse, about six blocks from the convenience
store. Police went there to recover his belongings before taking him to
jail.

His possessions included four strands of beads, a silver ring, a metal
pendant on a wire, a picture in a frame (no description), several phone
cards and a Timex watch. He also had a green pouch that contained
papers, a toothbrush, a circuit board, spoons and an open pack of Camel
cigarettes and $27.10 in cash.

A few days later, Bob’s naked body was found draped over the back of a beluga in a marine life park.  This led some to believe he had tried to live out a sexual fantasy with the beluga.  I doubt this, because when Bob entered the tank, he was wearing swim trunks.  One scientist/advocate has stated she believes the swim trunks to be what garnered the beluga’s attention, that the beluga wanted to play with the trunks.  I also doubt this idea.

If I human child is abused during its developmental stage, there is an increased release of cortisol, resulting in a change in brain architecture.  The flight or fight and fear responses are increased while emotional and cognitive skills become minimized.  I’ve consulted with two animal psychologists and an animal neurologist and all have confirmed this happens in cetaceans as well.  This particular beluga had lived in abusive conditions for the first decade of its life in Canada.  In essence, it was a child in the body of a mature whale.  And when the man-child came in to play with the bull-calf, the beluga wanted to play as well.

It wasn’t with the swim shorts.  On those instances where male trainers got in the water with the beluga, they wore skin-tight bodysuits.  Their “balls and chain,” if you will, were held steadily in place.  But not so with this young man in his swim trunks.  Something was moving around and the beluga wanted to see what it was.

So the whale tore open the trunks, serrated Bob’s scrotum, and ripped out his left testicle.

And that’s why it’s not cool to let two man-children play in the same tank.

WHY WALKABOUT IS THE COOLEST FILM TO WATCH WITH YOUR KIDS

This 1971 Australian classic starts with a man trying to shoot his children, setting his car on fire, and then shooting himself dead, leaving his kids stranded in the middle of the Australian Outback.  But it’s the perfect family film.  As Judith Ripp wrote in Parents’ Magazine:

A rare magical experience, as meaningful to adults as their youngsters, we are recommending it without reservation, despite the short scenes of violence and nudity treated as they should be; as facts of life.

A fact of life is that animals die.  They die in captivity.  They die in nature.  Children can see a giraffe being eaten by lions, as in the first video on this post, in person.  Or you can show them this:

And you can tell them how 37 orcas have died at SeaWorld over fifty years.  Or you can share with them the nine that died on a single day this week, Wednesday, in the wild in New Zealand.

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Death is natural.  It happens in captivity and in the wild.  And don’t worry about these animal’s souls.  They’re coming back as chihuahuas.

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